Cal wins competitive match with Alabama to advance to quarterfinals
URBANA, Ill. - Zsofi Susanyi won in singles to lead eighth-seeded California to a 4-1 victory against ninth-seeded Alabama on Friday and to a second consecutive trip to the NCAA quarterfinals at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex. After losing the doubles point in Friday's NCAA round of 16, the Golden Bears (19-5) captured four singles matches to beat the Crimson Tide (21-6).
Cal will play top-seeded Florida on Sunday in the quarterfinals at either 10 a.m. PT or 2 p.m. PT. The Gators beat Duke, 4-0, in their round of 16.
The Bears' advancement on Friday marks the fourth time in six seasons under head coach Amanda Augustus and the 21st time overall that Cal will play in the quarterfinals.
"It was a well-fought match," Augustus said. "I think we were very in control on a lot of courts. Alabama came out strong, and we got off to a little bit of a slow start. But I think we adjusted and did a good job today."
In No. 1 doubles, Cal's 33rd-ranked team of freshman Lynn Chi and junior Anett Schutting fell to the seven-ranked duo of Alexa Guarachi and Mary Anne Macfarlane, 8-5, to give Alabama the early advantage. The Tide clinched the doubles point when the pair of Natalia Maynetto and Emily Zabor bested Cal junior Kelly Chui and senior Tayler Davis, 8-5, on court three.
"We maybe had a little bit of nerves and were playing an unfamiliar opponent," Augustus said of doubles. "Alabama competed hard. It was back and forth on a lot of courts, and their team at No. 1 doubles is very experienced. We started too slow and ran out of runway, and then they settled down."
In singles, the 43rd-ranked Fabikova tied the match at 1-1 when she beat No. 36 Guarachi, 6-2, 0-6, 6-3, on court two, and then the 70th-ranked Chi posted a 7-6(1), 6-0, win over No. 118 Foehse on court four to give Cal a 2-1 lead in the team scoring. The eighth-ranked Schutting made it a 3-1 match when she held off No. 34 Macfarlane, 6-3, 7-6(1), in No. 1 singles.
While Cal needed just one more win out of the three remaining matches to book its ticket to the quarterfinals, the Tide forced third sets on Court 3 -- featuring No. 5 Susanyi vs. Jansen - and court six - on which senior Annie Goransson took on Alabama's Zabor. Also Cal's Davis fell behind Maynetto in a three-set match on court five.
Back on court three, Susanyi won her first set against Jansen, 6-3, before the Alabama player won the second, 6-4, and took a 2-0 lead in the deciding set. But the talented Bear -- a 2012 All-American who reached the NCAA singles semifinals -- rebounded to win the third set, 6-3, and clinch the match for the Bears.
"Zsofi's getting there," Augustus said of her sophomore star, who has missed some matches due to injury this season. "She hasn't played a lot of matches, but this one's good for her and bodes well going forward. Once she figured out what needed to do, she was in control in the third set.
"Credit to Alabama -- they're well coached. They tried different things in the match and were able to hang in there with us for a really long time."
"It's tough to come back from [losing the doubles point]," Davis added, "but we've done it a couple times before. We just have confidence in each other, and we know how strong we are in singles. Alabama was a really good team. I'm so proud of our team for fighting as hard as we did."
Augustus lauded the experience at the NCAA championships, hosted by the University of Illinois. The Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex is the NCAA Division I site for team, singles and doubles championships for both men's and women's tennis.
"There's a great atmosphere here," she said. "We watched the Cal men's match yesterday, and they watched our match today. It's fun. It's what college tennis is all about."