STANFORD, Calif. – Tenth-ranked California celebrated a litany of firsts on Saturday at Stanford’s Taube Family Tennis Stadium, where the Golden Bears upset the fifth-ranked Cardinal, 6-1, in the regular-season finale for their 12th consecutive dual-match victory. The Bears captured their first Pac-12 Conference championship, locked up their first Pac-12 automatic berth into the NCAA team tournament and won at Stanford for the first time in 15 years with their win in the 2014 Big Slam.
Cal finishes the conference season with a perfect 10-0 Pac-12 record (18-4 overall). Stanford ends the regular season with a 16-2 overall record and 8-2 conference mark.
The last time Cal won at Stanford was in 1999, when head coach Amanda Augustus was a senior star and clinched that victory in doubles (doubles was played last back then) and when volunteer assistant coach Jan Brogan was the Bears' head coach.
This marks the Bears’ second Pac-10/12 conference title in a fashion, as they won the Pac-10 South division title in 1987, when Washington won the Pac-10 North division and no single champion was crowned. The 2014 title is also Cal’s first outright conference championship since it won seven NorPac titles under Brogan.
This also marked just the fifth loss at home for Stanford since 1999, including the Cardinal’s 4-3 loss to UCLA this season on April 4.
Heading into the match, Cal’s attempt to produce all these firsts was a formidable one considering Stanford’s dominance at home coupled with the Cardinal’s victory over Cal earlier this season, 5-2, on March 8 in Berkeley. Stanford was the last team to beat Cal before the Bears started their current winning streak.
But these Bears were up to the task.
“I’m just really excited for this team to make history for this program and win this title outright,” Augustus said. “This was a goal they set, and they worked so hard week in and week out to get better in singles and doubles to achieve it. This team is really learning how to compete as a team and work together and fight together. It’s just really great to see.”
The Cal pair of senior Kelly Chui and sophomore Klara Fabikova started things off with an 8-3 win over Caroline Doyle/Krista Hardebeck on court three. The 70th-ranked Bears’ pair of senior Anett Schutting and sophomore Lynn Chi then clinched the doubles point with a big upset of ninth-ranked Kristie Ahn/Carol Zhao, 8-6, on court one. The court-two match between the 35th-ranked freshman tandem of Maegan Manasse and Denise Starr and the 37th-ranked Cardinal team of Taylor Davidson/Ellen Tsay was abandoned.
“Klara and Kelly got us off to a great start – they played aggressively and got off to a big lead to kind of quiet the crowd,” Augustus said. “It was a good crowd, and everyone was appreciating the great tennis. And there was great tennis on all three doubles courts. Court one and three doubles were neck and neck. I have to hand it to one doubles; they went for it and closed it out well using their aggressive net game. It hopefully will help us a lot in doubles selections for NCAAs. Winning doubles on the road also really helped because it didn’t allow the crowd to be as pumped up going into singles.”
In singles, Stanford tied the overall match at 1-1 when fourth-ranked Ahn topped the 32nd-ranked Starr, 6-3, 6-2. But that result produced Stanford’s only point on the day.
Fabikova followed with a 6-3, 6-1 upset of the 41st-ranked Tsay, 6-3, 6-1, on court five, and the 23rd-ranked Schutting upset the 19th-ranked Zhao, 6-3, 7-6(2), on court three to give Cal a 3-1 lead. The Cardinal was no slouch, winning three of six first sets, including on court six. But on court six, Manasse, ranked 67th, came back to win and clinch the overall win at 4-1 when she beat the 39th-ranked Doyle, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.
Chi, ranked, 28th, added another three-set win on court four, on which she beat the 34th-ranked Davidson, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4. Junior Zsofi Susanyi – Cal’s highest-ranked player at No. 21 – then ended the match when she posted a 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-4 victory over the 44th-ranked Hardebeck, giving the Bears their 6-1 win.
“Credit to Stanford – they rallied and pushed us,” Augustus said. “We had to fight hard. Zsofi and Lynn especially had to claw their way back into their matches. These were really great wins because Stanford has six players ranked in the top 50. I have to give the victory to the whole team. It was such a well-earned team win today.”
“It’s amazing,” Chi added. “We all worked so hard for this. We went out there and fought really hard. It was a good match today. There were a lot of really close matches. The team is so happy right now.”
“I’m just so excited for the players,” Augustus reiterated. “I still remember what that feeling feels like. In 1999 I was fortunate enough to clinch the match at Stanford that day. That feeling is something they’ll never forget. We’re not done yet. But this is such a big step towards hopefully getting us to make more history with this special group. I’m more proud they get that feeling of what it’s like to make history for the Cal women’s tennis program. That was something as a player I was really about and now as a coach that’s one of my big goals for the team.”