There are certain moments in our lives that we can characterize as “defining moments.” For some it’s new friendships or newfound passion for a subject, while for others it’s an unrivaled moment in college sports.
For the No. 10 Cal men’s tennis team (18-7), the NCAA Championship will likely be one of their most memorable moments from college as they host the first two rounds of the NCAA Championship at the Hellman Tennis Complex. Cal has won 10 of 13 matches at home this season and will enter the tournament on a three-match home winning streak.
In the first round Friday, Cal is set to play Tennessee Tech (13-6). The Bears have never played the unranked Golden Eagles before but based off record and ranking, Cal is the overwhelming favorite.
Tennessee Tech enters Friday’s matchup with Cal riding a seven-match winning streak. Two of those wins came during the Ohio Valley Conference tournament in which Tennessee Tech bested Eastern Kentucky 4-0 to automatically advance to the NCAA tournament.
The Bears will prepare for Tennessee Tech’s star No. 58 Eduardo Mena, who earned OVC Player of the Year and qualified for the NCAA Singles Championship. Junior Marcos Bernardes and senior Alberto Esteban both earned nominations on the All-OVC First Team as well.
The seniors who have so largely contributed to the Bears’ success are No. 12 Florian Lakat, No. 61 Andre Goransson, and Filip Bergevi. Goransson has been an incredibly consistent singles players for Cal. In addition to these three, junior and No. 81 Billy Griffith has also been having a strong season.
The Bears have the No. 5 doubles team in the nation in Lakat and Bergevi. The two have had a tremendous season and were at one point the No. 1 duo in the nation a few weeks back.
Cal’s second doubles team consists of No. 74 Griffith and Goransson, who have gotten more comfortable with each other as the season has progressed. The Bears’ third doubles team is the pair of junior J.T. Nishimura and freshman Bjorn Hoffmann who have compiled a record of 12-9.
This season there have been many fresh faces present on the courts for Cal due to injuries which have plagued the team, including freshmen Nic Barretto and Connor Heap who have seen some time on the court.
When Barretto and Heap are not on the court, they can be heard cheering louder than the entire crowd put together, energizing the crowd and spreading their support and encouragement.
Cal is a strong team that has a good shot at taking the championship, but the Bears will have to overcome their struggles with consistency across all six courts. Last weekend during the team’s loss to USC in the Pac-12 semis, Lakat and Bergevi dropped a match to an unranked Trojan duo, a fatal loss which propelled USC to a 4-1 victory.
This appearance marks the 18th consecutive season in which the Bears have qualified for the NCAA tournament under head coach Peter Wright.
Taylor Choe covers men’s tennis. Contact her at [email protected]