To finish off its season, Cal men’s tennis headed northward to the cold of Oregon and Washington to face off against — well, Oregon and Washington. In close matches, the Bears defeated the Ducks but fell short against the Huskies.
The Bears faced the Ducks first, on Friday. After its win, Cal has extended its already massive 36-3 lead in the two schools’ all-time series, after having last lost to Oregon 4-2. Cal is now 37-3 in the series.
Despite the Ducks having the higher-ranked doubles pair between the two, in then-No. 34 Joshua Charlton and Quinn Vandecasteele, the Bears pulled through with the doubles point. Senior Philip Hjorth and sophomore Derrick Chen beat Oregon’s Vlad Breazu and Luke Vandecasteele on court three, after which Carl Emil Overbeck and Yuta Kikuchi defeated Charlton and Quinn Vandecasteele 7-5 on court one.
Hjorth then added to Cal’s lead when he took the first singles point, defeating Breazu in straight sets on court six. The Ducks then tried to chase the score, but No. 30 Kikuchi defeated his opponent on court one, giving the Bears a 3-1 lead.
But the Ducks were not so easily put down. Despite being down 3-1, Oregon put up a valiant comeback effort, winning matches on courts two and three to even the score at 3-3. The Bears edged away with the victory when Overbeck defeated Ivailo Keremedchiev on court four, giving the Bears the victory, despite the loss of momentum in the middle of the match. It was no easy win.
“I knew it was going to be a difficult task going indoors, going against a team whose back is against the wall,” said head coach Kris Kwinta. “Their season was on the line, they were going to come out firing.”
Kikuchi added that during his match, he stayed calm, played hard and felt really good about his performance. He also complimented Oregon’s doubles team, and said it was a great feeling to win against a strong doubles team, attributing part of the team’s victory to the change in doubles lineup.
Just as the Bears just barely beat Oregon, the Huskies barely beat the Bears with a 4-3 victory over Cal, meaning the Bears end their regular season play on a loss.
In a close doubles matchup, Bears Lucas Magnaudet and Ryder Jackson lost to the team of Nedim Suko and Jim Hendrikx 6-1 on court two. Hjorth and Chen delivered a 7-5 victory on court three, leaving the deciding point to court one, where Overbeck and Kikuchi fell in a close 7-6(3) doubles set. Cal lost the doubles point, giving the Huskies an early 1-0 lead.
In singles, Kikuchi was on fire, defeating Han-Chih Lin in straight sets, 6-2, 6-0, tying the score to 1-1. The Huskies fired back, with Hendrikx defeating Hjorth on court five and Cesar Bouchelaghem defeating Jackson on court two, putting the score at 3-1 for Washington.
But the Bears also put up a valiant comeback effort, finding themselves in the same place that the Ducks found themselves on Friday. With a victory on court six for Magnaudet and another on court four courtesy of Overbeck, the deciding point came down to court three; Washington had won the first set and Cal had won the second. Chen struggled to put the match away, and eventually fell to Washington’s Dzianis Zharyn 3-6, 6-2, 7-5.
“I’m not happy at all with our performance. We didn’t have the same sense of urgency as they did,” Kwinta said. “Kudos to them, they made us earn it and at the end they were a little bit more and they got it.”
Kwinta and Kikuchi both added that the outdoor playing conditions were very different from the indoor courts the team was practicing on in Washington. The outside conditions were windy and cold, and players felt the impact of the weather on their game.
For Hjorth, Kikuchi and Siddhant Banthia, last weekend’s matches likely served as the last two regular season matches they would play in college.
“I was very excited for the match, but I was also very sad. This is the last regular season match,” Kikuchi said. “I’ve spent five years (at Cal), I have lots of emotions and memories. It was a pretty emotional match for me.”