The fall preseason for Cal men’s tennis is a quick one, and it’s not like there’s a lot of cohesion involved — the team is often split up, with groups of players traveling to different tournaments each weekend. Hopefully, the busy scheduling serves as a way to prepare players for the longer and more taxing regular season.
Seniors Billy Griffith and J.T. Nishimura will lead a small group to the ITA All-American Championships in Tulsa this weekend. Griffith returns to Tulsa after having competed in the main singles draw in 2016. Last year, he had to qualify into the main draw, but he receives a direct entry this year because of his regional ITA ranking. He’ll look to improve upon his second-round performance from last year and will be teaming up with Nishimura in doubles.
Those elder veterans will be joined by freshmen Jack Molloy and Jacob Brumm, who earned spots into the qualifying draw after impressive play of late.
Brumm should be confident going into his matches after his title run in consolation singles in San Francisco last weekend. However, the level of competition is sure to increase this weekend, as the best players in the country will be present for one of the most elite fall tournaments. For Brumm and Molloy it should also be a sneak peek at the type of play they should expect in the regular season and in conference play.
“Come January, we have one of the toughest schedules in the country,” said Cal head coach Peter Wright.
This weekend in Tulsa will be the first real indicator of the level and type of play that will be necessary to have a successful spring season. Griffith and Nishimura know the drill, but it will be interesting to watch the adjustments that Brumm and Molloy make.
The rest of the team will be making the quick trip to Davis, California, to play at the Aggie Invitational. With many of the more experienced players away in Tulsa, the Aggie Invitational will be a first real exposure for the younger guys on the roster. The Bears will see a few familiar California opponents there: Stanford, Pacific, St. Mary’s, USF and the host team, UC Davis.
The draws and lineups have not been announced, but the Bears are expected to use this opportunity to experiment with different strategies and players.
“The freshmen will feature pretty prominently,” Wright said. “Our goal over the course of the fall is to get as many repetitions in for the new guys and make sure that our seniors, juniors and sophomores are also ready to go.”
For many college freshmen players, the transition to the college ranks can be quite familiar, after spending years on the junior circuit, The difference now lies in the fact that instead of playing for themselves, they’re now playing for a team.
Wright knows the importance of the process it takes to ready his players in the fall preseason. This weekend will be important as the heart of the fall approaches, and early match jitters should be by the wayside.
Charlie Griffen covers men’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected]