On Thursday, the Cal men’s tennis team came back from behind to beat Oregon in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament. But then, on Friday, Stanford did exactly the same thing to the Bears in the semifinals and knocked them out of the tournament.
“It was just not fully being able to finish,” said head coach Peter Wright of his team’s performance against the Cardinal.
The match against the Cardinal was much closer than the 4-1 score indicates, but it started off slowly for the Bears after they dropped the doubles point. While the No. 86 duo of Andre Goransson and Oskar Wikberg was able to eke out the 8-6 win on court No. 3, on court No. 2, Filip Bergevi and Wikberg dropped a close match, 8-7, and the No. 49 pairing of Gregory Bayane and Chase Melton lost their match on court No. 1, 8-1.
Bayane and Melton have been dealing with lingering injuries toward the end of the season — Melton’s back injuries have been acting up — and after they were able to walk away from the Oregon match with a commanding victory against the No. 77 duo, it appeared to be hard for Melton and Bayane to have back-to-back victories.
Wright has said that as the team prepares for the NCAA tournament, he will look into roster management to see what makes the most sense. Depending on the draw, Wright might use a different duo on court No. 1 to give his guys some rest.
The Bears were also dealing with an injury to freshman J.T. Nishimura, who hurt himself in his match against Oregon and was forced to sit out against Stanford. According to Wright, it was Nishimura’s hip that was bothering him and affecting his movement and style of play.
In the singles matches, all but one of the Cal players took the first set. Out of those five matches, however, only one Bear won his second set. And of the remaining four matches, the Cardinal won two matches and clinched the spot in the finals.
It was almost the opposite sequence of events against the Ducks. While Oregon also took the doubles point, it was the Ducks who got off to the fast start and the Bears who were playing catch-up late.
“It looked pretty bad there for a while,” Wright said. “One quality our team has had is that we’re great fighters. … When you stick with our process, then it just becomes a matter of execution, and we executed really well in that third set.”
Four of the singles matches against the Ducks went to a third set — freshman Billy Griffith won his match, 6-2, 6-2, on court No. 6 and freshman Nishimura lost his match, 6-3, 6-2, on court No. 5 — but this time, Cal battled back to take the matches on courts No. 1 and No. 4 and to clinch the win on court No. 3 with a strong performance by Bayane.
“Oregon is a better team than their record has shown this year,” Wright said. “They got a pretty big lead on us — they served for the match on courts No. 3 and 4. We weren’t playing poorly, but Oregon is a good team.”
Still, as Wright pointed out, “the main thing is that third set.”