Bears falter in Battle of the Bay

Off to a promising start on the first day of play at the Battle in the Bay Classic, the Cal men’s tennis team ended Thursday with an overall winning record of 4-2. However, only the duo of Tommie Murphy and Chase Melton made it past the second day of the tournament, all the way to the doubles semifinals.

The Classic, which took place at the California Tennis Club in San Francisco, consisted of a small yet competitive field of 32. It included primarily Bay Area schools, as well as a few ringers such as USC and Boise State.

Coming into the tournament, it was obvious that this weekend would pose a challenge, considering that two of the notoriously topped ranked teams in the country, Stanford and USC, would be in attendance. Despite this, the nearly home-turf location of the Classic gave the contest a more laid-back air.

In opening matches on Thursday, senior Ahmed Ismail, junior Riki McLachlan and freshman Andrew Scholnick each defeated their respective singles opponents, advancing to Friday’s second round. Unfortunately for Cal, the players did not successfully capitalize on their winning momentum and all were eliminated in this round.

The doubles team of junior Murphy and redshirt freshman Melton was the only portion of the Bears’ squad left to carry the torch.

After vanquishing a pair from USF 8-6 on Thursday, the duo marched on to the doubles quarterfinals and faced the second seeded team of Gavin Leon and Maxime Olivan of Saint Mary’s College. Cal came out on top, winning the match 8-2, advancing to the semifinals held early on Saturday morning.

In the semifinal round, Murphy and Melton had to compete with a twosome from the dreaded Stanford that was made up of Walker Kehrer and Robert Stineman. The Bears’ last hope was finally eliminated after an 8-2 loss, narrowly missing an entrance in the final round.

Cal came close, but could not quite repeat its success of last year, in which the doubles team of Riki and Ben McLachlan reached the Battle in the Bay finals only to be defeated by USC.

Though holding no significant implications, the tournament was a perfect opportunity for the players to prepare for the USTA/ITA Northwest Regional Championships this upcoming weekend. A win in the Regionals could land the team additional spots in the National Indoors, the biggest competition of preseason play.

“The National Indoors is a really small field,” coach Peter Wright said. “It is one of the most exclusive fields all year. So that is the toughest tournament to get into including the NCAAs.”