Coming off of a commendable performance at the UCSB Gaucho Classic, Cal sent six players to compete in the ITA Northwest Regionals. In doing so, the Bears had their eyes on the Northwest Super Regional at the University of Washington and the ultimate goal of the ITA Fall Nationals.
Two Bears had previously qualified for the ITA Super Regionals with their performances at the ITA All-American, as the senior duo of Yuta Kikuchi and Phillip Hjorth qualified for doubles and Kikuchi individually qualified for singles. Hjorth, Cal’s top-seeded senior who has put together a strong season, made his first appearance since the ITA All-American. Kikuchi, the former Pac-12 Freshman of the Year who has made nationals his freshman and sophomore years, will not be playing until his Super Regional berth Oct. 22.
“Yuta has been an amazing player at Cal,” said head coach Amanda Augustus. “He’s a very experienced player.”
The Bears’ No. 2 seed is Carl Emil Overbeck, an international freshman from Denmark that played well at the ITA All-American. Being a first-year tennis player at Cal, let alone an international student, is no small task.
“As any freshman at Cal knows, it’s definitely an adjustment to get used to the pace that everything moves here,”Augustus said.
As the top two seeds, Hjorth and Overbeck were given first-round byes and did not begin play until Thursday. Aside from Kikuchi and Hjorth, Cal featured four underclassmen.
“This was a new event for a lot of (the underclassmen),” Augustus said.
The main draw on the first day of the Super Regionals featured the same four underclassmen that Cal sent to the UCSB Gaucho Classic in Alex Chang, Michael Wright, Lucas Magnaudet and Noah Gampel. Chang, who recently made his debut at the Classic, and Gampel both lost on a walkover due to injury.
Meanwhile, Wright and Magnaudet were bested by their opponents. In the doubles main draw, the duo of Chang and Overbeck got a bye Wednesday, while Magnaudet and Wright narrowly lost to a Nevada duo 8-6.
The second day saw the Bears play the top two seeds in the singles main draw and the duo of Chang and Overbeck in the doubles main draw. Coming out of their respective first round bye, they certainly proved their status as top seeds with an excellent performance.
In the round of 32, Hjorth earned convincing 6-1 and 6-3 victories over his Santa Clara opponent, while Overbeck lost to his Pacific opponent. The aforementioned Overbeck and Chang duo handily beat their Pacific opponents 8-4 in the doubles round of 16.
Overall, the Bears’ second day performance was solid. Along with the Bears’ top seeds, Magnaudet, Gampel, and Wright played in the singles consolation. In the qualifying round, Magnaudet defeated his Stanford opponent with a notably significant 10-2 margin in the third game. Gampel lost in a walkover due to his injury while Wright had a bye. In the round of 32, while Magnaudet and Wright had byes, Overbeck easily overtook his Saint Mary’s opponent by scores of 6-1 and 6-0.
After advancing past the main draw round of 32 singles, Hjorth faced a USF opponent on the round of 16 on the third day. Needless to say, Hjorth secured a victory with scores of 6-4 and 6-3 to advance to the quarterfinals. Meanwhile, the duo of Overbeck and Chang narrowly fell to Sac State’s duo in the doubles quarterfinals. As for the singles consolation, Overbeck and Magnaudet both earned victories in a convincing manner.
The penultimate day of the ITA All-American saw Hjorth coming up short in a tight quarterfinal round, ending Cal’s tenure in the main draw. Hjorth qualified for the super regional singles nonetheless. In the singles consolations, Overbeck won by walkover due to injury and Magnaudet earned a victory in the quarterfinal round, both advancing to the semifinals that took place on the same day.
Magnaudet came up short in the semifinals, while Overbeck bested his Saint Mary’s opponent to advance to the consolation finals. Overbeck went on to win the singles consolation draw finals on the last day, a monumental achievement for the first-year Bear.
“He’s a really great team player,” Augustus said. “I was certainly pleased to see him win in the finals.”
This team performance gives Cal men’s tennis much to look forward to this season. Hjorth was able to top off his qualification in doubles with a qualification in singles at the Super Regionals — an impressive feat in a superb season. Hjorth will join his senior teammate Kikuchi at both the singles and doubles in the Super Regionals in seeking an ITA Nationals berth.
AJ Alany covers men’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].