“Rain, rain go away, come again another day.”
For most Cal sports, it did go away Saturday — just in time for all the matches, meets and games planned this weekend.
But for the No. 13 Cal men’s tennis team (15-6, 2-1), the rain delay only led to a disappointing match. After being unable to play No. 10 UCLA on Friday because of the weather, the Bears were wiped out by No. 5 USC, 4-0, at Hellman Tennis Complex on Saturday afternoon.
Cal probably carried some well-reasoned confidence heading into the matchup, considering how it disappointed the Trojans (20-4, 3-1) last time the two played in the Pac-12 Semifinals. But things just didn’t seem to swing the right way for the Bears this time around.
“It was a little bit unfortunate for us to lose that,” said Cal head coach Peter Wright. “We’re still not exactly where we need to be in our postseason form, but we did have a lot of positives. We’re getting healthy, which is important for our guys. Andre played a good match and seems to be doing well with his back. So, overall I think it was a step forward for us in terms of being prepared for the postseason.”
Cal got off to a rough start, losing the doubles point to the USC duo of No. 11 Brandon Holt and Riley Smith. The pair upset the No. 2 pair of Florian Lakat and Filip Bergevi, 7-5, and although it was a close match, Lakat and Bergevi need to start being more dependable when it comes to high-stakes matchups if they hope to make a run in the postseason.
Singles didn’t go much better for Cal. Freshman Bjorn Hoffmann’s match put the Bears behind 0-2, losing 6-3, 6-3 against USC’s Thibault Forget. No. 85 junior Billy Griffith had a difficult matchup versus No. 65 Logan Smith, falling in two sets.
While Hoffmann and Griffith were put away relatively quickly, two of Cal’s seniors attempted to pick up the slack on courts one and two. No. 14 Lakat was leading No. 19 Brandon Holt and No. 45 senior Andre Goransson was beating No. 109 Nick Crystal. Junior J.T. Nishimura was also holding off Riley Smith.
But those three matches ended up being insignificant as Bergevi was unable to defeat opponent Jack Jaede on court four. The match went to three sets with Jaede taking the first, Bergevi winning the second and Jaede bageling Bergevi in the last to capture his match and the win for USC.
The Bears — despite the overall score of the match — were a lot closer to winning than the “4-0” indicated.
“Some of the guys played really good matches, but not a full match yet,” Wright said. “So, they’re not at 100 percent in terms of our competitiveness in those matches. But we’re building towards that and we’re very, very close.”
Cal’s inability to win the doubles point is puzzling. Having two ranked doubles teams — one of which is No. 2 in the country — is not very common and should almost guarantee the doubles point for every match. If the Bears hope to have a shot in Pac-12s and NCAAs they need to figure out how to perform in the moments that matter most.
Taylor Choe covers men’s tennis. Contact her at [email protected]