URBANA, Ill. - The ninth-seeded women's tennis team fell to No. 8 California in the NCAA Championship Round of 16, 4-1, on Friday at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex on the campus of the University of Illinois. With the loss, the Crimson Tide finishes the season at 21-6, while the Golden Bears advance to the quarterfinals with a 19-5 record.
"I'm really proud of this team" said Alabama
head coach Jenny Mainz. "We did what we've done so well all year. We fought. The distance that we've come since the fall is incredible. I think we left it all out there and certainly had our chances. With a team like Cal, they've been here, so if you give them that little opening they are going to take it. I think this was a great learning experience for us."
Alabama took a 1-0 lead following doubles, winning the matches on courts one and three. The Tide's seventh-ranked duo of Alexa Guarachi and Mary Anne Macfarlane picked up an early break to lead 4-3 and never looked back eventually claiming the match, 8-5, over Cal's 33rd-ranked team of Anett Shutting and Lynn Chi. Shortly after, Alabama's Natalia Maynetto and Emily Zabor would serve for the win, taking the match, 8-4, against the Bears' Tayler Davis and Kelly Chui.
"That was the best doubles point we've played all season," said Mainz. "To play it on May 17, that deliberately and that decisively, is a testament to the improvement of the girls on the team."
In singles, Cal picked up its first victory on court two where 36th-ranked Guarachi played a dominant second set, but the Bears' Klara Fabikova, ranked 43rd, would take the match in three sets, 6-2, 0-6, 6-3. From there, No. 70 Chi made it a 2-0 lead for Cal, winning 7-6(1), 6-0 on court four over Antonia Foehse. No. 34 Macfarlane battled in a tough second set but came up just short of pushing the match to a third, falling 6-3, 7-6(1) to eighth-ranked Schutting on court one.
Despite being down, 3-1, the Tide's three remaining singles players fought to keep Alabama alive coming back after dropping first sets on two of those courts to send it to a third. It appeared the Tide would get a win on court five with Maynetto leading 5-1 in her third set over Davis, however, the Bears' fifth-ranked player of Zsofi Susanyi clinched the win just before for Cal with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 victory against 118th-ranked Maya Jansen.
"We are very pleased that we got here, and it's been a great season, but the bar has been raised," added Mainz. "This is the standard we want to play with, and we want to be competing deep into May as a team every season. I believe in this team, and I think we are good enough. It's been a year of a lot of first, and that is a tribute to this team and everyone's commitment."
Although the team season has finished, Alabama's Macfarlane and Guarachi will compete in the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championship, which run May 22-27 in Urbana, Ill.
1. No. 7 Guarachi/Macfarlane (UA) def. No. 33 Schutting/Chi (CAL) 8-5
2. No. 83 Foehse/Jansen (UA) vs. Fabikova/Goransson (CAL) 5-7, unf.
3. Maynetto/Zabor (UA) def. Davis/Chui (CAL) 8-4
Order of Finish: 1,3
1. No. 8 Anett Schutting (CAL) def. No. 34 Mary Anne Macfarlane (UA) 6-3, 7-6(1)
2. No. 43 Klara Fabikova (CAL) def. No. 36 Alexa Guarachi (UA) 6-2, 0-6, 6-3
3. No. 5 Zsofi Susanyi (CAL) def. No. 118 Maya Jansen (UA) 6-3, 4-6, 6-3
4. No. 70 Lynn Chi (CAL) def. Antonia Foehse (UA) 7-6(1), 6-0
5. Natalia Maynetto (UA) vs. Tayler Davis (CAL) 6-4, 3-6, 5-1, unf.
6. Emily Zabor (UA) vs. Annie Goransson (CAL) 2-6, 7-6(1), 0-4, unf.
Order of Finish: 2,4,1,3*