Being a member of the Pac-12 means regularly facing nationally top-10 teams — teams that threaten the Cal men’s tennis team’s seeding for the Pac-12 Championships in late April.
As a result, it’s crucial for the Bears to win this weekend’s games against lower-tier squads Washington and Oregon to boost their own record. For Cal, that could be the difference between a deep run and a first-round exit.
The No. 12 Bears (9-7, 2-0 in the Pac-12) will host two games this weekend at Hellman Tennis Complex. On Friday, they will face No. 22 Washington (12-5, 0-2) at 1:30 p.m. and on Saturday, unranked Oregon (14-3, 0-2) at 11 a.m.
The Bears are entering the weekend fresh off two wins against Utah and Arizona. But, the numbers say the Bears should have taken those games — and the next two as well. Cal has done consistently well against worse-ranked teams — its only loss to such a team came Pepperdine, which has moved up to No. 8 in the country.
In addition to keeping that record pristine, the Bears should look to improve their standing for the Pac-12 Championships. Cal will want to sweep this weekend’s matches to avoid being matched with No. 1 USC or No. 5 UCLA in the early rounds of the conference tournament. The Bears already dropped dual matches to both teams earlier in the year.
“This weekend is really important, and we’re expecting to do well,” said sophomore Ben McLachlan. “Even though we should beat (Washington), all the Pac-12 teams are good. It’ll be important to get our confidence going and keep it up throughout the month, especially against the tougher schools like USC and UCLA.”
Because of that, the Huskies and Ducks should be fully prepared when coming in to Berkeley. Both sport winless records in conference play after losing to USC and UCLA last week. This weekend’s games will be even more important for them if they want to avoid that rematch.
The Huskies are especially desperate for a win. After seven consecutive wins starting in February, Washington has gone on to drop three out of the last four. Those earlier wins had earned the Huskies a peak ranking of No. 13, but they have since dropped to No. 22.
One weapon Washington will utilize is No. 14 singles player Kyle McMorrow. He’ll face off on the top court against senior captain Nick Andrews. They last met in the 2011 Pac-10 Championships, in which Andrews narrowly defeated McMorrow in a 7-6 (4), 4-6, 7-5 decision. While Andrews has yet to win against a ranked opponent this year, coach Peter Wright feels this time might just be different.
“Nick’s performance this year has been nothing short of fantastic,” Wright said. “He’s had to play some tough matches for us and he’s come through and even clinched some huge wins along the way. He continues to do a wonderful job, so I’m anticipating a great match out there from Andrews and McMorrow.”