Freshmen to lead the way for Cal men’s tennis in preseason

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After another successful season in 2017 that ended with a Sweet 16 appearance in the NCAA tournament, the Cal men’s tennis team is experiencing a changing of the guard, with 7 newcomers joining the roster. This upcoming preseason will consist of weekend tournaments and individual play to ready the team for the spring. With a team this young, it will need all the practice it can get in order to finalize the lineup.

Paul Barretto, Jacob Brumm, Ben Draper, Can Kaya, Jack Molloy, Jackson Suh and Thomas Wright headline Cal’s No. 1-ranked recruiting class. Familial connections must be noted within the freshmen class: Barretto’s older brother, Dominic, enters his sophomore campaign for the Bears, and Wright is the son of Cal head coach, Peter Wright. The string of international players coming to Berkeley continues, with the additions of Molloy and Draper heralding from England and Kaya from Turkey.

Out of the Reed’s School in England, Molloy brings an exceptional doubles expertise to the team. He has competed in the junior Wimbledon doubles draw the past two years and racked up three ITF-level doubles titles in his career thus far.

The unusually large seven-player class is quite necessary after Cal lost three integral players to graduation last year. Although the Bears will be without former All-Americans Florian Lakat, Filip Bergevi and Andre Goransson, the Bears still bring back some solid senior leadership to pave the way for 2017-18.

Seniors Billy Griffith and JT Nishimura will lead the rest of their young teammates to try and steady the ship in a transition year. In fact, the two seniors will also be looking to continue their doubles success together and are ranked 39th in the ITA preseason poll.

Of course, the backbone of the team will remain to be Wright, who prepares to embark on his 25th season as head coach. With his unparalleled experience, he should certainly know how to ready his players.

Cal players head to Napa this weekend to play at the Audi Napa Valley Tennis Classic. Billy Griffith won this tournament as a sophomore and should be positioned to compete in the singles draw once again. However, entries and draws for both singles and doubles will officially be released Friday morning. But expect the Bears to enter their players in both singles and doubles to optimize the chance for titles at their pseudo-home tournament.

These upcoming fall tournaments provide newer and inexperienced players with the match play needed to compete at a high level during the regular season. Especially for the freshmen, these matches will serve as an opportunity to prove themselves as they compete for open spots in the lineup. This weekend’s matches will be no different.

There’s an abundance of talent on this squad, but the key for this fall will be watching to see if it can materialize into wins on the court. The pieces are there for the team to have immediate success, especially because of the international experience many of the players have had at the junior level. Luckily, Cal has the time and flexibility to figure out how to manage this year’s roster in the upcoming weeks.

Charlie Griffen covers men’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].