The Pac-12 championships for the Cal men’s tennis team played out identically to the regular season. There was no upsets of higher-ranked teams, and lower opponents were defeated easily. But the Bears came home with much less than they wanted.
Taking place over four days, the Pac-12 Men’s Tennis Championships held in Ojai, Calif., pitted the teams against each other in dual matches to determine the winner of the Pac-12. Entering the tournament as the No. 4 seed, No. 19 Cal(15-7) won its quarterfinal match over Utah (15-9), 4-0. The Bears, however, were no match for the No. 1 team in both the Pac-12 and the country, USC (26-3), losing, 4-1, in the semifinals.
USC then went on to play against No. 2 seeded UCLA, who won the tournament, 4-2.
“I felt we performed at a very high level,” said Cal coach Peter Wright. “Our win over Utah was a real bounce back for us, and then obviously we ran up against a very strong USC team.”
The Bears came into the tournament dominant against the Utes after beating them earlier this season, 4-2. In doubles, the No. 23 pair of juniors Gregory Bayane and Chase Melton won, 8-3, over Slim Hamza and Cedric Willems to win the first match of the day. Senior Ben McLachlan and freshman Andre Goransson then won on court No. 2, 8-5, to clinch the doubles point and put Cal up 1-0.
In singles, the Bears won in three short matches. Goransson clinched the match and sent Cal to the semifinals with a 6-4, 6-2, victory over Willems.
Against USC, things flipped for the Bears. Losing the doubles point in two matches on courts No. 2 and 3, Cal started off down, 1-0. This included a close loss from Goransson and McLachlan, 8-7(2).
In singles, Cal could simply not keep up. The first loss came from court No. 3 where freshman Filip Bergevi lost, 6-2, 6-2, to Roberto Quiroz. The deficit grew when McLachlan lost to No. 13 Yannick Hanfmann, 6-2, 7-5. With the Bears down 3-0, their only point of the match was won by Goransson, who defeated Max de Vroome 7-6(5), 6-2. USC clinched the match on court No. 5 with Bayane suffering a 1-6, 6-2, 6-1, defeat.
“We were a bit unlucky to lose the doubles to USC, but I think it (our improvement) was more a sense of our mental focus and how physically we played,” Wright said. “I think both of those represented a lot of progress through the course of the season, and that was encouraging to me and to the guys on our team.”
The Bears will only have one chance left to prove themselves in the NCAAs, beginning May 10. The Bears will find out their ranking in the tournament on a selection show Tuesday. Wright has high hopes for his team’s play for the rest of the season.
“I think really we are starting to play the type of tennis we want to play in the postseason,” Wright said. “The way our guys played and the amount of discipline we played with, I think we are definitely on an upswing as we head into the NCAA Championships.”
Alaina Getzenberg covers men’s tennis. Contact her at [email protected]