Over the years, we've come to learn that Nationals is not only a time to play and watch great tennis, but also a time to hang out with the best people ever. Looking back, there are so many fond memories of Nationals past and the friendships that bloomed out of this tournament. Yet Nationals is always bittersweet, internally, because it’s the last one for many of us each season. Our promise to one another is that we will be leaving everything out on the courts to make this the best Nationals ever.
Playing tennis in Surprise will be hot, dry, and a big change of pace to the overcast weather that dominates the Bay Area, but one thing remains constant: Cal Club Tennis will always work hard and play harder. We look forward to kicking off the tournament tomorrow in pool play!
Thursday, April 11
Today was another early day for the Golden Bears. By 6:45 a.m., the team was off to the tennis center in three cars, jamming to Taylor Swift and the Spice Girls.
Our first round of pool play was against Oakland, which we quickly learned was not the city right next to Berkeley, but actually in Michigan. The morning match went very well for Cal Club Tennis, especially considering it was our first of the tournament. Both doubles started out strong -- 6-0 for the girls, 6-2 for the guys -- with only a few errors, such as Kevin's embarrassing forehand whiff. The singles and mixed also went in our favor (6-0 for girls singles, 6-1 for guys singles, and 6-1 for mixed) for a total score of 30-4. We found the Oakland team to very easygoing and we engaged in friendly chatter throughout the match -- more on them later.
After our first round we had about two-and-a-half hours to kill before our next match against Maryland. The team headed to the nearby Paradise Bakery to get some takeout before relaxing back at the rental house. At the bakery, we were very pleased with the amicable yet erroneous service. In the end we ended up with several extra half-sandwiches, as well as a few extra cookies. As a team, we give Paradise two thumbs up if there are other teams or staff in Surprise reading this looking to get a quick bite.
After lunch, we took advantage of the pool in our backyard. Between our tube races, basketball shenanigans and tanning, we realized how quickly time flew and found it was already time to return to the tennis center.
Maryland was up next. guys’ doubles starts off strong with a 2-0 lead, but Maryland quickly fought back to get up 5-2. In the end, we came up short with a score 5-6 (3). Luckily, our girls duo of Sarah and Katie came up big with a 6-0 win. Singles was pretty successful for the Bears, 6-2 for girls, 6-5 (3) for guys. Another match, another whiff, this time from Jasmine in girls singles. Lastly, mixed doubles came out with a 6-3 victory for a final score of 29-16.
Once again we received a lengthy break. After embarrassingly showing up with no signs, the cheering portion of the team ("C TEAM!") voyaged to Walgreens for poster supplies. We met back at the house for some scrambled eggs and a nap. The team was exhausted, with some of our crew literally falling asleep wherever they were laying (or sitting)
. Yet not everyone was extremely tired! London headed out for a run, while the conscious members of the team relaxed. We were set to leave once more, but London was nowhere to be found. Shortly after the realization of her absence, we realized she got lost: "All the houses look exactly the same," was the excuse. Fortunately, she returned right as we were about to send out a search car.
Our last match in pool play was against Stony Brook. With the downtime waiting for a court, our team checked out the players’ lounge. Most of the team seemed completely engrossed in the phones -- our team is big into Snapchat and checking back home to see what’s happening with campus life. On the court, we played strong: guys’ doubles won 6-1, girls’ doubles 6-2, guys’ singles 6-2, girls’ singles 6-0, and mixed doubles with a 6-1 win. During the match we were haunted by *yet another* whiff, this time from Joel in mixed.
After a successful yet lengthy Thursday in Surprise, our team was so tired that we even decided to pass on the planned post-match Dairy Queen trip. As we made our way out to the parking lot, we ran into the Oakland team once again. After exchanging Snapchat information, we headed home blasting Kelly Clarkson, T-Swift and last but not least "Lucky" by Britney Spears. We prepared a large dinner of quesadillas, chicken, and pasta
, as everyone fought over who was showering next.
We are all very pumped for tomorrow! The team played very well today ("Most Valuable Player" for the day goes to Sarah for not dropping a game). Hopefully we can continue our streak!
Friday, April 12
At 8:30 a.m., most of the team went to go warm up at a nearby high school, while the rest of us finished our breakfast and made potential brackets for the tournament (which became increasingly inaccurate as the day went on).
The team cars then headed to the tennis center blasting One Direction, Kelly Clarkson, Natasha Bedingfield and finishing the drive around the parking lot with an enthusiastic rendition of "I Want It That Way" by the Backstreet Boys, heard and witnessed by several other teams on their way in.
Our captain, Sarah, gave a long and inspiring speech right before our match with Duke, after which Brandon added: "Don't screw up." Both teams were arrayed in all white, which we felt was a good choice given the sunlight after seeing the condition of another team in all black. While watching, most of the team hid from the brutal sun under the canopy on the courts, while Zach hid from the sun under an umbrella.
The men's matches against Duke went well -- guys’ doubles and singles won 6-1 and 6-3. The girls’ matches, on the other hand, were much closer, as doubles went to a sudden death in the tiebreaker -- which almost gave several team members heart attacks. Subsequently, our singles player, Jasmine, saved four match points to bring it to a tiebreaker. In the end, the women's doubles and singles went 6-5(4) and 6-5(2). We won with a 6-1 in mixed, and moved onto the next round.
