Cal Women's Tennis 1997 Year in Review

Amanda Augustus
Amanda Augustus

BERKELEY, Calif. - The 1997 edition of the Cal women's tennis team entered the season with something to prove. After 14 consecutive NCAA Championship appearances and Top 10 finishes in the ITA poll, the Bears slipped to No. 23 and failed to reach NCAAs. While some felt that last years results signaled an end to the Bears run at the top of the national tennis scene, a group of three sophomores, seven freshmen, and one veteran coach had something to say about it.

"At the beginning of the season we set a few goals for ourselves," said coach Jan Brogan, who is in her 19th year at the helm of the Bears. "And we accomplished nearly everything that we set out to do."

The Bears finished the regular season with a record of 15-7 overall, 5-5 in the Pac-10 Southern Division. After being scrutinized by the NCAA ranking committee, Cal was seeded No. 8 in the NCAA Championship Tournament, and advanced without needing to win a regional qualifier.

In the first round of 1997 NCAA Women's Tennis Championships at Stanford on May 15, Cal was pitted against the No. 8-ranked, Demon Deacons of Wake Forest. The Bears jumped out to an early 3-0 lead after Esther Knox, Claire Curran and Stephanie Tibbits picked up straight set victories on court Nos. 3-5.

Cal's No. 1 singles player Amanda Augustus came from one set down to defeat Wake's Maggie Harris putting the Bears up 4-2 heading into doubles play.

"I started off slow and I had trouble finding my timing," said Augustus. "The way (Harris) hit the ball kept me out of my rhythm. But, I had beaten her before and I just concentrated on getting back in my game. By the third set I was confident that I was going to win and I just tried to steam roll her."

After Augustus and Curran picked up a win at No. 1 doubles, Cal had defeated Wake and headed into the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament for the 13th time since the inception of the Championships in 1982.

Cal's opponent in the quarterfinals, May 16, was none other than No. 3-ranked Duke, which compiled a 23-3 record over its season.

"(Duke) played well, they played very well," said Brogan. "Vanessa Webb was on top of her game at No. 1 singles and if you look at Duke's lineup you see well-seasoned seniors at Nos. 3-5. Duke didn't crack. It seemed like our youth and inexperience caught up with us and we didn't play as well as we're capable of doing."

The Bears just couldn't get things going in the 95 degree heat. Duke jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead picking up wins over No. 3 Knox and No. 1 Augustus. Things still looked encouraging for the Bears, however, as Francesca La'O won took the first set on court No. 2 and Curran took the second set at No. 4 to force a third.

Cal's Lisa Swierniak was overpowered by Kristen Sanderson at No. 6 and Tibbits was downed at No. 5 and in the space of 20 minutes, Cal slipped from having a chance at splitting the singles to the brink of extinction.

With Curran still playing on court No. 4, La'O began her third set with Karin Miller, the No. 3-ranked woman in the country. Before the action heated up, however, Curran dropped the third set and La'O's match was suspended.

"I'm disappointed I had to stop," said La'O. "I felt like I was going beat her. The match was nowhere near over. I just wanted Claire (Curran) to keep it going so I could finish Miller off and we could move on to doubles. We gave it our all and that what we need to remember. There are no easy matches out here.

"The season was not really satisfying coming off that tough loss. But this year we accomplished most of our goals. The big one we missed out on was to finish in the Top 4. Next year everybody's back and we'll be hungry."

"I feel the team has re-established Cal in the Top 10," said Brogan. "It has built a new base and set a new standard. With our young team, making it this far is an accomplishment and I'm really proud. We're only going to get better down the road."