Sometimes teams have off days. Sometimes players are unable to find a rhythm. Sometimes the focus isn’t there. As long as it’s just “sometimes,” that’s completely alright. What matters more is that a team is able to learn from those bad days and pick itself up for the next competition.
The No. 10 Cal men’s tennis team, which entered the Pac-12 Championship as the two-seed, seemed to be a little out of sync, falling to tournament three-seed, the No. 7 USC, 4-1. Given that the Bears had just come off a big 4-0 win against No. 17 Stanford a week prior, it was surprising that they had lost so early on.
“You have to give credit to the USC team,” said Cal head coach Peter Wright. “They adapted better to the circumstances better than we did. They adapted to the wind a little better than we did. For us, it wasn’t one of the best matches we played, but you have to give credit to USC for how well they came in and played us.”
The Bears did not start out great against the Trojans. The No. 74 duo of senior Andre Goransson and junior Billy Griffith snagged a 6-2 win, but the No. 4 duo of seniors Florian Lakat and Filip Bergevi lost to the unranked pair of freshmen Brandon Holt and Riley Smith, 6-3. A 7-5 loss by the team of junior JT Nishimura and freshman Bjorn Hoffmann gave the Trojans the doubles point.
Singles did not go much better for Cal. In a freshman face-off, Smith defeated Hoffmann, 6-3, 6-1. No. 88 Griffith and No. 46 Goransson were both defeated by unranked opponents. Bergevi was the only Bear who won his singles match, but it was not enough to keep the Bears alive.
“I think our problem-solving and our focus wasn’t great today,” Wright said. “We’ve been playing at a high level up to this point and I think we’ll take this match. We’ve got a lot to work on in terms of our focus, in terms of our six guys all playing well at the same time, and we’ll take that into the NCAAs.”
The result wasn’t ideal, but it is only one match and it’s better that something like this happens in the Pac-12 Tournament rather than the NCAA Tournament. Maintaining a consistent lineup is something that is incredibly difficult, especially in tennis where everything is so individualized, but the great teams manage to get everyone on the same page.
The Bears seems confident in their ability to bounce back and with such a talented lineup, Cal has already shown what a threat it can be when all six players compete at a high level.
“I don’t think we’re discouraged,” Wright said. “I think we are determined. The positive to be taken out of it is we still have a few things to work on to be at our sharpest and to be at our best. And quite frankly, we’re looking forward to the challenge ahead.”
Taylor Choe covers men’s tennis. Contact her at [email protected]