(Courtesy of Pepperdine Athletic Communications)
TULSA, Okla. - The eighth-ranked Pepperdine women's tennis team ended the fairytale season this Saturday night at the Michael Case Tennis Center in the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Championships, falling 4-2 to top-seeded California.
The Waves, finishing out the season 24-3 overall, became the fifth team in Pepperdine women's tennis history to reach the quarterfinal round. It was a solid battle throughout, with the Waves collecting the doubles point. Luisa Stefani, Apichaya Runglerdkriangkrai, Matea Cutura and Christine Maddox will stay in Tulsa to compete in the NCAA Doubles Championships from May 25-30. Stefani will also compete in the singles championships.
After dropping the advantage on court three, the team battled back on court one and two to put down the Golden Bears top-ranked doubles squads en route to a 1-0 lead heading into singles play. The opposition then went ahead 2-1 with singles wins on courts four and six before the Waves would even the match with a win on court one. Cal had the advantage on courts three and five, however, and would take the overall match 4-2 to close the Waves season.
"It was a close match," said Head Coach Per Nilsson. "I thought for a 20-30 minute period we would have a good chance of winning, but we just couldn't get on top of them enough for them to go away. They did a really good job of battling back and staying in the matches. Then they got two quick ones which kind of made them feel a little relaxed. Overall, it was a really good match to be a part of."
With the advantage in the Golden Bears court in doubles, the Waves' number one duo 26th-ranked juniormApichaya Runglerdkriangkrai and freshman Luisa Stefani bested fourth-ranked Maegan Manasse and Denise Starr 7-5 to even the day up and put the doubles point in the hands of the two's pair.
Pepperdine's 19th-ranked senior Matea Cutura and junior Christine Maddox duo then clinched the doubles point with a 6-4 win over 90th-ranked Klara Fabikova and Olivia Hauger to send the team's to singles.
Cal put two quick points on the board with wins on courts four and six to earn the first visual lead on the afternoon, but the Waves would continue to fight throughout the match.
Sixth-ranked single Stefani took down seventh-ranked Manasse with a 6-2, 7-6 (5) victory on court one to even the match 2-2 and leave three courts still in action. Unfortunately, the opposition had the edge in the third set on two of those courts, picking up wins on courts three and five to earn the 4-2 NCAA victory that would put the Golden Bears in the final four.
"If there is a team that can walk around proud it's our team," said Nilsson. "We came a long way, only losing to the number one team in the country twice and another team that is top five and we just gave these guys a really good battle. We told them to not hang their heads too much, walk around proud and be excited for next year."
No. 8 Pepperdine 2, No. 1 California 4 | NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS QUARTERFINAL ROUND
MICHAEL D. CASE TENNIS CENTER | TULSA, OKLA. | MAY 21, 2016
1: No. 6 Luisa Stefani (PEP) def. No. 7 Maegan Manasse (CAL) - 6-2, 7-6 (5)
2: Laura Gulbe (PEP) vs. No. 16 Klara Fabikova (CAL_ 7-5, 6-7 (3), 0-2, unfinished
3: No. 80 Lynn Chi (CAL) def. Dzina Milovanovic (PEP) - 7-5, 3-6, 6-3
4: No. 88 Denise Starr (CAL) def. Apichaya Runglerdkriangkrai (PEP) - 6-0, 6-3
5: Olivia Hauger (CAL) def. Matea Cutura (PEP) - 3-6, 6-3, 6-4
6: Karla Popovic (CAL) def. Michaela Capannolo (PEP) - 6-0, 6-1
Order of Finish: 4, 6, 1, 5, 3
1: No. 26 Luisa Stefani/Apichaya Runglerdkriangkrai (PEP) def. No. 4 Maegan Manasse/Denise Starr (CAL) - 7-5
2: No. 19 Matea Cutura/Christine Maddox (PEP) def. No. 90 Klara Fabikova/Olivia Hauger (CAL) - 6-4
3: Lynn Chi/Maria Smith (CAL) def. Dzina Milovanovic/Laura Gulbe (PEP) - 6-2
Order of Finish: 3, 1, 2