Last but not least…
We’ve reached the finale of the College Tennis Contenders Series. Ryan Cardiff breaks down the California men’s team, and let’s you know what to expect from the Bears this spring.
Having only lost one starter from their run to the 2016 NCAA final four, last year’s Cal team had high aspirations. The ITA preseason 4th ranked squad, however, had their season end in the 2017 NCAA round of 16 with a loss to eventual runner-up North Carolina. Some believe that this is a rebuilding year for the Bears. They are bringing in the nation’s #1 ranked recruiting class (7 freshmen!) after graduating their top three singles players from last year’s squad (Florian Lakat, Andre Goransson, and Filip Bergevi). Bergevi and Lakat were also the nation’s #1 ranked doubles team for most of the year. Despite this abundance of youth and inexperience, Cal’s deep lineup could shock the college tennis world come May.
Photo by: CALBEARS.COM
The 21st ranked Bears currently have a 3-1 record with wins over Bryant, Tulsa, and Oregon and a loss to Tulane. The young Bears have contributed to this early success, with freshman Jack Molloy clinching two victories at line-three singles against Tulsa and Oregon, respectively. Molloy weighed in on what it’s been like to clinch two victories for the Bears: “Closing out a college tennis match is never easy but fortunately I have great team-mates around me who, with their support, have helped me finish strongly. Clinching a match acts as extra motivation to continue the process of looking to make small improvements in practice every day.”
Freshmen Paul Barretto and Jacob Brumm have also been stellar so far. Both defeated ranked opponents in Cal’s 4-3 loss to Tulane.
Senior Billy Griffith was impressive in a 2-6, 6-1, 6-0 victory over 6th ranked Thomas Laurent from Oregon.
More big wins at the top of the lineup coupled with depth on the lower courts could make Cal a sleeper team as they move into the postseason. Freshman Brumm described his aspirations for this year’s team: “Our first main goal is to host NCAA’s, meaning we’ll be ranked top 16. Going into NCAA’s with a fully healthy and hungry team is most important. The young core of our team led by our seniors will be ready for anything during NCAA’s. JT and Billy will provide the experience, and the freshmen will be hungry as always.”
Cal 2018 Schedule
Cal’s upcoming road trip to 12th ranked Illinois and 14th ranked Michigan will be great early season tests to see where this team stands on the national scale. With the ITA indoors out of the picture, Cal will return home on February 24th for the first of two matches against 10th ranked Stanford. March is highlighted with a trip to the BNP Paribas Open Collegiate Challenge which features a strong squad such as Baylor. The end of March includes two big Pac-12 matches for Cal in Los Angeles against USC and UCLA. The Bears end their regular season at home against Washington and Oregon before heading to the Pac-12 Championships.
A PDF version of Cal’s schedule is available here
What are your thoughts on the California Bear’s team this year? How will they stack up against the other College Tennis Contenders? Let us know in the comments below.