Cal Women's Tennis beats No.4 UCLA to become 2021 Pac-12 champs

Golden Bears won their first Pac-12 title in this Pac-12 tournament format

After an up-and-down regular season, 3rd-seed Cal Women’s Tennis played top-seed UCLA for the Pac-12 Women’s Tennis Championship on Monday afternoon on the Pac-12 Network. Despite the meet being hosted by San Diego, the Bears had to endure a 3.5-hour rain delay before the action got underway.

And at the end of 3+ hours of hard-fought battle later, the 20th-ranked Cal Golden Bears (17-6, 7-3 in Pac-12) were triumphantly crowned as the 2021 Pac-12 Champions over a 4th-ranked UCLA Bruins (19-4, 10-0 in Pac-12) team that had gone undefeated in Pac-12 regular-season action.

The Bears had to come from behind after dropping the doubles point to the Bruins in several close games. With a full team battling on all six singles court, the Cal Bears could not be denied of their 1st Pac-12 title under the current tournament format implemented in 2017.

After taking down 4x defending champs Stanford in the semifinals, the Cal Bears would need to earn some pivotal singles upset wins over the UCLA Bruins in the finals.

On No.1 singles, Cal sophomore Haley Giavara was able to avenge her three losses earlier this season to UCLA’s Abbey Forbes. Forbes jumped out to a convincing early 3-0 lead when the Pac-12 Network was showing their match, but Giavara fought back (after the TV coverage moved on to another court). By the time that the TV cut back to court 1, Giavara was closing out the first set 6-4. She also was the first to finish the second set by taking that via a 6-2 score.

Senior Anna Bright quickly won her first set by a 6-0 result. Rather than clinching this win (she said after the Cal semifinal win over Stanford where she was the clincher about how much she enjoyed doing that in college tennis), Bright was able to give Cal a temporary 2-1 lead after winning set 2 6-3.

Bright’s doubles partner freshman Hannah Viller Moeller was the next Cal Bear to win. She won 6-2, 6-3 on court 5. The Bruins did win on court 4 against Cal freshman Jada Bui, so Cal was only up 3-2 when the final 2 courts both headed to a deciding 3rd set. Cal just needed one of those two to go their way.

Sophomore Valentina Ivanov came from behind to win her first set over UCLA’s Jada Hart. Hart quickly took the second set 6-3 and had a 3-0 lead before Ivanov won the next two games to make things interesting. This matchup would end up being unfinished.

In college tennis with the no-ad scoring (a single point at 40-40 decides a game), it is hard to hold serve (or easy to break serve). This is particularly true in women’s tennis with so many successful players being good counterpunchers (they just lob everything back until their opponent hit a winner or a mistake).

Cal senior Julia Rosenqvist and UCLA’s Elysia Bolton, who used to be their No.1 player before injuries dropped her to the lower court, were trading both winners and mistakes on court 3. A former No.1 player for the Cal Bears, Rosenqvist played hard in set 1 but lost the first set tiebreaker 7-0. She bounced back to win the second set 7-5. The Swedish senior captain then took a 4-0 lead. Just when it looks like Bolton would be behind 5-0, the UCLA Bruin struck back and broke Rosenqvist to keep their hope alive. Fortunately, Rosenqvist was able to break back the next game to take a fairly commanding 5-1 lead. With a 40-30 lead, Rosenqvist closed out Bolton by outlasting her on championship point.

The Cal Bears will wait for the release of the NCAA Championship bracket next week, but this win (and the earlier semifinal win over Stanford) has likely meant that the Bears will earn one of the sixteen seeds.


Pac-12 Championship Final (recap from the live blog with the embedded tweets of the clinching points):

Cal 4, UCLA 2

UCLA took the doubles despite a valiant fight from the Cal Bears. Bui/Richardson fought back from 5-4 and a break down to tie the match at 5-5 but they lost their next service game. Similarly, Bright/Viller Moeller also broke service to tie their match at 5-5 before dropping their next service game.

1. No. 79 Abbey Forbes/Jada Hart (UCLA) vs. Haley Giavara/Valentina Ivanov (Cal) 6-2
2. Annette Goulak/Vivian Wolff (UCLA) vs. Anna Bright/Hannah Viller Moeller (Cal) 6-5 Unfinished
3. Elysia Bolton/Abi Altick (UCLA) vs. Jada Bui/Erin Richardson (Cal) 7-5

The Golden Bears would not go down easy. Despite an early 0-3 deficit in set 1, Haley Giavara rallied to win her first set and carried that momentum over to take set 2 as well over UCLA’s Abbey Forbes who had been undefeated in Pac-12 play this year.

Giavara won 6-4, 6-2 to earn her first win over Forbes on their fourth matchup this season.

