Though freshmen have been seizing the spotlight lately, it took some upperclassmen to get the job done Thursday in San Diego.
The No. 11 Cal men’s tennis team defeated the No. 25 Toreros, 5-2. The Bears (7-5) haven’t lost to San Diego (5-4) since the 1993 season and their all-time record against the Toreros moved to 20-5.
It was their second meeting this year, having previously played on Jan. 30 during ITA Kickoff Weekend. Cal won that last matchup 4-0, and along with the win against LSU, earned a trip to the ITA National Team Indoor Championships.
Cal began slowly, losing the first doubles match, but the squad made a powerful comeback to earn the doubles point. The upperclassmen No. 5 pair, made of senior captain Nick Andrews and junior Christoffer Konigsfeldt, overwhelmed Nikola Bubnic and Thibaut Visy, 8-3. Then, the underclassmen duo of sophomore Ben McLachlan and redshirt freshmen Chase Melton defeated Patrick Pohlmann and Ciaran Fitzgerald, 8-6.
The contest remained close throughout singles, as Cal dropped the first and third matches. The Bears also continued their struggles in the first set, as senior Ahmed Ismail was the only player on the team to win both the first set and match. After losing the third match, however, Cal’s losing ways were over.
Sophomore Ben McLachlan responded powerfully, defeating Pohlmann 3-6, 6-2, 6-2, putting the Bears ahead at 3-2. Andrews then rebounded after his first set to defeat Bubnic, 5-7, 6-4, 6-3, sealing the victory for the Cal. Andrews, who had lost his previous three individual matches (and the last five of six), was happy to provide the clinching match for the Bears.
“It feels great — I came out there today and really put forth a 100 percent effort,” Andrews said. “The results hadn’t been there lately, but I feel like I’ve been playing better overall throughout the season. The team as a whole played well today, and it felt good to get a win like that.”
After Andrews won, freshman Greg Bayane continued his winning streak by beating Thibaut Visy, 6-7, 7-5, 10-8. Bayane has notched four individual match wins in a row, one of which was a notable win against Stanford which made him the only Cal player to take a point in that 6-1 defeat. He and the other underclassmen continue to impress coach Peter Wright, who called them important components of Cal’s success.
“Chase is a redshirt freshman and Greg has only been here two months and they, along with the all the other underclassmen, have just been fantastic,” Wright said. “Just today, Chase played a critical role in the doubles and Ben came back after losing first sets and won his match — great effort from both of them.”
The dual match victory puts Cal in a good place going forward. The Bears will need some momentum as their next two dual match opponents, No. 13 Pepperdine and No. 5 Duke, are both highly ranked. Fortunately for the Bears, they’ll be in the Pacific Coast Doubles Tournament in La Jolla, Calif., this weekend. The tournament typically allows the Bears to experiment with matchups, provides extra doubles practice and gives the team a much needed rest.