Cal men’s tennis fall season ends at ITA National Fall Championships

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Whether it be Michael Jordan dropping 38 points with a game-winning three in the finals or Matt Hasselbeck leading Colts to a victory after being hospitalized with bacterial infection 48 hours before the game, flu games have been some of the most memorable moments in sports. Flu games are special moments marked because they are so rare, it’s nearly impossible to perform at high level when ill.

That’s what freshman Jack Molloy and seniors Billy Griffith and J.T. Nishimura of Cal men’s tennis tried last week at the Oracle ITA National Fall Championships. While their combined efforts were valiant, they ultimately fell short, as they couldn’t overcome their illnesses.

Molloy was fighting with illness throughout the week leading to the Nationals and he was in the emergency room before the game. He started strong against No. 22-ranked Texas junior Harrison Scott with a 6-3 first set. The hopes for a flu game upset for the freshman ended, however, with 4-6, 2-6 losses in the next two sets.

Molloy’s tournament run ended in the first round of consolation bracket with yet another tough loss. He looked for another upset against No. 9-ranked Kentucky senior William Bushamuka, who lost in the first-round singles in similar fashion after taking the first set. The freshman had a chance to win the match in the second set but lost in the tie-break and couldn’t show any sign of life after that, ultimately losing 3-6, 7-6 (2), 6-0.

“(Illness) was part of the reason (Jack’s) third sets weren’t impressive,” said head coach Peter Wright.

On the other side of the singles bracket, No. 49-ranked Griffith had a tough time against No. 36-ranked Texas A&M senior Jordi Arconada, falling 7-5, 6-1. Cal’s only ranked single player in the September 2017 rankings has been struggling lately after two short runs in the regionals and nationals, and the team really needs him to get back on track on January when the season starts.

“Definitely, I haven’t been playing great lately,” Griffith said. “I’ve had some good talks with the coaches and our mental coach.”

The sickness hit Griffith as he woke up with a sore throat and an overall achy feeling the next morning, which prevented him from playing in the consolation singles. While he missed the consolation singles, he later paired up with Nishimura, who tackled a sore throat a couple days prior, for the first round of doubles consolation bracket. The No. 39-ranked Bear duo lost in the first day to the No. 14-ranked North Carolina State duo of sophomore Alexis Galarneau and redshirt junior Michael Ogden in a tough match-up, 6-2, 2-6, 10-5.

The next day was more of the same for Cal’s seniors as they lost the first set again with the same score, 6-2, against Michigan’s senior duo of Runhao Hua and Alex Knight. The Bears made another comeback against Wolverines with a 7-5 second set, but the third set tie-breaker did not go their way as they came up short with a 10-8 loss.

“I think I actually got a little better as the match went on,” Griffith said. “I was struggling little bit in the beginning, but we definitely didn’t lose because of the fatigue at the end, just couple points didn’t go our way.”

The Bear duo has been coming back from deficits all throughout the preseason, but they weren’t successful in nationals. The problem with the comebacks in doubles is that they are harder in the spring season, where the doubles matches are played on only one set. Hence, it’s important for Bears to improve their starts and play as if they are behind from the beginning.

The preseason ended for Cal with a lot of hopeful performances but disappointing results as all three of the Bears failed to come up with a win in their total of six matches in the Oracle ITA National Fall Championships, under the effect of illnesses. Now, the next objective is to stay healthy and get ready for the season in January.

Can Sariöz covers men’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].

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