Anna Bright followed with her own win on court 6. Bright beat UCLA’s Annette Goulak 6-0, 6-3.

UCLA tied this championship battle up by winning on court 4. Vivian Wolff won over Cal freshman Jada Bui 6-3, 6-2.

The Bears quickly pulled ahead again when Danish freshman Hannah Viller Moeller won 6-2, 6-3 on court 5 over UCLA’s Sasha Vagramov. Vagramov fought hard to save a few set points but lost on a double fault.

More good news for the Bears, Julia Rosenqvist won her second set against Elysia Bolton to force a decisive 3rd set in court 3. The championship would be decided on either of the 3rd set between courts 2 and 3. On court 2, UCLA’s Jada Hart rallied to win set 2 against Cal’s Valentina Ivanov. The Golden Bears would just need to take one of those.

Swedish senior captain Julia Rosenqvist, who the Pac-12 Network said would be back next season, jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the decisive 3rd set on court 2. UCLA’s Elysia Bolton raised her level to take a game on Rosenqvist’s serve, but Rosenqvist was able to use her long limbs to battle back. It all culminated on the following long point.

Congratulations to Cal Women’s Tennis on winning the 2021 Pac-12 championship over the heavily favored UCLA. Golden Bears have now earned the automatic berth for the NCAA Championship.

Singles
1. No. 41 Haley Giavara (Cal) vs. No. 11 Abbey Forbes (UCLA) 6-4, 6-2
2. Valentina Ivanov (Cal) vs. No. 121 Jada Hart (UCLA) 7-6, 3-6, 3-4 Unfinished
3. Julia Rosenqvist (Cal) vs. No. 113 Elysia Bolton (UCLA) 6-7, 7-5, 6-1
4. Jada Bui (Cal) vs. Vivian Wolff (UCLA) 3-6, 2-6
5. Hannah Viller Moeller (Cal) vs. Sasha Vagramov (UCLA) 6-2, 6-3
6. Anna Bright (Cal) vs. Annette Goulak (UCLA) 6-0, 6-3


Pac-12 Championship final preview:

Rather than the typical location of Ojai Valley Athletic Club in Ojai, CA, the 2021 Pac-12 Women’s Tennis tournament has been played at the Barnes Tennis Center in San Diego, CA due to COVID.

Monday’s contest will be the fourth meeting in 2021 between the two schools. Cal lost in the ITA Indoor kickoff 0-4 before beating UCLA in the non-conference contest 4-3. The Bruins won the last meeting 7-0, which counted for the Pac-12 regular season.

In the latest released Tennis Channel/USTA poll last Wednesday, the UCLA Bruins were ranked No.4 while the Cal Bears were ranked No.20.

With last year’s season abruptly canceled before the team competition had really started (players play mostly as individuals in the fall), Cal’s squad consists of mostly underclassmen who are experiencing their first Pac-12 Championships. Outside of senior mainstays Julia Rosenqvist and Anna Bright, the rest of the Cal team consists of sophomores Haley Giavara, Valentina Ivanov, and Erin Richardson. Freshmen Jada Bui and Hannah Viller Moeller have also been penciled in the Cal lineup all season long with Cami Brown making the occasional cameo.

Given the underdog status of the Cal Bears, they need that doubles point more. Both teams have changed their doubles pairing since the very first meeting of the season. Cal took the doubles point in their 4-3 win over UCLA. Even in their latest meeting on April 10th, the doubles point was fairly close with Cal winning one of the courts.

Doubles

1. No. 79 Abbey Forbes/Jada Hart (UCLA) vs. Haley Giavara/Valentina Ivanov (Cal)
2. Annette Goulak/Vivian Wolff (UCLA) vs. Anna Bright/Hannah Viller Moeller (Cal)
3. Elysia Bolton/Abi Altick (UCLA) vs. Jada Bui/Erin Richardson (Cal)

For singles, Ivanov and Rosenqvist’s spot might be swapped from that last match. Forbes has defeated Giavara in all three meetings. Hart has defeated Rosenqvist twice with another abandoned in a third set.

In the lone Cal win, Viller Moeller defeated Goulak, Ivanov defeated Wolff, while Bui defeated Abi Altick, who was only featured in the doubles lineup in UCLA’s semifinal win over ASU.

Singles
1. No. 11 Abbey Forbes (UCLA) vs. No. 41 Haley Giavara (Cal)
2. No. 121 Jada Hart (UCLA) vs. Valentina Ivanov (Cal)
3. No. 113 Elysia Bolton (UCLA) vs. Julia Rosenqvist (Cal)
4. Vivian Wolff (UCLA) vs. Jada Bui (Cal)
5. Sasha Vagramov (UCLA) vs. Hannah Viller Moeller (Cal)
6. Annette Goulak (UCLA) vs. Anna Bright (Cal)

Should the Bears pull off an upset, they will likely achieve that by winning those No.3 through 6 singles where the Bruins had been more vulnerable. UCLA dropped No.3 and No.5 to ASU on Sunday. The senior experiences of Bright and Rosenqvist and the freshman talent of Bui and Villeer Moeller hopefully can make things interesting.

