The Cal men’s tennis team typically dominates the annual USTA/ITA Northwest Regional Championships.
However, this year, the team will compete without any of those standout players who led them to the championship title, including senior co-captain Christoffer Konigsfeldt.
Konigsfeldt, who has been a consistent contender at the regional championships, will be in Finland this weekend representing Denmark at the ITF Davis Cup, the largest annual international team competition for men’s tennis.
The rest of the team, minus a few injured players, will be defending Cal’s doubles and overall championship titles at the annual regionals tournament, held at St. Mary’s from Oct. 19 to 21.
Cal will play against other Pac-12 schools, including Washington, Oregon and No. 9 Stanford, as well as against top players from other schools in the Northwestern region, such as Fresno State’s No. 22 Francis Alcantara and Washington’s No. 13 Kyle McMorrow.
“The Pac-12 conference schools are usually the strongest ones out there,” head coach Peter Wright said. “But the top player from each school represented can also be pretty good.”
The country is split up into 12 regions in the collegiate tennis world, each of which has its own ITA-sponsored championship during the fall preseason.
Aside from winning the trophy, the singles and doubles champions from each regional tournament will receive bids to enter the most exclusive fall preseason tournament: the ITA National Indoor Collegiate Championships, held each November.
The Bears’ track record at the Northwest Regionals bodes well.
In 2010, the fourth-seeded tandem of Konigsfeldt and then-junior Nick Andrews captured the doubles championship trophy after defeating Washington’s No. 25 doubles team of Jeevan Neduncheezhiyan and Kyle McMorrow.
Last year, the Bears had three individuals in the singles quarterfinals and three teams in the doubles quarterfinals, before the duo of Ben McLachlan and Carlos Cueto triumphed in the final match.
Some of the players have even had to face fellow teammates in the semifinal and final rounds of the tournament. Konigsfeldt went head-to-head with teammate Cueto in the 2010 singles semifinals. Ben McLachlan and Cueto had to also compete against the Bears’ doubles duo of Andrews and sophomore Andrew Scholnick in the 2011 doubles semifinal rounds.
In 2010 and 2011, the Bears posted the most individual wins throughout the tournament, securing the first-place team trophy both years.
However, without any of these old standouts besides McLachlan, Wright believes the team may not perform as well as in past years.
“Chris had the ability to win the whole tournament in singles and doubles, so without him our expectations are a bit lower this year,” Wright said. “But we should still represent Cal quite well with a couple of our other players.”
Despite the absence of Konigsfeldt and older team standouts, Cal will showcase its strength in a few of the other experienced players. The Bears will still have the McLachlan brothers, who will be playing as a doubles duo, and sophomore Gregory Bayane, who is on a two-tournament winning streak.
Bayane recently clinched the singles titles at both the Aggie Invitational on Oct. 7, and the UCSB Classic on Oct. 14.
Although the Bears are looking to qualify for the upcoming ITA National Indoors, Cal’s main goal is to simply keep working towards peaking during the spring season.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do, especially with a lot of the young guys on the team,” Wright said. “And we’re not prepared yet at this stage in the fall — but I’m confident that we’re going to get there.”
Janice Chua covers men’s tennis. Contact her at [email protected]