Oregon narrowly loses to Cal 4-3 in final home match
When Marlou Kluiving entered the locker room to prepare for the final home game of her collegiate career, a note from teammate Julia Eshet, her fellow winningest doubles player this season, was taped to her locker.
She swung open her locker, and balloons of different colors along with green and yellow streamers came pouring out. Kluiving, who had earlier spoken to her mother on the phone and claimed she was fine, burst into tears.
“I told her the past week was tougher than today,” she said. “That was true until I opened my locker room and saw everything. I promised myself to keep that for after the match, but it happened sooner than expected.”
Although Oregon eventually lost by a point to No. 18 California on Saturday afternoon at the Oregon Tennis Center, Kluiving was unperturbed that she was unable to end the day with a win in the singles.
“We’re not done yet,” she said. “For me, it’s all about the team. I don’t care if I lose if everybody else gets the win. We were close today. It hurts, but it’s okay.”
Oregon kept the same doubles pairings from Friday’s match against Stanford, but came out with the win this time against Cal’s two ranked pairs. Kluiving and Nia Rose were trailing for the first half, but took control of the game after the third point and surged to a two-point victory of 6-4. Eshet and Sangwan had a hot streak of three sets that put them ahead of their rivals, then held on to secure the Ducks’ first point of the day.
The Ducks continued their scoring momentum into the singles with Alyssa Tobita trouncing No. 53 Maegan Manasse, one of Cal’s three ranked players, in two sets (6-0, 6-3). Cal finally began to find their groove when Kluiving and Rose were handed losses on their courts. Daniela Nasser disrupted Cal’s streak after scoring a win on her court that saw no points from her rival in the third set (3-6, 6-2, 6-0), but Cal’s top player, No.9 Karla Popovic quickly ended Sangwan’s attempt at a comeback (1-6, 7-5, 1-6) to tie Cal with Oregon 3-3.
Cal finally scored the match-winning point when Eshet fell to the Golden Bears’ third-ranked player, No. 98 Olivia Hauger in the third set (1-6, 7-5, 4-6).
“This is what college tennis is all about, coming down to the last match and both teams putting their hearts and souls into every single point,” Oregon head coach Alison Silverio said. “Really proud of how our girls had the courage to do the right things in the pressure moments. We did a great job of finishing volleys at the net. When we were up in the score and had an opportunity to close it out, we did it on both courts.”
Before the match started, Kluiving and fellow senior Paloma Gomez were honored and adorned with aprons covered with handwritten notes from their teammates. Though Gomez has only played twice this season, she still cheers for them from the sidelines as loud as she can.
“If what it takes to win is me not playing and being there for my teammates, I’m going to be wherever I needed,” she said. “If I’m needed to play, I’m gonna fight as hard as I can, but I’m also gonna fight for them on the side.”
Oregon’s matches may attract a small handful of people – around 20 people besides athletes fill the bleachers almost every game – but two elderly women, Sue and Kelly, known affectionately as the “Daisy Ducks,” make up a big part of the Oregon experience. They show up to every game dressed in Oregon gear, respond to the team’s group cheers and blow a Duck whistle to celebrate each point.
“Other people might think, ‘who is this lady sounding this Duck horn?’” Gomez said. “But to us, it’s being home. It’s part of the home atmosphere for sure.”
The Ducks will play their second last regular-season match against Utah in Salt Lake City, UT on Friday at 12:30 p.m. before kicking off their Pac-12 campaign on April 26 in Ojai, CA.
Follow Romaine Soh on Twitter @mainetainpls
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