Every sport boils down to the postseason — and for good reason. The postseason is a combination of increased intensity, higher stakes and better-quality athletics. The competition is at its fiercest, and the players take on an extra level of focus and determination to be at their best.
This is what every team waits for.
On Friday, the second-seeded Cal men’s tennis team will play its first match of the postseason in the semifinals of the Pac-12 Championships. The Bears’ opponent has not yet been set, but it will most likely be third-seeded USC.
“Our focus going into postseason is really to play one match at a time,” said Cal head coach Peter Wright. “It sounds a little bit cliché, but I think if we had a theme right now, it’s having six guys show up every match. While it sounds pretty simple, it definitely isn’t always the case for college tennis teams. So we’re trying to take accountability individually and as a team to have the entire team show up.”
The Bears will not play until the third day of competition, giving them a few extra days of rest.
On Wednesday, sixth-seeded Utah and seventh-seeded Washington will face off. The winner of those two will then play the Trojans for the right to play Cal.
If the Bears face the Utes or the Huskies, they will be expected to win fairly smoothly. Neither team has nearly as strong of a lineup as Cal in either singles or doubles. USC, however, is a different story.
The Bears last played the Trojans on April 8, when USC destroyed them 4-0 in Berkeley. It was a difficult match for Cal, in which players seemed to struggle across the board. The Bears have been looking much better lately, which should yield them a more positive outcome.
“We’re starting to get closer to the type of form we need to play in the postseason,” Wright said. “This is one of our last eight matches of the year, and what energy and what focus are we going to put into that?”
Cal will need all the focus it can get when it comes to facing USC. In doubles, the Trojans have two ranked doubles teams, No. 10 and No. 85. In singles, they are equally as strong, with two ranked players in No. 22 freshman Brandon Holt and No. 79 sophomore Logan Smith.
The individual rankings for both teams are pretty close, and Cal also boasts two top double teams in the No. 2 duo of seniors Florian Lakat and Filip Bergevi and the No. 74 team of senior Andre Goransson and junior Billy Griffith. In singles, the Bears have three ranked players in No. 14 Lakat, No. 49 Goransson and No. 89 Griffith.
The teams are neck and neck, and they will most likely play a close and exciting game this Friday.
“We have eight matches left in our season, but we’re taking each one and making it a big focus for us each and every time out,” Wright said.
Taylor Choe covers men’s tennis. Contact her at [email protected]