But freshman Olivia Hauger rallied, and the Bears made history.
Cal, seeded fourth and ranked sixth, edged defending champion North Carolina, seeded third and ranked fifth, 4-3 on Monday in Madison, Wis., for its first national team championship (including NCAA and ITA tournaments).
"I couldn't be prouder of the fight and composure everyone showed on this team today and this week," Amanda Augustus, in her ninth year as Cal's coach, said on calbears.com. "It's been about making history. That's one of the things I've been trying to do since I've been coaching our program -- make it better -- and this is such a huge step."
In the deciding match, Hauger defeated Marika Akkerman 7-5, 2-6, 7-5 on Court 5 after trailing 5-3 in the third set. Akkerman, a sophomore from Boca Raton, Fla., served for the championship at 5-4, 30-30.
"When I was 3-5 down, I felt like I should just have fun and enjoy it, and I started playing a bit more aggressive at the right time," said Hauger, from Tulsa, Okla. "She was making shots and did well to go up 5-3, but things started working for me. It was so much fun. I was so pumped up, and so was the team."
Cal improved to 6-0; North Carolina fell to 10-1.
No. 6 Cal 4, No. 5 North Carolina 3
Doubles1. No. 3 Maegan Manasse and Denise Starr (Cal) vs. No. 2 Hayley Carter and Whitney Kay 4-5, abandoned.
2. Jessie Aney and Kate Vialle (UNC) def. No. 43 Klara Fabikova and Olivia Hauger 6-1.
3. Ashley Dai and Chloe Ouellet-Pizer (UNC) def. Lynn Chi and Maria Smith, 6-4.
Order of finish: 2, 3*
*Clinched doubles point
Singles1. No. 6 Hayley Carter (UNC) def. No. 5 Maegan Manasse, 6-2, 6-2.
2. No. 10 Klara Fabikova (Cal) def. No. 88 Whitney Kay, 6-2, 7-5.
3. Lynn Chi (Cal) def. Kate Vialle, 6-3, 7-5.
4. No. 68 Jessie Aney (UNC) def. Denise Starr, 7-6 (1), 6-4.
5. No. 81 Olivia Hauger (Cal) def. Marika Akkerman, 7-5, 2-6, 7-5.
6. Karla Popovic (Cal) def. No. 112 Chloe Ouellet-Pizer, 6-1, 6-3.
Order of finish: 2, 1, 6, 3, 4, 5*
*Clinched overall match