Trees are hard to climb — for bears and humans alike — and although Cal men’s tennis couldn’t chop down No. 4 Stanford, falling, 4-0, on Friday, the Bears enjoyed small victories, breaking a few of the Cardinal’s branches off their seemingly omnipotent tree.
As the match opened with doubles play, Stanford wasted no time in establishing its dominance at home.
Stanford’s No. 23 pair of senior Tom Fawcett and freshman Axel Geller defeated Cal freshmen Ben Draper and Jack Molloy, 6-2.
Cal’s No. 20 senior duo of Billy Griffith and J.T. Nishimura was favored in its doubles matchup but fell to Stanford’s No. 88 junior pair of Michael Genender and Sameer Kumar, 6-4.
With a 1-0 lead and wins on all three doubles courts, Stanford’s confidence was evident as the teams headed into singles competition.
The rough start only continued as Cal dropped all of but two of its first sets. Perhaps the Bears realized they couldn’t dig themselves a hole much deeper — rather, they looked to claw their way out, as their play dramatically shifted the second set around.
“We didn’t get off to a great start in the singles, but I think what we did well was we came back and really gave ourselves an opportunity to come out ahead,” said director of men’s tennis Peter Wright.
Freshmen Paul Barretto and Jacob Brumm won their second sets, 6-3 and 6-2, respectively, to push a tiebreaker, but Draper and Griffith both fell, giving Stanford a 3-0 lead.
“It was really quite an even battle on many of the courts, and our guys did a great job of being able to pull most matches back to a third set,” Wright said.
After dropping his second set, Nishimura headed into to the tiebreaker against Geller on court two with a lot of pressure on his shoulders. A win would would continue the match, but a loss would solidify the Stanford win.
Riding off his 6-2 win in the second set, No. 57 Geller ultimately prevented the upset, clinching a 4-0 win for his team.
“Stanford’s a tough team, and they battle back pretty well,” Wright said. “Stanford did a good job of getting the No. 2 singles. It ended up being a difficult match, and at the end of the day, that third set was really the difference-maker.”
With the winner already determined, the remaining three matches were abandoned, although Barretto, Brumm and Molloy were all in contention for wins.
“We’re still making some immature mistakes,” Wright said. “We need to get a little more age and be a little more mature before we can be successful in these types of matches. Our focus at times is not consistent. As we start to mature more, those lapses of concentration will get shorter and shorter, and we will be able to maintain our focus for longer periods of time.”
Despite the rough start to the match, the Bears’ ability to refocus as the day progressed transformed what could have been a complete 20-foot fall off the tree to one that almost allowed them to topple the tree itself.
Surina Khurana covers beach volleyball. Contact her at [email protected].