The last competitive matches that the Cal men’s tennis team played were at the National Indoor Championships in November. Although the team did not play any official games over the past couple months, the players have been working on their conditioning and making sure to individually address any potential weaknesses in play.
The prolonged break from competition ended this past Friday. While most Cal students were likely enjoying one of their last carefree days of winter break, the team kicked off its dual season with a bang in a closely fought 4-3 win over Tulsa.
The Bears traveled to Tulsa, Okla., to match up against the Golden Hurricane. The team competed at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center, where they had participated in the ITA All-American Championships during preseason play.
Just a few months ago, Cal turned out a somewhat underwhelming performance at the Tulsa-hosted All-Americans, but this clearly did not affect its play or mindset going into last week’s regular season opener.
Coming off several major wins in preseason play, including the impressive showing at the Northwestern Regionals and the National Indoor Championships, the Cal squad is now ranked No. 14 in the nation. And if the team continues to defeat formidable opponents such as Tulsa, its ranking shall only rise.
The victory did not come easy to the Bears, however.
In the fall season’s All-Americans, the Tulsa doubles team of Grant Ive and Tristan Jackson defeated Cal’s top pair, senior Nick Andrews and junior Christoffer Konigsfeldt, 8-5. Another Bears double team of Carlos Cueto and sophomore Ben McLachlan faced and beat the very same Tulsa duo on Friday, serving to redeem the Bears.
This time around, the fifth-ranked doubles team of Andrews and Konigsfeldt was able to get back at the Tulsa squad they had once fallen to by winning their match on the Hurricane’s own turf.
This particular pair was a significant source of wins for the Bears over the course of the fall season, and coach Peter Wright has a lot of confidence in the pair’s abilities and what the two should be able to bring in the coming months.
“They are one of the top teams in the country,” Wright said. “They’ve got a lot of growing to do, but I would say that they’ll be one of the teams that’s challenging to win an NCAA championship at the end of the year.”
After the Bears pulled ahead 2-0 against their opposing team, freshman Gregory Bayane, a new addition to Cal’s ranks, furthered the lead by defeating Lucian Gheorghe in two sets.
At that point Tulsa decided to fight back.
After losing the lead, McLachlan was beaten in three sets by Clifford Marsland. At the top singles court, Cueto lost too, resulting in only a 3-2 lead for the Bears.
But Andrews stepped up his game to crush the Hurricane rally after beating Tulsa’s best singles competitor, Ashley Watling, in three sets (6-3, 3-6, 7-6) to clinch the match.