Despite a lot of fight and grit, the No. 26 Cal men’s tennis team couldn’t overcome No. 9 Texas in the second round of the NCAA tournament in Austin, Texas, falling 4-1; the Bears had to pack up their bags and head back home, right in time for finals week.
Head coach Peter Wright said the team is coming back to Berkeley with no regrets, despite the fact that this is the second straight year Cal was knocked out in the round of 32. He was proud of the Bears’ 4-0 win in the first round of the tournament against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and how he thought everyone played the best tennis they possibly could.
“They gave it their all,” Wright said of his team. “We fought hard, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
The match against the Longhorns started off with a challenge when Cal wasn’t able to secure the doubles point. Cal’s top doubles team, the No. 51 pairing of senior Gregory Bayane and redshirt senior Chase Melton, couldn’t match the play of Texas’ No. 19 Lloyd Glasspool and Soren Hess-Olesen, and the Bears fell 8-4 in the Cal duo’s final match together.
But it was admirable play from the two injured players whose play had fallen a bit recently. Melton’s back has continued to act up, and the injury that kept him out of the singles lineup restricted him. The same was true for Bayane, whose injured wrist bothered him, particularly on volleys, of which there are quite a few in doubles play.
Despite the injuries, Wright said the two mean a lot to the team on an emotional level as the team’s leaders, providing that spark and energy.
“Both are warriors, they weren’t coming out of the lineup no matter what,” Wright said. ‘It’s an honor to coach guys like that.”
Bayane was the lone Bear to win his singles match against the Longhorns, upsetting No. 54 Adrien Berkowicz, 7-5, 6-3, despite Bayane being down early in that first set. With his experience shining through, Bayane stayed patient and remained aggressive, taking every opportunity Berkowicz handed to him.
The rest wasn’t all good news for Cal — J.T. Nishimura fell 1-6, 4-6; Filip Bergevi lost 4-6, 5-7; and No. 29 Andre Goransson couldn’t outlast No. 4 Hess-Olesen, who eked out the 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 win.
Against the Longhorns, the Bears had to deal with extreme heat, with the temperature rising to 93 degrees with high humidity levels and the sun out in full force. Wright said a couple of the Texas players said it was the hottest, most humid day they had seen all year.
In fact, the humidity was so bad that Goransson was dealing with full-body cramps at the end of the match and had to be hooked up to an IV and spend the night in a hospital in Austin. Goransson, who is feeling better now, flew back to Berkeley on Sunday, just in time for his Monday final. His NCAA dreams still aren’t finished, as he has the NCAA individual tournament left to play.
This problematic hot weather came a day after the Bears were forced to move their matches against Texas A&M-Christi inside because of rain delays. But the rain didn’t seem to have too much of an effect on the Bears, and they had no real problems grabbing the doubles point and securing the team victory with singles courts wins from Bayane (6-2, 6-0), Goransson (6-3, 6-2) and Billy Griffith (6-2, 6-1).
As a whole, the relatively young Cal team got a chance to try its stuff in a high pressure situation, and the Bears performed admirably.
“We had a great team this year, and what really made us so good was the fight that our guys put in,” Wright said. “We didn’t leave anything on the table.”