The past inspires us to improve in the present so that we may better shape our future. When a past performance is good, it is something we can look back upon with pride and set as the benchmark. But when a past performance is unsatisfying, it may stick even deeper in our sides, becoming a source of motivation and a reminder of how much higher we have yet to climb.
Cal men’s tennis will certainly look to improve on its past performances in La Jolla when the team travels south this weekend. On Thursday, the Bears, ranked No. 30 by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, square off with No. 21 Oklahoma State, but that is just the beginning. From Friday to Sunday, Cal will also be competing in the Pacific Coast Men’s Doubles Championships, a historic tournament celebrating its 131st year of existence.
The Bears have history against the Cowboys. Last season at the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club, where this year’s rematch is set to take place, OSU downed Cal 4-2. The Bears haven’t forgotten that match and have Thursday’s showdown circled on their calendars.
“Oklahoma State is one of the top teams in the country. They beat us down there last year, so we’re preparing well for them. They’re a real team, they’re a legitimate top-20 team,” said director of Cal men’s tennis Peter Wright.
Wright’s players echoed his sentiments. Falling to the Cowboys left a bitter taste in the mouths of the Bears’ returners. But that bitter taste has provided extra motivation that has guided Wright’s team through the bye they held in the past week.
“We’re going to be fired up. That match does stick in our minds a little bit. We were all pretty disappointed, so I think we’ll all be there this year with a little extra motivation,” said junior Jack Molloy. “If there’s anything that’s going to be guaranteed, that’s our work ethic and the attitude that we approach the match with. We’re going to be right on it. If we stick to our game plan, that’s going to be successful.”
Cal also has history in La Jolla beyond the Cowboys. As an open tournament, the playing field at the Pacific Coast Men’s Doubles Championships is composed of more than just collegiate pairings. For example, even assistant coach and former Bears’ standout Tyler Browne competed when the team visited La Jolla last season.
Cal will be sending its traveling squad to Southern California this weekend with new doubles teams set to be unleashed. Suiting up for the Bears in the opening round of 128 are the tandems of sophomore Yuta Kikuchi and the aforementioned Molloy, sophomore Kent Hunter and junior Thomas Wright, junior Ben Draper and senior Bjorn Hoffmann and brothers Paul and Dominic Barretto.
“The Pacific Coast Doubles is one of the oldest tournaments in America, so it’s wonderful. Doubles has been one of our points of emphasis this year, so I expect our guys to go deep in that tournament and do well,” Peter Wright said.
Last year, the blue and gold failed to advance past the quarterfinals in La Jolla, but the difference between seasons past and 2020 is that players will have been there before. Athletes who were still underclassmen last season have come into their own and have become more comfortable performing in big moments. Shortcomings in our past allow us to grow from those experiences, and Cal will be looking to advance to at least the semifinals this season.
“We’re all in a good place both mentally and in our game, heading into the middle of the season. In previous years, we’ve had guys injured or a few guys not playing so well, but this year, we’re really sharp,” Molloy said.
This road trip will be a telling time for Cal. Unlike other matches this season, the Bears’ ability to exorcise past demons will be on display. Fans will see just how much they have grown from the team they were in the past.
Kabir Rao covers men’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].