After playing four games at home, Cal men’s tennis will travel to Southern California to face the Waves of Pepperdine University on Saturday.
No. 40 Pepperdine has a record of 6-7, coming off a close loss to No. 8 USC. The Bears are at 9-4, also coming off a loss against a higher ranked team in No. 15 Arizona.
The Waves will of course have home court advantage, which has propelled them to a 3-1 record at the Ralphs-Straus Tennis Center. In the two teams’ histories, the Waves lead the Bears 35-23, with 12 of those victories coming in Malibu. This time, Pepperdine will be playing the Bears in the afternoon immediately after its round against Loyola Marymount in the morning, meaning the Waves will be playing in a doubleheader.
Pepperdine boasts strong individual and doubles players. In singles, No. 62 Daniel De Jonge is closing in on 50 career single wins and No. 79 Tim Zeitvogel won all three of his singles matches last week, despite facing tough opponents. In doubles, Zeitvogel and De Jonge are ranked No. 58.
In singles and doubles rankings, the Bears are relatively evenly matched with the Waves. As Cal’s top singles player, Yuta Kikuchi is ranked No. 46, followed by No. 120 Ryder Jackson. In doubles, Cal boasts two ITA-ranked teams, with No. 63 Kikuchi and Carl Emil Overbeck, and No. 64 Jackson and Lucas Magnaudet.
The blue and gold have done phenomenally well in doubles this season, picking up 9 doubles points in 11 outings, only dropping to San Diego and Arizona. Where the Bears fall short is finishing in singles. Head coach Kris Kwinta has described it as “getting a huge lead and then maybe someone else is going to finish,” as was the case when the Bears faced No. 9 Columbia. Fans will be able to see whether the Bears have worked on this issue in the week they had to rest since facing Arizona.
Specifically, Kwinta said the issue is whether the team can keep up its energy after gaining a lead. While the Bears have more fans at home to cheer them on, the tables will likely be flipped in Malibu. What’s more, even though Cal has played its last four games in front of home fans, Cal still only pulled through with a record of 2-2, falling to Columbia and Arizona. If the Bears want to succeed, they will need to carry high energy throughout all of their sets.
Energy will also be an issue with Pepperdine, given that it will be competing in a doubleheader. LMU is 7-5 and will be Pepperdine’s first conference matchup. The longer the match with LMU goes, the less time the Waves will have to recuperate before facing the Bears. The Waves do hold a dominant 28-3 historical record against the Lions with a 17-1 record in Malibu, but no matter if they win or lose against LMU, Pepperdine will be pushing itself to keep up its energy against the blue and gold.