Earning an annual invite to the Pacific Coast Men’s Doubles Championship in La Jolla, California validates the exceptional men’s tennis program that Cal head coach Peter Wright has built over the past 23 years. In its 127th year, the tournament invites top-ranked collegiate teams to showcase their best doubles teams. As an open tournament, non-collegiate athletes are allowed to play as well.
Before the tournament starts, however, the No. 18 Bears will face No. 5 Oklahoma State on Thursday in a match that promises to be a classic.
“Certainly the Oklahoma State match is the first thing on our minds,” Wright said.
The Cowboys’ No. 5 ranking in the latest poll is the best in school history. The Bears, meanwhile, dropped six spots to No. 18, despite a commanding 4-0 victory over unranked Pepperdine.
Oklahoma State is coming off impressive victories over then-No. 14 South Florida and Alabama as part of the Blue Gray Classic. The win over South Florida marks the seventh time the Cowboys have defeated a ranked team this season. Oklahoma State is thriving despite playing in the Big 12 Conference, where all six teams are ranked inside the top 15, which is the most of any conference. The Big Ten is the only other conference with at least five in the top 25.
“I expect a tough match,” said Cal junior Andre Goransson. “Obviously they’re a pretty high-ranked team, but we’ve shown that we’ve beaten good teams this year.”
Indeed, the Bears have beaten four ranked opponents this year, including wins over then-No. 2 TCU and then-No. 24 Stanford. Cal also boasts five nationally ranked players, including No. 7 Goransson, No. 28 Billy Griffith, No. 47 Florian Lakat, No. 52 Oskar Wikberg and No. 117 Filip Bergevi. Bergevi clinched the victory Saturday for the Bears against Pepperdine.
The Cowboys counter with five nationally ranked players of their own in No. 75 Julian Cash, No. 91 Jurence Mendoza, No. 109 Arjun Kadhe, No. 115 Temur Ismailov and No. 123 Tristan Meraut. The doubles team of Cash and Kadhe is ranked No. 15 in the nation.
“They’re tough, tenacious, and they don’t give away too many free points,” Wright said. “That’s something that we try to make a part of what we do, which is be a very difficult team to play every time out.”
Oklahoma State will also participate in the Pacific Coast Doubles Championship. Last year, its doubles team of former Cowboy Nicolai Ferrigno and Lucas Gerch won the title while Cal’s duo of Goransson and J.T. Nishimura won the consolation final. Goransson and Nishimura were able to upset the third seeded team of USC head coach Peter Smith and former Trojan Kaes Van’t Hof for their win. Yes, coaches can play in the tournament too.
This year, the Bears will have several doubles teams participate in the Pacific Coast Doubles Tournament, some of whom may end up playing against each other. The pairings of Bergevi and Lakat, Goransson and Griffith, and Cal associate head coach Tyler Browne and Wright will compete in matches Thursday and Friday, and then they will advance to finals and consolation matches Saturday and Sunday.
“The Pacific Coast Doubles Tournament is a good opportunity for our guys to work on their skills in a lower pressure environment,” Wright said. “It’s always a little bit of a break from the pressure of team matches and it’s a great bonding opportunity for our guys.”
Other notable doubles teams competing in the tournament are Oklahoma State’s Cash and Kadhe, USC’s Smith and Van’t Hof, and Stanford’s pairs of Tom Fawcett and Maciek Romanwicz and Nolan Paige and David Wilczynski.
“I’m really excited to see how we’ll perform in the upcoming matches,” Wright said. “The next half dozen matches are going to be very challenging for us on so many levels. We’re going to be working really hard through this midpoint of the season, but I like where we are in terms of our chemistry and our work ethic.”
Jeffrey Liu covers men’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected]