Cal returns trophy, hopes to bring it back to Berkeley

Everyone enjoys winning trophies, but sometimes greatness can be a burden … especially if you have to lug your awards roughly 800 miles, as the Cal men’s tennis team must do this weekend.

After earning both the doubles championship and the overall team award at the 2010 USTA/ITA Northwest Regional Championships, the Bears are going back again to defend their titles. With last year’s wins came trophies, which the team must now return for this year’s winners to claim. But Cal may not be separated from their spoils for long, as coach Peter Wright is fairly optimistic that his squad has a chance of yet again bringing home the gold, literally.

“We do usually pretty well,” Wright said. “We’ve got four guys who I think can challenge for the title in singles, so it’ll be interesting to see how the field opens up as the tournament evolves.”

The tournament, which begins on Friday, is being hosted by the University of Washington in Seattle, where matches will be played at the Huskies’ Nordstrom Tennis Center.

The country is broken up into 12 regions, each of which has its own ITA sponsored championship in the fall. Some of the schools that Cal’s own Northwestern Region includes are Washington, Stanford, Davis and Oregon. Stanford certainly would appear to be the most formidable competition, but Wright is hesitant to count out the Huskies.

“Washington has a couple of good players and they are going to be playing at home, so you don’t want to discount that,” Wright said. “The home court in tennis actually does make a difference.”

Nearly the whole team will be attending Regionals, both experienced and newbies alike.

For true freshman Andrew Scholnick, this will be his first major tournament experience, and yet the youngster appears ready.

“I’ve played so many tournaments throughout my life,” Scholnick said. “And the last two I played have kind of helped me get into the whole college tennis thing. I feel as if I am completely adjusted. No nerves. I’m feeling well.”

The implications of this competition are significant, as opposed to many of the fall tournaments the Bears have participated in so far.

“I think that for most of the guys on the team, this is the tournament we build to all fall,” Wright said.

Aside from winning a trophy, the singles and doubles champions receive bids to enter the most exclusive and competitive preseason tournament, the ITA National Indoor Collegiate Championships, which is only two weeks away.

By winning the consolation doubles round at the ITA Men’s All American Championships a couple weeks ago, Andrews and his partner Christoffer Konigsfeldt have already received a spot in the National Indoor draw. However, the Bears are looking to qualify even more team members, and winning this weekend is the only way.

Aside from winning and gaining entrance into the indoors, the team is looking at the tournament as a part of the bigger scope of the season as a whole.

“We would like to have a singles winner and quite possibly a doubles winner, but we are still building for the spring season,” Wright said. “All of this is taken in the framework of ‘how does this help us be a better team in the spring?’”

But a trophy would still be nice.