If a team is fortunate enough to be the last one standing and lift the championship trophy at its opponent’s expense, it becomes the only team to end its season on a win. Unfortunately, for No. 24 Cal men’s tennis, its season was cut short after a 4-0 loss at the hands of No. 2 Texas ended a strong postseason run.
“I think it was just an incredible season,” said men’s tennis director Peter Wright. “This team was an outstanding team to coach, and making the Sweet 16 from where we were — being one match away from being eliminated from participating in the NCAAs — I’d say this team exceeded expectations.”
Cal entered the NCAA super regional in Austin with high hopes, as it was coming off impressive wins against No. 11 UCLA, Drake and No. 15 Illinois, and seemed to be peaking at the perfect moment in the season. Still, Texas was a heavy favorite with some of the most talented players in the country.
The match started on the wrong foot for the Bears after the duos of Jacob Brumm and Yuta Kikuchi as well as Ben Draper and Jack Molloy were defeated to give the Longhorns the doubles point, putting them up, 1-0.
“We didn’t come out to Texas to lose, we came out here to win, and I think we did a great job of playing well today,” Wright said. “I think Texas is just a little stronger than we were. We stuck to our plan pretty well. Our execution of our plan wasn’t what we hoped for, but overall, I think we had a good plan going into this match.”
To make matters worse, Cal failed to take a single individuals set from Texas as Kikuchi, Draper and Molloy were unable to surmount the talented Longhorn trio of Christian Sigsgaard, Yuya Ito and Harrison Scott.
On the bright side, every Cal player will make a return next season. The Bears accomplished a lot for a team of mostly underclassmen — including reaching the Pac-12 Championships final and the third round of the NCAA tournament. Next year, if the same upward trajectory persists, Cal will be a serious title contender.
“I think we’re done calling this a young team — this is no longer a young team. As of today, we are an older team and a more mature team. We grew a lot this year,” Wright said. “That’s one of the things that makes this team so special as we go forward. This is a group of young men, student-athletes, who are like-minded. They have the same type of vision for the future. They want to be holding the NCAA trophy in their hands in the coming year.”
The postseason isn’t done for everyone, however, as Brumm and Kikuchi will compete in the NCAA doubles championship starting May 21 in Orlando. The Bears can still add to their growing list of accolades this season.
“Our goals are to take what we did this year and build on that. This team has done a great job of reaching our potential in some ways, and in some ways we have a lot to grow into,” Wright said.
“I look at what we did in the postseason — to say we’re satisfied, no, I don’t think so,” Wright said. “I think we’re still hungry and we have some things that we want to accomplish. This has opened our eyes to what the possibilities are in the future.”