As much as the California Golden Bears have started to win some dual against traditional tennis powerhouse Stanford in recent years (while still getting nearly zero respect from whoever runs the Stanford Women’s Tennis Twitter account), Bears just haven’t been able to win the big one (NCAA Round of 16 win two years ago aside). With the Pac-12 tournament title on the line, Bears fell to Stanford by a 4-1 result that was much closer than the final margin.
Despite an early lead, Bears dropped the doubles point as they lose in both courts 1 (a close one) and 3 (not so close).
Bears proceeded to lose 3 of the 6 first sets. After junior Karla Popovic easily won her singles match at court 2, senior Denise Starr (who had to take an injury timeout after ending the first set on a double fault) lost her match in straight sets. Stanford took a 2-1 lead then.
In court 5, Cal grad transfer (from Alabama) Maya Jansen just can’t solved the Stanford freshman (from England who had some international experience). It was the deciding match in a 4-3 Stanford win last week and virtually clinched the dual for Stanford again. Despite some late fight by Jansen to break back to even the 2nd set at 5-5 and 6-6, Maya lost the tiebreaker 7-1 to allow Stanford to come within one point.
In court 1, Maegan Manasse won the first set 6-4 but a quick break in court 2 made it 3-6. In the deciding 3rd set where Manasse had an early lead, she eventually lost 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 to give Stanford the Pac-12 title and another Big Slam victory. Ugh.
Bears (and the Cardinal) will both be back in action in the NCAA tournament. Both will likely host the 1st and 2nd round. While the two sides didn’t meet last year (Stanford won the championship, Bears lost in the semifinal to Oklahoma State), they met in the Round of 16 in the two previous years (splitting the results). It would not be a surprise for the two rivals to meet again in the NCAA championships.
The Bears are “oh so close” to the Stanford’s squad in talent but just can’t win the conference title. Maybe the Golden Bears will prevail in the main stage that is the NCAA Championship.
I can probably just copy and paste my Big Slam preview from a week ago for this preview/gamethread. After Stanford came from behind to edge the Bears 4-3 for the regular season Pac-12 title, Cal will take on Stanford for the Pac-12 championship a week later, more or less as expected.
Golden Bears had to overcome a tough challenge from USC on Friday night, needing the late tie-breaking and clinching win from Maya Jansen at court 5 for the 4-3 win. Stanford had an easier time on Friday to take out Oregon.
Nevertheless, the Bears should be pretty familiar with Stanford going into the final on Saturday afternoon. Maya Jansen had the chance to be the hero for the Bears last week but couldn’t pull through. She redeemed herself by holding off USC on Friday, but a clinching win over Stanford will be even sweeter.
[I’m too lazy to look up the changes in ranking in the past week, so the ranking below may be slightly dated.]
Women’s Tentative Lineup: (Cal vs. Stanford)
No.51 Maegan Manasse/Maya Jansen vs. No. 67 Arbuthnott/Davidson
Olivia Hauger/Karla Popovic vs. No. 40 Doyle/Lord
Denise Starr/Alexis Nelson vs. Higuchi/Lampl
No.65 Maegan Manasse vs. No. 54 Caroline Doyle
No.12 Karla Popovic vs. No. 20 Melissa Lord
Denise Starr vs. No. 45 Taylor Davidson
No.104 Olivia Hauger vs. No. 68 Caroline Lampl
Maya Jansen vs. No. 108 Emily Arbuthnott
Maria Smith vs. No. 63 Emma Higuchi
Regardless of the results today, both Cal and Stanford will be heading to the NCAA Championships after this weekend. Chances are pretty high for the two squads to face off again for a 3rd time. A win today is as important for confidence going into that potential postseason matchup (likely in the Round of 16 or later) as anything.
Pac-12 Championship Final: California Golden Bears vs. Stanford Cardinal
Where: Libbey Park (Ojai, CA)
When: 3 PM PT
TV: Pac-12 Networks