Cal men’s tennis duo to represent Bears at Saint Mary’s Invitational

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This weekend, the Cal men’s tennis team will return from a two-week hiatus to make an appearance at the Saint Mary’s Invitational in Moraga, California. While the majority of the team remains out of action, sophomores Can Kaya and Jackson Suh will be accompanied by associate head coach Tyler Browne for the three-day tournament, which begins today.

The Saint Mary’s Invitational, formerly known as the Gael Classic or the Saint Mary’s Fall Invitational, will host a variety of regional schools — Cal Poly, Fresno State, Holy Names, Pacific, Sacramento State, the University of San Francisco, Santa Clara, Stanford, Sonoma State and UC Davis. Perhaps most notable are Stanford and San Francisco, two schools that Cal typically competes against during the spring.

Cal didn’t attend the event last year, so this is a new experience for both players, but the team did attend in the 2016 and 2014 seasons.

The entire fall has been an opportunity for Cal players to develop and gain valuable experience against other Pac-12 schools. The Bears have had close matches with rivals all season long, especially during these smaller, regional tournaments.

In the team’s last tournament, the ITA Northwest Regional Championships, the Bears had multiple face-offs against conference rivals Stanford, Washington and Oregon.

“It’s important to not focus on the material results,” said sophomore Paul Barretto. “It gives a really good idea about where we stand for the spring season.”

Next weekend, the Bears will attend the Bulldog Classic, hosted by Fresno State, for their last regular tournament of the fall. After that, Cal will try to obtain at-large bids to the Oracle ITA National Fall Championships in Surprise, Arizona.

“We’re going to apply to have some of our guys go in, and we’re close with a few guys,” said men’s tennis director Peter Wright. “We have a lot of options to go with in singles and in doubles.”

So far, no one has qualified for the fall championship based on performances from past tournaments, such as the ITA All-American Championships tournament in early October and the ITA Northwest Regional Championships two weeks ago

In recent years, a few Bears have had good showings at the tournament, but it remains to be seen who will advance far this fall. In Cal’s most recent appearance, Jack Molloy and Billy Griffith qualified for singles, and the pairing of Griffith and J.T. Nishimura qualified for doubles.

Wright is confident in the development of both his new and returning players this semester after strong results throughout the fall tournaments.

“Overall, the level of our top guys is very strong,” Wright said. “It’s wonderful to have a freshman being able to make an impact right away.”

After the fall national championships, the Bears will get a break until the spring season kicks off with back-to-back dual meets Feb. 8 and 9 against UCLA and USC.

Trilok Reddy covers men’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].