Cal sweeps Pacific Northwest for best conference start since 1953

Cal sophomore Ben McLachlan beat both Oregon’s Alex Rovello and UW’s Emmett Egger in two sets on court two.
Michael Tao/Staff
Cal sophomore Ben McLachlan beat both Oregon’s Alex Rovello and UW’s Emmett Egger in two sets on court two.

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When the Cal men’s tennis team played Washington last year, the squad emerged with a disappointing 4-3 loss and aspirations for payback. This weekend, the Bears got more than just a taste of revenge — they dominated the Huskies to keep their conference record pristine.

The No. 12 Bears crushed both the No. 22 Huskies and unranked Ducks in 7-0 sweeps on Friday and Saturday, respectively, at Hellman Tennis Complex. The wins were so dominant that only one opponent pushed a Cal player to a third set over the course of the weekend.

The Bears began their stellar weekend by conquering Washington in quick fashion. The match was highlighted by Nick Andrews, who had been matched up against No. 14 Kyle McMurrow. While Andrews had been struggling this season against ranked opponents, on Friday he handled McMurrow with ease, delivering a 6-2, 6-2 victory.

“I think as a team we were really pumped to play (Washington), because last year it came down to the last match and we lost 4-3,” Andrews said. “So this game was a revenge match, and I wanted to go out there to show it. I stuck to my routine by playing aggressively and as a team we played better.”

The improved team play would continue into the next day as well. The Bears performed even better against an unranked Oregon team that had just come off a similar 7-0 defeat to Stanford. This time around, the Bears offered no chances to take a match point, preventing any tiebreakers in doubles and third sets in singles.

However, the dominance did not arrive immediately. The day began on a slow note as Cal’s doubles players struggled to create separation on the scoreboard. Even Andrews and Christoffer Konigsfeldt, the nation’s No. 3 doubles team, played a close game against Robin Cambier and Jeff Mullen in an 8-6 victory. Nevertheless, the Bears managed to keep their four-match streak of doubles sweeps intact.

In singles play, Andrews especially could not keep up against Cambier and found himself down 0-2 early. For Cal’s senior captain, however, those would be the last consecutive points he dropped. Andrews exploded back, capturing the match point with little resistance for a 6-3, 6-1 victory.

“We’re doing a better job getting through some of the tight spots in the matches,” said coach Peter Wright. “When we get behind, we’re not panicking but instead sticking to our process, and I think the improvement’s been shown through our composure out on the courts.”

Such improvement appeared universal — four separate Cal players managed to get 6-1 sets on their opponents on Saturday. Carlos Cueto, who had lost his last five individual matches, pulled a complete turnaround by closing out Daniel Sardu in a 7-5, 6-1 decision.

With the victory, the Bears have established a 4-0 conference record — the first time since 1953 — which guarantees Cal a winning Pac-12 record come postseason. More importantly, Wright believes it gives the Bears the confidence to succeed in postseason.

“They’re not going to be all 7-0 matches in the future,” Wright said, “but if every guy comes to play in the right state of mind and with the right process, then it gives us the best chance to be successful.”

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