The first game was scheduled last Friday at UC Davis, but it depended on the weather, like usual, and the weather didn’t look good until Friday morning. After several phone calls between coach Hilary Somers and the coach of UC Davis about the state of the courts over there, they finally decided to maintain the game this day, and at 10 am my team and I were leaving a sunny city of San Francisco.
The fear came from a negative weather forecast that had announced rain in the afternoon in the Sacramento area, so after almost two hours spending in the car, we all had to rush on the courts – having only 30 minutes to warm up – and started the matches at noon.
This time was different: instead of starting with doubles as usual, we started the game with the singles that everyone thought being the most important matches to play in these circumstances.
The two coaches decided that eight singles matches would be played – six officials, and two unofficial ones. As coach Somers is still figuring out the line-up in this season start, I played number seven – an unofficial match.
Maybe due to a long trip and a short warm up, most of my teammates’ energy was low, some of them were off, most of them did not believe in themselves, the cheering was average; all these causes did not put the girls in condition to win the game against a very solid UC Davis team, during a windy day.
Yurie Hashigutchi, playing #6, who had won fast and easily the previous Sunday against her opponent from Santa Clara, lost almost as fast and easily this time (2/6-0/6). The most frustrating was not that Hashigutchi’s opponent played amazingly well, that the win was out of reach, or that my teammate played bad; her loss just came from little mistakes at crucial moments. Melinda Akerbrant also got a frustrating loss against a very solid opponent that showed great consistency skills on the baseline. Akerbrant, unable to use her aggressiveness efficiently, made too many errors and lost logically 3/6-2/6. Player number one, Jenni Heinser, was the third one to finish her match; as usual, her consistency, her amazing sense of play, and her focus made her win against an experienced and tricky opponent whose nonchalance and wonderful one-hand backhand can surprise. Player #5 Alana McMahon who was sick this day, didn’t start well, loosing the first set in hardly 30 minutes 6/1; but she didn’t give up, focused on her game instead of her sickness and won the second set 6/4. She kept doing a good job in the third set, being up consecutively 3/0 and 4/1; unfortunately, her solid opponent kept fighting hard and showed impressive shots that made her win 6/4. A few minutes later, player #3 Cecilia Gratian finished her tough match against a powerful opponent hitting most of her shots flat, and comfortable on the baseline. That wasn’t a good day for Gratian who could not go for her shots for she didn’t feel them; however, she still tried to come to the net and didn’t make the win easy for the UC Davis player who won 7/6-7/5. Like the previous weekend against Santa Clara, Julia Wartenburger’s match was the last one to finish, and like the previous weekend, it was an intense match. After winning the first set with difficulty 7/5, Wartenburger lost her focus, her opponent got used to my teammate’s strategy and won the second set easily 6/1. The third set was tighter and Wartenburger was even up 3/2, but the Aggie kept putting pressure on the Lady Don, and won 6/4.
Among the unofficial matches, Andrea Gaitan fought hard to obtain a win. After winning easily the first set 6/2, she lost her focus, was not going for her shots anymore and got upset, so she lost the second set even more easily 6/1. A super tie-breaker in 10 points had to decide between the two players. Gaitan re-focused, went for her shots again, and won the tie-breaker 10/7. I didn’t have to fight that hard during my match even though I had to stay focus and use the wind as a friend rather than a foe. Down 0/1 in the first set, I won 11 games in a row, and finally won 6/1-6/1 by being consistent, aggressive and coming often to the net. But unfortunately, our matches didn’t bring any points to the team, as they were unofficial matches.
The weather was cloudy but still not rainy, and even though we had already lost the game, our coach wanted us to play the doubles, to practice. The first pair Gratian-Heinser played very well against a solid and surprising UC Davis team, and won 8-6. The pair Wartenburger-Hashigutchi had some good sequences, but it was not enough to win against their experienced opponents (4-8). The last doubles team – Akerbrant and Blair Reed – had their chance against an inconsistent UC Davis doubles, but they committed too many errors and finally lost 4-8.
At the end of the game, coach Somers expressed an overall frustration and disappointment. “From what I watched today, I definitely think we were better players than them, but on none of the courts I heard one of you cheering oneself, I didn’t feel your determination, and I could feel – and I’m sure your opponents felt that too – that you were not confident at all”. Somers hoped we would have a better attitude in the second game against a very strong Cal Poly team two days later.
