Inexperienced lineups sink 10th-ranked Bears against No. 9 Cardinal

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Much like in its previous match against Georgia, the Cal men’s tennis team failed to get a strong start on Saturday. And just like in its previous match against Georgia, Cal lost decisively because of that.

The No. 10 Bears (5-5) traveled to Stanford to play the No. 9 Cardinal (9-4). Though both teams were closely ranked, the final score turned out to be anything but that – the Bears lost in a difficult 6-1 decision.

This match, however, will not count toward Pac-12 standings. Only the April 20 rematch in Berkeley, Cal’s final regular season game, will.

The Bears struggled early in the doubles match, dropping all three matches in quick fashion. Stanford’s duo of Ryan Thacher and Bradley Klahn, last year’s NCAA Doubles Championship runners-up, began by defeating Cal’s No. 4 pair of senior Nick Andrews and junior Christoffer Konigsfeldt in an 8-4 decision. Ben McLachlan, who usually plays with Carlos Cueto to form the Bears’ No. 16 pair, instead played with freshman Chase Melton and lost to the freshman pair, John Morrissey and Robert Stineman, 7-6(5).

In singles, Andrews and Konigsfeldt, on courts one and three respectively, took their first sets in 6-3 fashion. Despite this, both eventually lost as Stanford’s players surged back. Thacher took the next two sets against Andrews, 6-1, 6-2, and Matt Kandath claimed the next two, 6-1, 6-4.

Cueto’s injury contributed to coach Peter Wright’s decision to change the lineups, which meant the Bears were bound to experience some growing pains. Besides Andrews, Konigsfeldt and sophomore Ben McLachlan, the remaining roster was composed of freshmen, none of whom were able to take the first set.

Freshman Gregory Bayane, however, was able to secure the next two sets against junior Denis Lin. He would go on to a 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 decision and was the only Cal player to earn a point.

“It was a tough match, and the first set didn’t go as well as I wanted,” Bayane said. “The second set went a lot better, and after that I wanted to play more intensely to close out the match. I think I improved my serve and that led to the win.”

Wright attributed some of freshmen’s troubles to a general lack of experience along with faltering energy down the stretch. Nevertheless, he was excited about what he saw from the rookies. Besides Bayane, Chase Melton performed decently against his freshmen counterpart, taking Robert Stineman to a close 6-4, 7-6 loss.

“Three freshmen played for us today, and for them it was certainly a challenge,” Wright said. “Overall, we did a great job at the start of the match by managing our energy, but Stanford came back and fought us hard. Stanford’s very solid at home and given our start in the match, our guys did a very good job in singles.”

Their lack of energy will have to be addressed quickly — this was just the first match in a heavy week for the Bears. They have a quick turnaround, facing No. 16 Baylor on Monday at 1:30 p.m. at Hellman Tennis Complex and then heading to La Jolla, Calif., on Thursday for the Pacific Coast Doubles Championship.

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