Cal men’s tennis suffered another close loss against a ranked team but bounced back to finish the weekend with a win during ITA Kickoff Weekend in College Station, Texas. The Bears lost 4-2 against No. 16 Virginia on Saturday before sweeping Western Michigan 4-0 to close out the tournament Sunday.
“Both overall matches were really positive,” said sophomore Paul Barretto. “With Virginia, they’re a good team, they’re deep in their singles lineup and their doubles lineup, but it was good because we started out doubles really hot.”
Against both Virginia and Michigan, Cal continued its doubles success. In the first match, Yuta Kikuchi and Jacob Brumm walked away with a 6-4 victory on court one, but after the pairing of Mert Zincirli and Jack Molloy fell 6-2, the doubles point depended on Barretto and Can Kaya. They ended up winning after a 7-6 (8) tiebreaker to put the Bears up 1-0.
“We have such a strong doubles lineup this year — we’ve got Brumm and Yuta, who absolutely slap huge, huge shots,” Barretto said. “Jack and Mert were battling hard — they were against some good opponents. They geared up for war, I’d say.”
Unfortunately for Cal, things took a turn for the worse when the singles matches started. The Virginia players won the first set in all six of their matches. As the Bears fought on, Barretto, Molloy, Ben Draper and Bjorn Hoffmann all won their second sets and headed into their third while Kikuchi and Brumm fell, making the score 2-1 in favor of the Cavaliers.
“We got off to a bit of a rocky start in the first sets against Virginia,” Barretto said. “Before you know it, we were slapping our way back in the second sets. We battled. Many of the matches went to three.”
In the third set, Hoffmann bested his opponent on court five to give Cal its second point. Hoffmann also won against Florida State last weekend and beat his Western Michigan opponent later in the tournament. Meanwhile, Barretto and Draper were knocked out, giving Virginia the 4-2 victory. On court three, Molloy was leading 4-3 in the third as Virginia clinched the match.
“(Hoffmann) is basically a wall down on court five. As of now, basically untouchable,” Barretto said. “Jack Molloy … he was crack-amosing (sic), as we call it in the business.”
After their loss to Florida State last week, this is the second time in two weeks that Cal has lost a close match on the road against a ranked team.
“There’s certain positives to take out of it. It’s nice to have a close match, but those are matches that we think we have the amount of talent to actually win. We’re not out there to make the score close,” Barretto said.
The next day, the Bears took out their frustration on Western Michigan, as they made quick work of the unranked team. Cal won the doubles point comfortably and followed it with singles wins by Kikuchi, Hoffmann and Brumm to clinch the 4-0 sweep.
Barretto has started every match this season at the one singles spot. As a sophomore, this season marks only his second year on the team, but he isn’t fazed by the newfound responsibility.
“At the end of the day, it’s still just another match. Each singles match counts for the same exact thing, whether it’s one singles or six singles — everyone basically plays the same part,” Barretto said. “It’s definitely testing and challenging my abilities out there, but it’s a good thing.”
Cal will need to get over its hump of barely losing in four singles matches to ranked teams if it wants to have high hopes for the rest of the season. Upcoming matches on the schedule are at No. 7 UCLA and at No. 5 USC, followed by many other talented teams.
“We know what we need to do. The game starts with that: being aggressive and playing our game for the future, and not just today. When we execute that, we find that the result will go in our favor,” Barretto said. “We’re looking to bang-battle.”
Trilok Reddy covers men’s tennis. Contact him at