Cal struggles continue against Oklahoma State and in doubles tournament

A tennis player watches the ball follow through after striking it with his racket.
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Improving has been a major goal of Cal men’s tennis, but this week, they had their worst performance of the year, including losing the doubles point for the first time. The Bears’ woes against ranked teams continued last week as they lost to No 32. Oklahoma State in a dual match Thursday. The team stayed in La Jolla until Sunday to participate in the Pacific Coast Men’s Doubles Championship, where two pairings reached the round of 16 and one duo reached the quarterfinals.

“We’ve had a lot of positives and a lot of areas of consistency in our matches, I think it’s just been one or two detail oriented pieces that have cost us some opportunities,” said men’s tennis director Peter Wright. “Oklahoma State played well, we certainly had some opportunities, but they just outplayed us at the end of the day. It’s something we have to look at in terms of how we approach our singles after the doubles.”

In a first for the Bears, they lost the doubles point after losses from partners No. 13 Jacob Brumm and Yuta Kikuchi and No. 42 Jack Molloy and Mert Zincirli, despite Oklahoma State having no ranked doubles pairs.

Cal came swinging into the singles where Dominic Barretto and Kikuchi won in straight sets to put the Bears up 2-1. After this, everything went in favor of the Cowboys as Molloy, Ben Draper and Bjorn Hoffmann were defeated after being taken to three sets.

“Overall, we’re playing well. We have a lot of confidence going into our matches, and now we have got to work on our details,” Wright said. “Making sure we’re finishing points the way we should be finishing them and approaching our matches with a level of professionalism [and] and attention to detail that we haven’t been getting on all six courts.

After this, No. 47 Cal falls to 2-5, which includes going just 1-5 against ranked teams. It’s a pretty dire record for a team approaching Pac-12 play, as UCLA, USC, Stanford, Oregon and Arizona were all placed in the top 30 in the most recent poll

“The conference is tough this year, so our goals are to perform well in doubles and really start doing a better job as we approach our singles than we have in some of our previous matches,” said Wright. “I think we can do well in the Pac-12 this year, but it’s going to take some concerted effort and our team needs to find our identity.”

In the Pacific Coast Men’s Doubles Championship, the Bears entered five teams —some of which included former players — into the 128 draw tournament. The duos of Molloy and Zincirli and Paul Barretto and Can Kaya reached the round of 16 before being knocked off by USC’s Brandon Holt and Riley Smith and Stanford’s Jack Barber and William Genesen, respectively. Kikuchi and Brumm reached the quarterfinals before also losing to Barber and Genesen.

“This tournament is always dominated by the Pac-12, the top college teams … The whole conference is tough. I feel our doubles is strong, and I think our performance in the tournament was good,” Wright said. “It’s a great opportunity for our guys to play more doubles.”

Conference matches start at home this weekend for Cal when they take on No. 22 Arizona on Friday and Arizona State on Saturday.

“I think that we are playing well now, and we’ve got a couple of matches ahead of us, but the Pac-12 season opens up next weekend against Arizona and Arizona State and our expectations and my expectations are that we’re going to be full force in those matches,” Wright said. “I think that’s what it’s going to take, all six guys in singles.”

Before that, Cal will take on Saint Mary’s and Pacific at home on Tuesday. Both of these teams are unranked and are a last chance opportunity for the Bears to find their rhythm before conference matches start stacking up.

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