Cal defeated UCLA 5-2 today. UCLA basically needs wins from doubles, #1 singles, #2 singles, and another singles to win. That's going to be tough to get in most matches against the top teams. They got 2 of the 4 today and were close in #1 and #2, but that was going to be tough against Cal's top 2.
#1 California 5, #22 UCLA 2
Feb 20, 2016 at Los Angeles, CA (Los Angeles Tennis Center)
1. Harrison/McPhillips (UCLA) def. #2 Manasse/Starr (CAL) 6-3
2. Fabikova/Hauger (CAL) def. Fleming/Shaffer (UCLA) 6-0
3. Miller/Wiley (UCLA) def. Chi/Lin (CAL) 6-2
1. #13 Maegan Manasse (CAL) def. #18 Catherine Harrison (UCLA) 4-6, 6-2, 6-2
2. #5 Klara Fabikova (CAL) def. Kyle McPhillips (UCLA) 3-6, 6-4, 6-2
3. Lynn Chi (CAL) def. Alaina Miller (UCLA) 6-1, 7-5
4. #121 Denise Starr (CAL) def. Kristin Wiley (UCLA) 6-1, 6-0
5. Terri Fleming (UCLA) def. #102 Olivia Hauger (CAL) 6-1, 7-5
6. Karla Popovic (CAL) def. Laura Luca (UCLA) 6-0, 6-0
California 8-0; National ranking #1
UCLA 5-3; National ranking #22
Order of finish: Doubles (2,3,1); Singles (6,4,3,5,2,1)
I attended this match, and here are a few observations, in case anyone is interested:
1) I showed up after the #2 and #3 doubles matches were already over and the pivotal #1 match was tied 3-all. While Harrison/McPhillips certainly did well to upset #2-ranked Manasse/Starr, the victory was somewhat handed to them by Starr's play (at least during those final 3 games). In the 3 games I saw, Starr committed at least 6 or 7 unforced errors. She volleyed several balls into the middle of the net and buried a couple of overheads there as well. Granted, she was on the sunny side of the court for two of those games, but it wasn't a particularly brutal day out there. To her credit, Manasse stayed positive and encouraged Starr, but Starr was a mess, so much so that I thought maybe her play would carry over into singles, giving UCLA a point at #4. To her credit, Starr shook it off and dominated Wiley 1 and 0 in singles.
2) Both Harrison (court #1) and Miller (court #3) play with two hands off both wings, so it was incredibly odd to see the two of them book-ending the front courts. I had flashbacks to the golden era of Seles, one of my favorite players. In the first set on #1, when presented with a short ball, Harrison generated some Seles-like angled winners out of nowhere, ones that Manasse wasn't even close to and could only helplessly watch go by.
3) While the #1 and #2 matches both went 3 sets, with UCLA winning the 1st sets of both, I wouldn't say that the matches were much in doubt, at least after halfway through the 2nd sets. During the 1st set on #1, Harrison's game plan was to clearly mix things up against Manasse, throwing in loopy, topspin shots, not going for outright winners, but rather focusing on getting the ball back and throwing Manasse off with off-speed shots, tossing in random drop shots, etc... And it worked brilliantly, as Manasse had to scramble around the court, and made a TON of unforced errors by trying to hit through Harrison, sending balls either well long or way wide. Manasse's timing was clearly off during the 1st set as well, which obviously didn't help, and, as mentioned above, when she tried taking a bit off her shots to keep the ball in, Harrison would pounce on any short balls and come up with an incredibly-angled shot that Manasse wasn't anywhere near. Manasse clearly started to find her range a bit in the 2nd set, but Harrison also inexplicably abandoned her 1st-set strategy and tried to go toe-to-toe with Manasse's power, which clearly played to Manasse's strength. I still don't understand why Harrison abandoned her initial strategy because it was working incredibly effectively, and it didn't appear that she was expending an undue amount of energy playing somewhat defensively, so, in my opinion, she could have--and should have--kept it up. As soon as she switched to full-on hitting, though, she could stay with Manasse for a few shots, but then Manasse would usually get the better of her. Harrison didn't revert back to her prior strategy (except on rare occasions), and started getting incredibly upset at herself, screaming in frustration several times.
4) The 1st set on #2 was very similar to #1, in that McPhillips played with a lot of variety in her game, which completely threw Fabikova off. I haven't seen Fabikova play before, but she clearly likes pace and hitting with power, and McPhillips' off-pace, varied shots were frustrating the hell out of Fabikova, as her timing was a bit off and she clearly couldn't find her range (but also didn't appear to have any gear other than 1st...so she was spraying balls long and wide frequently in the 1st). Thankfully for her, she righted herself midway through the 2nd set and then ran away with it in the 3rd. Once Fabikova found her range, McPhillips didn't stand a chance.
5) The one bright spot for UCLA was Fleming. While I only saw a couple of points of that match, I note that she was down 2-4 in the 2nd set, clawed her way to a 5-4 lead, and then was broken on her own serve, after failing to convert a match point. She was no doubt helped by the crowd that was forming on the ledge up above her (including Stella's obnoxious husband), but to her full credit, she broke Hauger at, I believe, love, and then won a tense final game to score UCLA's lone singles victory.
6) I know that Chi has been a focus of others on these boards in the past, so I'll throw in a quick comment about what I saw of her match. When Chi was "on", she was great, but Miller has a very odd game (even apart from her two-hands approach from both sides), and it clearly threw Chi during certain points and/or stretches of the match. Chi was up a break late in the 2nd and couldn't close it out, allowing Miller to get back to 5-all, before buckling down to break Miller and hold her own serve. That 2nd set shouldn't have been as close as it ended up being, but to her credit, Chi got the job done in the end. I suspect that the crowd may have played a part, as there were some pretty obnoxious folks in the stands trying to get "Lainey" into that 2nd set.
7) Lastly, UCLA has zero hope of winning at #6 against teams of any depth. As noted by someone else, this is clearly a rebuilding year for UCLA, as based on her profile on UCLA's website, Luca was plucked from the "UCLA Club Tennis Competitive Team" (what I assume is the intramural club) to play at #6. This reminds me a lot of what Stanford went through with Dillon a couple years back.