The spring season is a time for growth, when everything comes full circle and begins to blossom. Cal men’s tennis feels it has spent the last few years growing, and now it is ready to show just how far it’s come.
The Bears will travel to Stanford to participate in the annual ITA Kick-Off Weekend on Saturday and Sunday. Ranked No. 18 in the country, the Bears will represent the second seed in their bracket, which is made up of Miami (FL), Tulane and host Stanford.
First up on Cal’s tournament slate is Miami, which is currently ranked No. 36 in the nation. The Hurricanes come in as a seasoned team with plenty of veteran leadership in the form of six juniors and two seniors. Miami represents the first challenge Cal will have faced since November, when it took part in the ITA National Fall Championships and the Chowder Fest, but the team feels confident and is using this weekend as a litmus test.
“We know what we are capable of doing and it will be an opportunity for our team to show whether we’re playing at that level or if we need to take care of some business and get ourselves playing at that level,” said Peter Wright, Cal’s director of men’s tennis.
The Bears will be looking to improve upon their performance at the ITA Kick-Off Weekend last year, where they fell to then-No. 16 Virginia in their first round. This year, however, Cal believes it can take advantage of the experience the team has accumulated since 2019. Whereas last season the Bears were young and just beginning to face such stiff competition, Wright feels this year’s squad has undergone growing pains and is now battle-ready.
“Over the last couple of years, we’ve played some tough matches — and I’ve taken the guys to some pretty rough places to play where the competition is high and the fans are superfans, and vocal — so our guys have seen that and faced that, and this year is going to be a year of experience,” Wright said.
Undergoing such tense moments has only brought the team closer together, and Wright sees this as one of his team’s greatest strengths. While the fall portion of the season is focused on paving pathways to personal improvement for individuals, the spring is when teams come together and have a chance to display the camaraderie they have built.
“The way that our guys fight for each other and fight together as a unit is really a thing that separates us from many other teams,” Wright said. “They bring it every day and each guy feels accountable to the guy next to him, and each guy who’s not playing feels accountable to the guy who is playing.”
Nevertheless, Wright knows that Cal has a long road ahead. This tournament represents the start of what he feels could be a special season for the Bears, but Wright doesn’t want his team to become complacent.
“We, by no means, are looking to peak this weekend — but we are looking to have a peak performance this weekend,” Wright said.
With a veteran team that has been here before and the bonds between players only growing stronger, the ingredients are there for Cal to go on a surge this spring. Whether or not they can fully capitalize on the opportunity is left to be seen this weekend, but it is clear that the Bears are now out of hibernation.
Kabir Rao covers men’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].