Cal clashes with Stanford to close regular season

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Senior captain Nick Andrews has two goals before finishing his tennis career at Cal. One is to go deep into the postseason. The other is to beat Stanford in his last regular season home match on Friday.

“I really want to beat Stanford this year,” Andrews said. “That’d be a great way to end the season and my career here.”

The No. 14 Bears (11-9, 4-2 in the Pac-12) will face No. 12 Stanford (15-7, 4-2) on Friday at 3 p.m. at Hellman Tennis Complex. Four Cal players — Andrews, Carlos Cueto, Ahmed Ismail and Tommie Murphy — will be honored on Senior Day.

Stanford hasn’t made life easy for the Bears lately. In the first Pac-12 matchup on Feb. 25, they crushed the Bears, 6-1. Cal’s recent history hasn’t been much better, either: The Bears haven’t beaten the Cardinal since February 2010.

Nevertheless, Stanford enters the weekend almost on equal standing with Cal. Their last four weeks, in fact, have been nearly identical. Both teams went into last weekend with four consecutive wins and both left Los Angeles with crushing losses to No. 1 USC and No. 5 UCLA.

With those losses, both the Bears and the Cardinal are locked out of contention for the Pac-12 title, which will go to either USC or UCLA. Consequently, the Big Slam will decide who takes third in the conference. But the match doesn’t need anything else to fuel the heated rivalry.

“Everybody’s excited to play the last home match of the regular season, especially because it’s against Stanford,” said Cal coach Peter Wright. “But as the cliche goes, it’s just another tennis match, and we’ll treat it like any other postseason match.”

The match also has an individual rivalry that pits Cal’s No. 5-ranked duo of Andrews and junior Christoffer Konigsfeldt against Stanford’s No. 7 pair of Bradley Klahn and Ryan Thacher. Both pairs are consistently ranked in the top 10 in doubles and have shared deep runs into the NCAA Doubles Championships. The tandems also share two dominant wins over other top-5 duos, including Pepperdine’s No. 4 team of Alex Llompart and Finn Tearney.

While Andrews and Konigsfeldt are having their best season in three years and currently hold a 19-6 (12-4 in the Pac-12) record, Klahn and Thacher bring impressive resumes as well. They are last year’s NCAA Doubles Championship runner-ups and sport a stellar 17-2 record. Klahn and Thacher actually have an edge on the Cal pair, having won three of four previous matchups, including their dominant 8-4 win on February 25.

That loss, however, doesn’t deter Andrews and Konigsfeldt, nor does it change how they’ll prepare for what could be their final home match together. The only way they’ll get another one is if they get a top-16 berth at the NCAA Championships.

“I don’t want this to be my last home match here,” Andrews said. “So that just motivates me more to win this one and hopefully be able to host later.”

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