California women's tennis was already on the map when the dynamic duo of Amanda Augustus and Amy Jensen set the bar for the program with their 1998 NCAA doubles championship, the first national title in Golden Bear history.
That partnership featured talented players in the driven Augustus, a Southern California star who was already a two-time doubles All-American, and Jensen, an Australian in her first season at Cal after transferring from Wake Forest. The latter was a singles All-American in her lone season as a Demon Deacon.
Currently, the Cal alumnae continue to have interests in common, with Augustus now in her 14th year as the head coach of the Bears and Jensen in her sixth season as the head coach at UC Santa Cruz.
Leading the two during their collegiate playing days was Jan Brogan, who was in her 20th season as Cal's head coach in 1998 and was named the ITA/Wilson National Coach of the Year in 1990. The Golden Bears had plenty of postseason success under Brogan up to that point, with the Bears reaching the semifinals twice as a team, two sets of Bears advancing to the doubles semifinals and Lisa Albano finishing as the 1991 singles runner-up. At the 1998 NCAAs at Notre Dame, Cal reached the team tournament's round of 16, while the busy Augustus forged her way to the singles quarterfinals.
"One of the things I came to Cal to do was to win NCAA championships," said Augustus, who hails from Palos Verdes Estates. "That was a big part of my goals – to have the highest level of tennis and academics, and it's the same thing I look for now when I'm recruiting players. The national championship experience and the degree I got from Cal are big reasons why I'm in the role as the head coach, taking over from Jan Brogan, because I really liked what she was able to help her players achieve."
Jensen's path from Brisbane to Cal took a detour through Winston-Salem, North Carolina. When her team traveled to Stanford to play the Bears in the 1997 NCAA tournament, Jensen, who had never been to the West Coast before, was entranced by the Golden State.
"I remember the plane touching down in San Francisco, and I was like, 'Whoa, what is this place?'" Jensen said. "It's beautiful, and there's an energy about Northern California."
After losing to the Bears in the first round and competing in NCAA singles at Stanford, Jensen knew she had to head west and was impressed by what she saw in Cal.
"The seas just kind of parted, and the next thing I knew I packed my bag and I was in California," Jensen said.
Jensen and Augustus had a productive season heading into the '98 national doubles tournament, bringing a 23-6 record and a No. 12 ranking to South Bend, Indiana. While this was the duo's first postseason together, Augustus competed in NCAA doubles before, reaching the 1996 quarterfinals with Francesca La'O and the second round with Claire Curran in 1997.
"We had had some decent wins throughout the season, and I knew we could play good tennis," Jensen said. "I had maybe a little more firepower at the net, and Amanda was tactically really smart and mentally very steady. She had a lot of weapons from the baseline, and her return of serve and her lobs were amazing. We were an interesting and kind of a dangerous team, but we came in unseeded. We just didn't know what we couldn't do, so we did it, and it was amazing."
"We both had a lot of skills we were willing and able to use at any time, depending on the opponent," added Augustus. "Both of us could serve and volley, both of us could work our way to the net from the baseline. We were always able to keep our opponents guessing. It was fun for us especially as we got more experienced as a team."
The Bears didn't lose a set early on in the tournament, besting a team from Wake Forest in the opening round of 32 and topping a pair from Marquette in the round of 16. Their quarterfinal match was perhaps their toughest test, with the Bears facing the third-seeded and fourth-ranked Cristina Moros and Sandy Sureephong of Texas. Augustus and Jensen prevailed, 7-6, 4-6, 7-5.
"There were a couple of really close points in that third set against Texas, and that was probably their most exciting match of the tournament," Brogan said.
The Bears won another close contest in the semifinals, defeating Duke's second-seeded and second-ranked Vanessa Webb and Karen Goldstein, 2-6, 6-0, 6-3.
After beating the No. 3 seed and the No. 2 seed in successive rounds, Augustus and Jensen took on the No. 1 seed in the final in Florida's third-ranked Dawn Buth and Stephanie Nickitas. The Gators were the two-time defending champions and were aiming for the first threepeat in NCAA history. But Augustus and Jensen beat the Gators in straight sets, 7-5, 6-3, to become the first unseeded players to win an NCAA individual (singles or doubles) championship.
"It was thrilling to see them win as a team because they were a very mercurial kind of twosome to work with," Brogan said. "They balanced each other out with their personalities and also their game styles – Amy being powerful and dynamic, and Amanda being a steady, consistent, mentally tough player on the court."
Jensen said positive reinforcement helped her prepare for the championship moment.
"We really started planning for that day maybe eight months before it happened," Jensen said. "We sat down and wrote out 'I am a national champion' on a piece of paper. It sat in the top drawer of my desk, so whenever I would go to grab a pen I would see that piece of paper. At first I was like, 'Uh, no, I'm not, really.' But I got used to seeing it, so that seed was planted a long time before that day."
"Making history at Cal and winning that first title was really special," Augustus said. "It was a high-level match, start to finish, from all four players. That match was for sure the best we had played in the entire tournament.
"Those big moments and those big matches are why I came back to coach at Cal – to help these next generations have those memories and those moments and have the opportunities to win national championships."
That victory created another special moment for Augustus and Jensen because it earned them a berth in that year's U.S. Open. In their Grand Slam debut, they played notable stars Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Mary Joe Fernandez, with the Bears falling, 6-2, 6-2, in the round of 64.
The Bears went on to repeat their NCAA title in 1999. With Augustus graduating after that win, Jensen partnered with Curran to win her third NCAA doubles crown in 2000 and set records that still stand. The Aussie holds the Division I women's tennis records for the most doubles titles won and the most consecutive individual titles won. A five-time All-American, Jensen is also tied for the most overall individual NCAA championships won.
Augustus is likewise among the most decorated Bears in school history. Her six All-America honors tie her with Susie Babos and Pam Nelson for third most in the record books. Only Albano and two-time NCAA champion Jana Juricova (with seven each) have collected more All-America honors than Augustus. Additionally, Augustus won an ITA All-American Championship as a player – she paired with Renata Kolbovic to win doubles in 1995 – and as a coach, whose protégés Maegan Manasse and Denise Starr won doubles in 2015.
Jensen and Augustus achieved more success in the professional ranks, both separately and as a pair, as they occasionally played doubles together. In 2011, well into their respective coaching careers, they were inducted into the Cal Athletics Hall of Fame. They collected another major accolade in 2016 when the Pac-12 Conference named them the Pac-12 Doubles Team of the Century, as they are still the only conference pair to win two NCAA doubles titles.
That 1998 championship still resonates.
"It was definitely a day I'll never forget," Jensen said. "It was pretty amazing."