If Cal men’s tennis head coach Kris Kwinta’s goal with last Saturday’s games against USF and UC Davis was to test his team’s ability to play under pressure, then these next few days will be a continuation of that challenge as the Bears head to play against San Diego and at the Pacific Coast Doubles Championships.
Cal, which currently sits at No. 35 with a 6-2 record following its wins over USF and UC Davis, will first face No. 30 San Diego on Thursday at 11 a.m. The Bears have historically done very well against the Toreros, boasting a 29-5 all-time record, a number most recently updated with two wins in 2012.
However, San Diego — while not in the Pac-12 — has played more Pac-12 teams than Cal so far this season. The Torrerros have faced four of Cal’s conference opponents, while Cal has seen just one Pac-12 team, Stanford, in a nonconference match in January. San Diego has also notched four straight wins, most recently against No. 46 Oregon, which has a 7-3 record. With home court advantage, the Toreros look prepared to take on the Bears.
Following their match against San Diego, the Bears will then immediately high-tail it over to La Jolla to play in the Pacific Coast Doubles Championships, facing competitors like No. 3 Michigan, No. 8 USC and No. 24 Stanford.
Held outside of the ITA, this tournament allows for noncollegiate players to also compete — including coaches. Last year, Kwinta and Cal assistant coach Francis Sargeant won the consolation prize at the championship, beating Cal’s own Sean Hill and Lucas Magnaudet in the final.
“It’s cool to be able to jump on the court as a coach sometimes,” Kwinta said. “This year we’re not competing, we’re just going to coach and watch from the sidelines.”
Kwinta expects that the tournament will be “fun” for the Bears, and that it will provide the team with an opportunity to work on playing doubles — an area Kwinta said the team needs to improve.
Sophomore Carl Emil Overbeck, who retired due to injury last weekend against the Aggies, is expected to compete and partner with fifth-year transfer Siddhant Banthia in the doubles tournament. Banthia is coming off a win against the Dons’ Moritz Hoffmann, and the two are currently the third seed in the tournament.
“We knew that (Overbeck) was going into the match a little bit rusty and a little bit injured,” Kwinta said. “We decided not to push it, we can’t control it. He should be back no problem.”
In expressing his hopes for this tournament, Kwinta said he wants to see the success the Bears have had during practice brought onto the actual tennis court. He added that he is “excited” to continue testing the progress made during the Bears’ three-week break, spent building strength and speed prior to last Saturday’s matches.
Seven of the Bears’ 10-person team will be competing in La Jolla, with three members out due to injuries. The other pairs from Cal include the team of Yuta Kikuchi and Philip Hjorth, the fourth seed, and Derrick Chen and John Kim, who are seeded 17th. Magnaudet is currently unpaired and will be doubling up with a non-Cal player.
Many of Cal’s players are heading into the tournament with recent victories under their belts, which bears good omens for how they might perform this weekend. Kim won the ITA Northwest Regional Championships in Berkeley last October while partnered with sophomore Mikey Wright. Kikuchi, too, is coming off of solid wins over the Dons’ Nil Giraldez and the Aggies’ Andrei Volgin last Saturday.
If the Bears’ recent victories are any indication of how they might perform this weekend, then Cal is likely to put on a solid performance. However, with much longer travel times than last weekend, coupled with Kwinta’s belief that the team’s energy is not yet where it needs to be, only time will tell whether the Bears are truly able to repeat their success against a bevy of successful teams.