This time we didn’t have to spend the whole weekend in San Louis Obispo as we played them at Pebble Beach – two hours away from San Francisco.
It was 7 am when we left the city – a very early time for a Sunday morning. The trip felt longer than two hours, and when we finally arrived at the beautiful, classy and big tennis club with its 13 tennis courts, we had a bad surprise: it was pouring, and the sky was very dark. Coach Somers tried to call the Santa Clara coach (for the women) to ask if it was possible for us to play the game at Santa Clara as the weather was pretty down there and that both Santa Clara Men’s and Women’s teams were playing somewhere else; unfortunately, it didn’t work out. Waiting for the weather to be nicer, two of my teammates and myself took a walk on the beach that went along expensive, huge and modern houses, and the round of golf welcoming the U.S. open.
After all these incidents we started the game with the doubles only an hour later from the scheduled time, under a blue sky, a shiny sun and a strong wind. After waiting for such a long time – almost four hours – my teammates could have felt numb and tired, but it’s actually the opposite that occurred, even though the scores do not reflect it. The pair Akerbrant-Reed played well, but like against UC Davis, committed way too many errors to hope to win against such a strong Cal Poly team (2/8). Doubles number one fought well but not enough as their opponent were very powerful and put a lot of pressure on my teammates that lost 4/8. The pair Wartenburger-Hashigutchi had a lot of good sequences and showed a very high positive energy by laughing and taking pleasure on the court; all the games were very tight but the Lady Dons lost 3/8 against very skilled and powerful opponents.
As Alana McMahon was feeling sicker than she was two days earlier, my coach decided not to make her play, so she moved Yurie Hashigutchi in number five singles, and me in number six singles. As we all play the singles at the same time, and as I was the last one to finish my match, I don’t know exactly what happened on each court, but playing on the court next to Hashigutchi’s, I can say from what I saw that she had a very good fight against an opponent that was much bigger, taller and powerful than her; but my teammate surprised her several times with impressive counter attack shots. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough and she lost quite tightly (4/6-5/7). From what my coach told me, player number two Julia Wartenburger played one of her best matches, using smart and different strategies to bother her opponent, but the match ended up with a USF loss (2/6-4/6). Cecilia Gratian (#2) made me a short briefing of her match, saying that she had played very well, but that her opponent was too powerful and that she had hard times to handle it, so she lost 5/7-2/6. Melinda Akerbrant had better feelings in her play than she had during her match at UC Davis after loosing the first set quite easily 2/6 and being down 3/5 in the second set, she came back at 5/5; unfortunately, she made mistakes at crucial moments and finally lost 5/7. Jenni Heinser finished her match 15 minutes before me, and from the cheering, yelling and grunting I could hear from my court, I know it was an intense match. The score was a little weird though, as my teammate lost the first set 2/6, before winning the second set 6/0. The third set was very tight and none of the players wanted to give up; they went until a tie-breaker, Heinser had a match point, but finally lost 6/8. Even though she was frustrated, Heinser admitted she had played very well and that next time she will beat her. My match was intense too: my opponent was very aggressive and hit her shots flat and hard. After loosing the first set 4/6 and being down 3/5 in the second set, I finally win the second set 7/5, and am up 3/1 in the third one. But my opponent changed her strategy – doing loopy and slow balls – what disturbed and tired me. The set became tighter and tighter and we ended up playing a tie-breaker that I won 7/3.
Andrea Gaitan played an unofficial match in number seven that was very tough for her, as her opponent was very powerful, smart and skilled. But from such a frustrating match – when she felt she could not play and impose her game – Gaitan said she had still learned some things.
Even though we lost the entire game 1/6, my coach’s discourse at the end of the day was way more positive than the one delivered two days earlier. “You should all be very proud of yourself today, because you showed a lot of positive energy – moving your feet well and cheering each other – and you showed a very high play level that I would have liked to see against UC Davis and that you should always have”.
My team and I expect to have a very tough weekend this week, as we play two very strong teams – UC Santa Barbara at home, and St Mary’s at Moraga – two days in a row.