Cal men’s tennis took the court early Sunday morning as if the team had somewhere to be later that afternoon. Just as if they had to finish their match as soon as possible, the Bears beat down the Utes, 4-0, to draw closer to having a winning Pac-12 conference record.
Many of the Cal fans in attendance were surprised that by 12:45 p.m., the match against Utah had already concluded. The fast play made it possible for the team to grab lunch and enjoy the rest of their Sunday, a day initially marked up as an off day after rain postponed the scheduled Friday evening match.
From the start, the Bears set a strong precedent for the rest of the match play, ultimately earning a sweep over a conference foe.
The No. 27 pairing of seniors Billy Griffith and J.T. Nishimura easily dispatched senior Egbert Weverink and junior Joe Woolley, 6-1, while the young freshman duo of Jack Molloy and Ben Draper followed suit, beating freshmen Russell Benkaim and Randy Cory by the same score.
“We have been training hard in practice, and I think that paid off today,” Draper said. “We came out with really good energy, and once we got up early on a couple of the courts, we got more confident in ourselves and were able to maintain that lead.”
When it came to singles, the Bears didn’t show any signs of slowing down. Cal clinched the overall match, 4-0, as Griffith, Draper and Molloy secured singles wins — all finishing just minutes apart. There was no real chance for the Utes to even begin thinking about an improbable comeback, as the score quickly jumped from 1-0 to 4-0 in Cal’s favor.
“We have an entire team of guys who put in effort to get better everyday, and it shows in our results and our focus,” said Cal director of men’s tennis Peter Wright. “It is not just about the mechanics of how to play the game, but the process of how to compete better and how to really improve their game.”
Griffith, the No. 57-ranked singles player, was a strong and solid victor on court one, displaying why he is the Bears’ top player. After a close 6-4 first set against junior Dan Little, Griffith emerged as the steadier of the two and closed out the match, 6-2, in the second set.
A balance of aggressive and consistent play guided Draper and Molloy to their wins, as they took down senior Santiago Sierra 6-2, 6-4 and Weverink 6-3, 6-4, respectively.
“We were extremely focused. Our singles play was equally impressive. We played some of our most focused tennis of the year. It’s exciting to get some sunshine, and we were playing at home. Our guys were really motivated today,” Wright said of the entire afternoon’s play.
Facing a quick turnaround, Cal will look to have a similar performance Tuesday against University of San Francisco and especially next weekend in Palo Alto when it takes on Stanford in the “Big Slam.” For now, the Bears can at least enjoy the win and stay focused and smart heading into the stretch run.
Charlie Griffen covers men’s tennis. Contact him at