Freshmen to get experience at Bulldog Classic

So far during preseason play, the Cal men’s tennis team has focused mainly on its returning upperclassmen, bringing them to compete in tournaments as the younglings watch.

This weekend the newbies will get their time to shine.

From Friday through Sunday, the Bears will be competing in the 2011 Men’s Bulldog Tennis Classic hosted by Fresno State. Some matches will be played at Fresno’s home court, the Spalding G. Wathen Tennis Center, while others will be held at Sierra Racquet Club.

In previous tournaments, Cal has brought dual season starters Carlos Cueto, Nick Andrews and Rikki and Ben McLachlan, who are all seasoned competitors at the college level.

The Bears are coming off a huge win last weekend at the Napa Valley Tennis Classic held. From Sept 23 through Sept 25, several Cal players performed exceptionally well and Andrews and Ben McLachlan even made it to the championship match. Andrews won the match over his sophomore teammate and was awarded the Norman Minor Sportsmanship Award as well as a bid into a professional competition.

“Last week was definitely a big week for Nick, but each match stands on its own,”coach Peter Wright said. “I do think our success builds on itself though. The better we perform the more confidence we gain and it builds from there … we are going to take it as it comes.”

Despite last week’s success, the team feels no immense pressure to live up to such a performance.

After all, this tournament is a fresh start. This time around, the field will include three freshmen, none of whom have yet play a competitive match for the Bears.

“For most of the players we are taking to the tournament, this will be their first time putting on a Cal uniform and competing and I think they are all really excited about that,” Wright said.

In addition to being teammates, true freshmen, Andrew Pises and Andrew Scholnick, are also roommates living in the dorms.  Pises, a Northern California native, comes to Cal from Miramonte High School while Scholnick hails from Winnetka, Ill.

Despite being on the team last year, redshirt freshman Chase Melton has never competed in an official match for Cal, putting him on the same playing field as the true freshman.

Fortunately for him and the two true freshman, this weekend’s classic is a great starting point, considering the nature of the event.

“A lot of the tournaments we have been competing in lately have a high-quality, elite field, whereas this field is much broader,” Wright said.

Oregon, USF, Davis, Nevada and Cal Poly will be represented, though USC will be the Bears’ biggest competition. The Trojans, coming off three consecutive national championships, always boast a highly ranked team and will pose a challenge to Cal not only during this weekend’s tournament but also in future Pac-12 conference play.

That’s months away, though. For now, the freshmen are concentrating on getting their first wins as Bears.