A doubles point is the ultimate ace in the hole. The team that clinches it inevitably coasts on the advantage for the remainder of the win, while the loser spends the singles round fighting back toward contention.
The Cal men’s tennis team prides itself on its doubles play, and its No. 6 duo of senior Nick Andrews and Christoffer Konigsfeldt amassed a 14-5 record on the top court this year. But stats don’t lie: whenever the Bears (14-12) dropped the doubles point, they also dropped the match.
Friday’s round of 16 exit at the hands of No. 2 Virginia in the NCAA Championships was no different.
At the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga., the Cavaliers swiftly swept Cal, 4-0, to advance to the semifinals of the NCAA Team Championships. Despite advancing to the sweet 16 for the second year in a row, the Bears only nabbed one set in their final match of the season.
“(The final score) doesn’t say that Cal wouldn’t get a point out there,” Cal coach Peter Wright said.
The match was called once Virginia (27-1) clinched. But even if it had gone to its entirety, the 14-seed Cal couldn’t keep up with the physicality of the Cavs, who were last year’s national runners-up.
Virginia’s Drew Courtney and Jarmere Jenkins bested Konigsfeldt and Andrews in a dominating 8-3 decision. Another 8-3 performance from the Cavs on the third court clinched the doubles point in their favor.
And the team coasted on that early triumph to stifle the Bears across all six singles courts.
“I felt we were the better team in doubles,” Wright said. “But it was not the start we were anticipating. We were put on our heels.”
Even if past stats spoke otherwise, Cal didn’t yet feel that the match was decided. The squad prides itself on its tenacity and ability to strategically outmaneuver bigger opponents. In fact, the Bears were coming off a 4-3 comeback victory against Texas Tech the weekend before.
Moreover, Cal felt that its tough regular season schedule left the team more prepared than Virginia for top-10 opponents.
“They haven’t been pushed as often as we have,” Wright said.
It wasn’t necessarily that Virginia had never been pushed. As a nationally elite team, the Cavs simply spent their season outmatching lesser competition. And on Friday, the Bears were once again pushed – only it didn’t work in their favor.
The singles courts were a testament to the supremacy of the Cavs. Only Konigsfeldt was able to steal a set in his fourth-court battle with Courtney. In his final match of his Cal career, Carlos Cueto kept his tilt with No. 2 Mitchell Frank close; but ultimately Frank dished out a 6-4, 6-4 victory. Meanwhile, Riki McLachlan took his first set on the sixth court to a tiebreaker that eventually went to his opponent.
But overall, the Cavs showed little mercy to the Bears.
“They’re big, big beasts,” Wright said. “They’re very physical. They were able to hold onto the victory.”
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