For lunch, we went once again to the much-loved Paradise Bakery, and met several other teams there; UC – Santa Barbara, Duke and even UCLA, all there to also enjoy the sandwiches, salads, smoothies and complimentary cookies. After lunch, most of our team headed back to the players’ lounge, while a few of us went to watch other matches and make friends in front of the brackets next to the tournament desk.
At 2:00 p.m., it was time for our next match in the quarterfinals against Georgia. The beginning of the match went well, as guys’ doubles won a close match in the tiebreak, girls’ doubles won 6-3 and girls’ singles won 6-1. However, the guys’ singles did not go so well as we lost 1-6 to a very talented Georgia player. Georgia's win in singles left us Bears up by 4 games going into the ultimate mixed doubles set. Georgia's male player was everywhere on the court; after a long and grueling match, and several close deuces, Georgia won 6-1, bringing it to 21-20 in Georgia's favor and knocking us out of the running for a repeat championship.
We drove back to the house in complete silence.
With tears in her eyes, Sarah gathered the team around in the living room once we returned for an emotional speech. The captains spoke about the pain of losing and how despite the disappointment we all felt, we needed to learn from our loss. They also spoke about the need to rally together and how, just as we won as a team, we also lost as a team and that nobody held the blame for losing. Some got emotional, some cried. All of us felt sad.
In the end, we took our frustration and channeled it into our next match against the University of Central Florida. The time for sadness and depression was over, and this was an opportunity to bounce back just as hard as we had just fallen.
Two cars headed out to our 6:00 p.m. match at 5:30, while one car stayed behind to wait for Jasmine, who had gone out for a run at 5:00. At 6:45 and with no sign of our teammate, the seven of us who had stayed behind started to worry that Jasmine had gotten lost like London had and sent out three search parties to find her, while one stayed behind in the house just in case. After about half-hour of searching, Jasmine returned to the house, collapsed on the bed and went immediately to sleep; the rest of us, relieved that Jasmine was fine, headed out to the tennis center and caught the end of the match against UCF. Although guys’ and girls’ doubles and singles all played well, with scores of 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 and 6-2, mixed doubles was out for blood, closing the match with a resounding 6-0 set victory.
After our confidence-restoring victory, we headed to Five Guys to indulge in burgers and fries, then to Dairy Queen to fatten ourselves up with some ice cream. Although the restaurant portion of Dairy Queen was already closed when we arrived at 9:00 p.m., the drive-thru was still open. Upon ordering, we discovered that Brandon's car ahead of us had paid for our ice cream (how nice!) and taken it (not nice). We chased their car back to the park next to the rental house, after which they proceeded to flee into with our ice cream. Having seen them run into the park, we decided to cut our losses and race back to the house to be the first to shower. After they brought our ice cream back as a peace offering, we finished off the day jumping into the pool and playing cards, bringing our spirits up in preparation for the next day.
For our last full day at Nationals, we hope to do our best against Virginia tomorrow, a rematch of last year’s final. As for this year’s final, we’ll be there for the 3:00 p.m. match to cheer on both teams as our way of passing the torch. Go Bears!
Saturday, April 13
We Bears woke up at 8:00 a.m. to get ready for our match against University of Arizona. Arizona defeated Virginia, last year’s runner-up, the night before, plus it’s their backyard here in Surprise, so we knew a tough match awaited us.
In the doubles matches we had mixed results. While seniors Katie and Sarah won 6-2, Brandon and Gune lost 3-6. The real struggle came in the singles matches. In the girls’ singles match, Jasmine lost for the first time during Nationals, 1-6 in the set. With the men, Kevin started the match but Gune finished as two substitutions were made to try and stop the backward momentum. In the end, it was another 1-6. We did regroup with a strong showing in the mixed doubles, as Brandon and Ingrid put on a show with their quick reflex volleys and deft drop shots. They won 6-1 and we headed into overtime, a first for this year’s Nationals. After we secured the first game – we needed three to force the super tiebreaker -- Arizona quickly substituted their mixed doubles pair, who held their service game with four powerful lefty serves. The final score was Arizona 22, UC Berkeley 19.
Nationals were especially memorable this year because we had seven people travel with the team just to root us on. While they did not play, they nevertheless were an essential part of the national team. The cheer team was not present in our match against Arizona. Instead, they secretly made posters for co-captains Sarah and Brandon
, as well as grad student Katie, who have all been on the team for four years and are graduating this spring. Tears filled the eyes of the three when they finally got their gifts. It was a very emotional moment, as hugs were exchanged and photos taken. While they may be leaving the school in the spring, they will always be a part of club tennis. Club tennis has become more than an organization where members can play tournaments. It has become a family and like any other family, members can move and graduate, but they will always be part of the club tennis.
Starting a new alumni project, Tennis on Campus is planning events where previous club members return and participate in social events
. Coming back to the tennis courts to watch Georgia in the final was a hard pill to swallow. Emotions from a day earlier still spilled over. Being national champions last year, this Nationals was particularly tough because we came in with very high expectations. Even with a tough loss, our team was able to come together and that’s something I enjoy about our team. At the end of the day, I am reminded that it’s not about winning or the trophies (although those are great) but about the times you get to spend with your teammates and how much fun the experience is. The journey for another national title continues for some, and another journey awaits the graduating seniors.