In a rebuilding season, the results are not always the primary concern, but rather ensuring young players gain experience. Despite the prioritization of reps over results, the outcomes have been favorable for Cal men’s tennis in this preseason. Bears entered this fall with seven freshmen to recover from losing their top three ranked seniors from last season, but the freshmen have done nothing but deliver. This week, starting on Wednesday, Cal will compete in the Oracle ITA National Fall Championships and freshman Jack Molloy will be in Indian Wells with seniors Billy Griffith and J.T. Nishimura.
Molloy had a great outing last time in the Northwest Regionals. He was the singles finalist in Stockton, which granted him a National Championship berth. The No. 49-ranked Griffith and No. 39-ranked duo of Griffith and Nishimura received their tickets to the Nationals through at-large selections. The doubles duo lost the final in Stockton, which would have given them an automatic berth, but they will be competing there nonetheless.
Molloy showed what the young core of Cal can do. Molloy, who is No. 5 seeded, only dropped two sets in five games before the final in Stockton, defeating three seeded players on his way. Molloy will look forward to keep his good form from the Regionals, even though he was sick last week.
“Anything can happen,” Molloy said. “I’m playing really good tennis, and as I’ve seen so far, none of the players are too far out of my reach.”
Other freshmen have also been playing very well so far even though Molloy was the only one to qualify for Nationals. Jacob Brumm reached the quarterfinal while Paul Barretto made it up to the semi-final. Unfortunately, all three of them lost to No. 2 seeded and No. 95-ranked senior Michail Pervolarakis from University of Portland.
“Many of (the freshman) are in a similar level, so when one of them does really well, they all feel like they should be doing really well,” said head coach Peter Wright. “It’s important for our freshmen to feel excited because there’s pressure on them, they have big shoes to fill.”
This week Indian Wells will be the last stop for Bears as they conclude the fall season. Coaches have been emphasizing how important the development is for the young team that Cal is. For sure, Bears have showed early signs of success whether it be coming from the seniors or freshmen. However, the experience might be an issue for them and it’s hard to expect Cal to perform at the same level week in and week out in the spring.
“They haven’t played a match against another school,” Wright said. “I think we’re going to have some ups and downs this season.”
No matter how Cal performs in the spring, it should be kept in mind that more than half of the roster is newcomers. It’s a question mark if this young team can deliver down the stretch in the NCAA Championship, but it sure looks like they can in the near future, if not this season. They need to learn how to be successful in the collegiate level.
“I’m not worried about the results,” Wright said. “Sometimes losing gives you a better opportunity to learn.”
Can Sariöz covers men’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].