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Bears take flight: Cal travels to Texas for ITA Kickoff Weekend

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Head sports editor

JANUARY 26, 2023

This week, Cal men’s tennis is set to embark on a trip that might be one of its most important of the season: The Bears will travel to Texas to play the Longhorns in the first part of the ITA Kickoff Weekend.

For the 2-1 Bears — with an impressive Stanford win under their belt — the stakes are high, as they must notch two wins in order to advance to the next stage, National Indoors. While their female counterparts are hosting their own Kickoff Weekend at home, the men’s team will be traveling to Texas as it did not get a berth to host.

Saturday’s match is sure to be a tricky one for Cal. Texas is a collegiate tennis powerhouse, with the Longhorns frequently featuring in the top 10 — currently in the No. 6 spot. That being said, the Bears have climbed in the rankings this week after their two wins against Saint Mary’s and Stanford, putting them squarely at No. 22

“They’re top 10, they’re usually a really good team, inside the top five,” said Cal fifth year Yuta Kikuchi. “But also we have (a) really good team this year, so we have potential to beat them and then make National Indoors. It’s (a) really good feeling right now, I’m pretty confident about the match.”

After Texas, Cal will play either No. 15 Arizona or FAU — winners will play winners on Sunday for the Nationals spot, while losers will face each other in a consolation match.

Cal head coach Kris Kwinta remarked that his players will need to focus on a more aggressive game to do well against such accomplished teams.

“We have got to play bold tennis, go for our shots and play an aggressive brand of tennis, take it to them if we want to cause an upset — which I think we are very capable of,” said Kwinta. “And we have a pretty offensively oriented team… so I think we can come out firing, we can surprise them early.”

Earlier this season, Texas already beat No. 13 Florida and No. 12 Georgia. Cal also has a ranked win under its belt, though it was against Stanford, which was No. 13 at the time. As Texas is a consistently top team and a renowned program, though, this is certainly going to be a tough match for the Bears.

Kwinta’s comment about aggressive play is quite accurate: Against Stanford last week, the team seemed to be lacking offense. It is going to be imperative to take control of the points and to dominate the rallies. Whether that is achievable against such a team, though, is a different question.

Kikuchi also emphasized that he is going to be working on his second serve — no element of his game can show weakness. His opponent will be the No. 3 player in the country, Eliot Spizzirri.

“If I show (weakness), he is going to take it for sure,” Kikuchi said. “(Against Stanford) I exposed my weakness, especially with my second serve, so I should work on that.”

With a week off to prepare for the weekend’s matches, the team is sure to be tightening up the screws in each individual’s game. It remains to be seen whether that will be enough to beat a tennis powerhouse.

Contact Maria Kholodova at  or on Twitter


JANUARY 26, 2023