Regardless of what happens on Monday, Cal should hear their name called when the NCAA Women’s Tennis Championship bracket is released next Monday.


Semifinal:

Cal 4, Stanford 1

Avenging their 4-3 regular-season finale loss, Cal Bears made sure that Stanford will not win their 5th straight Pac-12 crown.

The Bears first took the doubles point in a fairly convincing fashion of two 6-2 victories.

[3] California 4, [2] No. 25 Stanford 1

Doubles
1. Haley Giavara/Valentina Ivanov (Cal) def. Michaela Gordon/Niluka Madurawe (Stanford), 6-2
2. Anna Bright/Hannah Viller Moeller (Cal) def. Emily Arbuthnott/Angelica Blake (Stanford), 6-2*
3. Jada Bui/Erin Richardson (Cal) vs. Sara Choy/Emma Higuchi (Stanford), 4-4 Unfinished

Order of Finish – 1, 2*
*Clinched the doubles point

Singles
1. No. 62 Haley Giavara (Cal) def. No. 39 Michaela Gordon (Stanford), 6-2, 6-3
2. Valentina Ivanov (Cal) vs. Angelica Blake (Stanford), 6-2, 4-6, 2-3 Unfinished
3. Julia Rosenqvist (Cal) vs. Emily Arbuthnott (Stanford), 3-6, 6-0, 3-5 Unfinished
4. Jada Bui (Cal) def. Ana Geller (Stanford), 6-2, 4-6, 6-2
5. Sara Choy (Stanford) def. Hannah Viller Moeller (Cal), 6-2, 6-4
6. Anna Bright (Cal) def. Emma Higuchi (Stanford), 7-6(4), 6-2^

Order of Finish – 1, 5, 4, 6^
^Clinched the overall match

Senior Anna Bright led the Bears with her doubles point clinching win with Hanah Viller Moeller and her match-clinching singles win in straight set. With the two remaining singles both in a deciding third set, Bright’s convincing 6-2 second set win was pivotal to snuff out Stanford’s comeback attempt.

Haley Giavara was able to reverse the result from the regular-season Big Slam by winning on court 1. Bui being able to win her match in three sets set up Bright for the clincher.


Quarterfinal:

Cal 4, Oregon 1

The Bears had a slightly easier time in beating the Oregon Ducks the second time than the nail-biting 4-3 win in the regular season. Again, the Bears first won the crucial doubles point.

[3] California 4, [6] Oregon 1
Doubles
1. Haley Giavara/Valentina Ivanov (CAL) def. Rifanty Kahfiani/Janice Tjen (ORE), 6-4
2. Uxia Martinez Moral/Myah Petchey (ORE) vs. Anna Bright/Hannah Viller Moeller (CAL), 5-4 Unfinished
3. Jada Bui/Erin Richardson (CAL) def. Julia Eshet/Allison Mulville (ORE), 6-0
Order of Finish: 3, 1

Singles
1. #36 Janice Tjen (ORE) def. #62 Haley Giavara (CAL), 6-1, 4-6, 6-3
2. Julia Rosenqvist (CAL) def. Rifanty Kahfiani (ORE), 7-6(3), 6-4
3. Jada Bui (CAL) def. Uxia Martinez Moral (ORE), 6-2, 4-6, 6-3
4. Hannah Viller Moeller (CAL) vs. Ares Teixido Garcia (ORE), 4-6, 6-2, 5-4 Unfinished
5. Anna Bright (CAL) def. Julia Eshet (ORE), 6-1, 6-1
6. Cami Brown (CAL) vs. Myah Petchey (ORE), 6-2, 3-6, 3-2
Order of finish: 5, 1, 3, 2

Head coach Amanda Augustus opted to give freshman Cami Brown a chance to play in singles over Valentina Ivanov (who typically would be the No.3 singles player). Even with Bui, Viller Moeller, and Bright all moving up a court, all three Cal Bears either won or were leading their matches.

Cal No.1 Haley Giavara lost to the better-ranked Janice Tjen but was able to push that match to a deciding third set after dropping the first. Senior Julia Rosenqvist clinched the win with her straight-set win at No.2 singles. Rosenqvist needed a tie-breaker to take the close first set but was able to close out the second set to clinch a spot in the Pac-12 semifinals for the Golden Bears.

GO BEARS!