Cal faces unranked teams Pacific, UNLV in doubleheader

Tennis player Jacob Brumm sprints to receive the tennis ball.
Kelley Cox/KLC Fotos/Courtesy

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After heading to Los Angeles for one of the toughest weekends on schedule, Cal men’s tennis is looking forward to a duo of unranked teams this Saturday. The team is slated to play UNLV at 11:30 a.m. Saturday followed by Pacific at 2:30 p.m. all in Stockton.

Four of the five matches the Bears have played so far this spring have been against teams that are currently in the top 25, and they barely escaped with a 2-3 record. Their only wins came against Western Michigan, 4-0, and over No. 5 USC, 4-3, last weekend

“You have to remember that the three people who clinched it today were two sophomores and a freshman,” said men’s tennis director Peter Wright after the match at USC. “It says a lot about our young team that we’re having results like that at this point in the year and at this point in their young careers, so I’m very proud of how our guys played today.”

Bjorn Hoffmann was the only junior who played singles against the Trojans and ended up dropping his four-match winning streak. The victory was spearheaded by freshman Yuta Kikuchi and sophomores Ben Draper and Jack Molloy, who all got their first singles victories of the year against a ranked team.

Wright also changed the singles’ lineup for the match, as he switched Paul Barretto, who usually plays at court one, with Jacob Brumm, who usually plays at two, and also switched Molloy, who usually plays at three, with Kikuchi, who usually plays at four. The previous lineup was held for the last three matches before being changed.

“We like to keep our lineup pretty fluid,” Wright said. “We make changes on a daily basis. We continue to try to improve. On paper, it’s an upset. … We’re a difficult team to gauge how good we are — I think, certainly, the rest of the country got a chance to see that today.”

If the Bears continue to trend upward into conference play, they have the potential to be very highly ranked for the NCAA Tournament at the end of the season. It is difficult to predict how good Cal actually is since it has only played ranked teams, with the exception of Western Michigan. The two matches against Pacific and UNLV are a chance to see if the Bears can consistently beat smaller regional schools.

Going into the weekend, neither Pacific nor UNLV has ranked players in singles or doubles. Pacific is 2-3 with loses at UC Davis, vs. Nevada and at Hawaii, and UNLV is 5-1 losing its only away game at Pepperdine. UNLV holds the more impressive record, but both schools defeated Hawaii 4-2.

Each of the three teams is scheduled to play the other two Saturday, but there is a high chance for rain and more delays. UNLV is also slated to play UC Davis the previous day before starting up with Pacific at 8:30 a.m. Saturday. UNLV will then go try its luck against Cal at 11:30 a.m. The day ends with the Bears facing the host Tigers at 2:30 p.m.

Cal pulled off the huge upset last weekend, but fans have yet to see it play at a consistently high level, which it will need before facing No. 10 Stanford on Feb. 24.

“I think [the USC] win now will give us a hell of a lot of confidence going forward and playing Stanford in two weeks,” Molloy said.

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