Just six matches into the season, the Cal men’s tennis team is already being rewarded for its fast start.
The Bears stormed up the rankings this week, rising six spots to No. 12.
“Our guys are on a high,” said Cal associate head coach Tyler Browne. “But we got to make sure we stick to our process and come out everyday with a purpose.”
The Pac-12 awarded senior Mads Engsted for his stellar play in the win against the Cardinal, earning Cal’s second Pac-12 Player of the Week honor. Billy Griffith is the other player to have earned the distinction.
Engsted won a thrilling singles match against then-No. 119 Michael Genender to clinch the victory over then-No. 22 Stanford on Saturday. Engsted also clinched the doubles point with partner J.T. Nishimura.
“(Engsted), as a senior, he’s been there before,” said Cal senior Oskar Wikberg. “It was just a great match, and it was fortunate for us that he was able to come out on top. I think we just battled really hard in singles on each and every court. It was a great team effort.”
The Bears are firing on all cylinders, having won their past five consecutive matches against stiff competition. In addition to defeating Stanford, Cal has impressed with victories over then-No. 2 TCU and Texas. The Bears are led by five nationally ranked players, including No. 7 Andre Goransson, No. 28 Griffith, No. 47 Florian Lakat, No. 52 Wikberg and No. 117 Filip Bergevi. With such great depth, Cal has the potential to turn this season into one for the ages.
“We’re not done yet,” Wikberg said. “This is a long season. We look at it one match at a time, and Pepperdine is going to come in here real hungry.”
Pepperdine will travel to Berkeley on Saturday, looking to snap the Bears’ winning streak. The Waves were trounced in their last match, losing to Washington, 4-1, last weekend. The loss dropped Pepperdine out of the top-75 altogether, after starting the season ranked No. 33.
Although the Waves do not have any nationally ranked singles players, their doubles pairings will be tough matchups for the Bears. Pepperdine’s duo of Guilherme Hadlich and Gabriel Sidney is ranked 30th in the nation and the doubles team of Pedro Iamachkine and Lautaro Pane has collected two West Coast Conference Doubles Team of the Week honors.
“Pepperdine is always known for being a very gritty team.” Browne said. “They come out with a lot of energy, they’re well-coached and they’re very disciplined. Our guys have to be focused on what they do and what they can control.”
The Bears are undefeated at home thus far this season. Both the players and coaches attribute the strong fan support as a key to their success.
“It’s our house,” Browne said. “We want to make sure that we protect it and if anybody comes in here we want to make sure that they know that this is Bear Territory.”
Jeffrey Liu covers men’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected]