Cal men’s tennis travels again to face No. 16 Virginia

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Cal men’s tennis is in the same position it was in a week ago — about to travel across the country to face a top-20 team — but this time, a number of factors could tip in the Bears favor. Cal will travel to College Station, Texas to compete in the ITA Kickoff Weekend, a nationwide event that hosts 30 separate individual tournaments.

Cal is slated to play No. 16 Virginia on Saturday as No. 9 Texas A&M takes on Western Michigan. On Sunday, the winners will face off against one another, and the losers will get a consolation match. Last year, Cal was a high enough seed to make the event home matches for the team. The Bears lost 4-3 in a close match against Tulane before winning their consolation match, 4-3, against Oregon.

This year, they are entering the tournament as the second seed with Virginia as the third, since the seeding was determined before official rankings came out. Virginia started the spring season at No. 17 but was moved up to No. 16 in the rankings Wednesday morning.

Just like their match last weekend, the Bears have the advantage in doubles and the disadvantage in singles. Virginia’s No. 38 Gianni Ross and No. 54 Ryan Goetz are ranked higher than any player on Cal’s team. On the other hand, the Bears are strongly favored to win the doubles point with two top-20 pairings against the Cavaliers’ zero. Winning the doubles point is a must for Cal to have a fighting chance against the highly talented Virginia team.

“Singles is the heart of the match, but the doubles does get the momentum started in the match, and it is a critical point,” said men’s tennis director Peter Wright. “It’s tough to win four singles matches.”

The Cavaliers are currently 2-0 including a 4-1 win against ACC foe Louisville. Cal is coming off a hard 4-3 loss last weekend against Florida State.

“After our loss, we’ve been training hard this week,” said junior Bjorn Hoffmann. “We want to come back even stronger for a really, really tough team like Virginia, so I’m really looking forward to the challenge and hopefully coming out on top.”

The Bears had the misfortune of facing tough conditions in Orlando and having to travel across the country to what was almost a home match for the Seminoles.

“The experience is definitely really helpful; we played in really rough conditions with howling wind, and it was really cold in Florida,” Hoffmann said. “When we’re here at home, we are usually blessed with really consistent weather. So when we travel, we have to adjust our game.”

Fortunately, this time, Virginia also has to travel for the match, and the weather is looking similar to Berkeley’s with a high in the 60s, a low chance of rain and little wind. The Bears also have the experience under their belt of a close match against a ranked foe, which is especially important for Yuta Kikuchi and Mert Zincirli, who are playing their first seasons on the team.

“I am really looking forward to just competing with the guys on the team. We had our first match in Florida, but this is the official ITA Kickoff Weekend,” Hoffmann said.

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