The storm that canceled the Arizona State match on Saturday traveled within Cal men’s tennis, fueling the team’s drive to wash Arizona away and down the gutter in a 4-1 victory for the its first conference win.
“We didn’t get to finish our match yesterday, so this was kind of our first match of the Pac-12 season,” said senior captain J.T. Nishimura. “We really wanted to get off to a good start, and we had some momentum from our San Diego State win.”
The Bears commenced the day with strong doubles play, taking the lead on all three courts. Sophomore Dominic Barretto and freshman Can Kaya defeated Arizona senior Trent Botha and freshman Filip Malbasic with a decisive 6-2 win.
Though freshmen Ben Draper and Jack Molloy were also ahead on court two, Nishimura and fellow senior captain Billy Griffith clinched the doubles point with their 6-3 win on court one.
“Our goal today was to come out with a lot of energy in the doubles, and we really did,” said Peter Wright, director of Cal men’s tennis. “I’m very pleased with how we approached the doubles today — we got ahead on all three courts and finished strong.”
Going into singles play with a point already in their possession gave the Bears some assurance and confidence — maybe too much.
On four of the six courts, Cal dropped the first set.
In their first sets, Nishimura and freshman Jacob Brumm both fell to their opponents, 6-3, while Molloy and freshman Paul Barretto lost, 6-4. The rocky start to singles didn’t throw Cal too far off — Nishimura, Molloy and Barreto all refocused to win their second sets, pushing their matches to the third.
“Arizona is a tough team, and playing in Tucson at their home courts is always a challenge,” Wright said. “We were in an early hole, so you’ve got to credit our guys for battling. They just did an amazing job of hanging in there, fighting and turning those matches around.”
On court six, Draper defeated freshman Carlos Hassey before Griffith took the win over freshman Igor Karpovets at court one, but Brumm fell to Arizona sophomore Alejandro Reguant, making the overall score 3-1.
A Wildcat win was not yet out of the picture, but Nishimura was determined to make it so.
For the second time that day, Nishimura delivered, this time clinching the match to settle Cal’s 4-1 win over Arizona.
“(Nishimura) just did a fantastic job of turning his match around,” Wright said.
The Bears’ loss to Stanford a few weeks ago did not count toward their conference record, meaning the win against Arizona marked the beginning of Cal’s Pac-12 play. The Bears’ strong freshman core performed well, but the senior veterans were the ones who really led the escapade.
“All of our guys are fighting through some tough situations,” Wright said. “They faced the adversity of being down a set and were looking for answers, something to change, to step up their game plans a little bit. Some of them stayed stubborn with what they were doing because they knew it was going to work in the long run. That’s the type of performance that I wanted to see.”
While Saturday’s match was canceled due to the weather, Cal got revenge over the elements by raining on Arizona’s parade.
Surina Khurana covers beach volleyball. Contact her at [email protected]