The Cal men’s tennis team did not only lose both its matches this weekend to break its perfect win streak — it also lost senior co-captain Riki McLachlan to injury.
McLachlan makes up one half of the No. 7 doubles team in the country and has not lost a singles match since the beginning of the season.
On Friday in Los Angeles, the 13th-ranked Bears fell to four-time defending NCAA champion USC in a 7-0 sweep. Cal (3-2) also lost to No. 3 UCLA (7-0) on Saturday at the Los Angeles Tennis Center, 6-1.
The Bears started off their weekend in doubles play against the No. 2 Trojans. On the top court, Ben and Riki McLachlan battled against USC’s Ray Sarmiento and Yannick Hanfmann. During the fourth game of the first set, Riki McLachlan stepped back to hit an overhead shot but lost his footing and dislocated his kneecap.
A trainer came out to the court to position his kneecap back into place. McLachlan was later carried off and did not play for the rest of the weekend.
McLachlan will see an orthopedist on Sunday, but as of now, he may be out for a few weeks.
“Losing our team captain really affected our guys emotionally,” Cal coach Peter Wright said. “(Riki) was in excruciating pain, and our guys were just devastated to see their teammate in such a bad situation.”
McLachlan’s injury and subsequent absence severely affected the Bears’ performance. After losing the doubles point, Cal later dropped five of its six singles matches in two sets each. Junior Ben McLachlan notched the Bears’ lone set win, but he eventually lost his last two sets to No. 10 Sarmiento on the top court.
With Riki McLachlan out of the lineup, Cal had to switch around its doubles pairings to produce three different doubles teams for Saturday’s match against the Bruins. The Bears yielded the doubles point to UCLA but fared better in singles, despite most of them losing their first sets to start off singles play.
Junior Campbell Johnson, a constant force in the middle courts, swiftly won his first and second sets to garner the Bears’ only match point for the weekend. Johnson topped UCLA’s Adrien Puget, who has not lost a singles match so far this season and who ended last season with a 24-1 singles record.
“Puget probably has the best winning percentage of their team, but Campbell just played smart today,” Wright said. “He played consistently well throughout the match, and he earned his win.”
Although the score speaks otherwise, the Bears fought to keep up with the Bruins and had several close matches on Saturday. However, with Riki McLachlan out for at least a few weeks in the season, Cal will have to step up its game to be able to pull off upsets of the top-20 schools they will be battling before the postseason.
“We’re happy this weekend is behind us, and we’re really keeping our fingers crossed for Riki,” Wright said. “We have an opportunity to recover during the next few days to get ready to go to the National Indoors, but I think the quality of play just needs to continue where it’s going.”
Janice Chua covers men’s tennis. Contact her at [email protected].