After defeating Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (4-2) and Tulane (6-1),the No. 4 Cal men’s tennis team (3-0) will take on No. 13 Baylor (7-0) in the first round of the ITA National Men’s Indoor Championship in what will be the battle of the Bears. Cal will need the full strength of its three seniors — No. 11 Florian Lakat, No. 27 Andre Goransson and No. 42 Filip Bergevi — as well as the rest of the team in order to contend for the title.
Cal is headed to Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend after it was unable to make it to last year’s Indoors because of weather. Luckily for them, the Bears won’t have that problem this time around, as the three seniors on the team will have the opportunity to play in their last Indoor Championship as active members of the Cal men’s tennis team.
The success of Cal this season should be largely credited to Lakat, Goransson and Bergevi. Their experience will be invaluable as the season continues, especially when it comes to leading and setting examples for the rest of Cal’s young team.
This senior leadership will be important for Cal as Baylor will be its first real challenge of this spring season. Baylor has two ranked singles players in the top 60 — No. 54 sophomore Juan Benitez and No. 57 senior Max Tchoutakian. In addition, Baylor also has a ranked doubles team in No. 41 redshirt sophomore Will Little and sophomore Johannes Schretter.
This pair will most likely be up against Cal’s No. 3 duo of Lakat and Bergevi, which is arguably one of the best doubles teams in the country. Cal’s previously ranked pair of junior Billy Griffith and Goransson have also have been met with success so far in the season.
Griffith also finds himself ranked with Cal’s three seniors at No. 40, with freshman Bjorn Hoffmann recently being dropped from the top 100. While the seniors and Griffith play the biggest roles in Cal’s strong showings, it will ultimately be the freshmen who will be the deciding factors as the season progresses.
Freshman Connor Heap has been seeing some playing time, losing in a three set match against Pepperdine on Sunday. Hoffmann has been showing enormous talent and potential, playing on court 5 for singles and also making up Cal’s third doubles team.
Indoors marks the first large-scale tournament for the freshman class, and the young and inexperienced on the team will likely be looking to the seniors now more than ever for guidance and leadership.
Cal’s perform at Indoors will be a strong indication for how the team will fair the rest of the season. Many of the top teams will be competing in the event, and aside from the title, performances at Indoors could set a precedent for a winning mentality to carry on for the rest of the season.
In order to move on, though, Cal will have to defeat Baylor as each will try to prove which is the better Bear.
Taylor Choe covers men’s tennis. Contact her at [email protected]