BERKELEY – Fourth-seeded and 19th-ranked California begins its quest to win the Pac-12 Championship – and the conference’s automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament – on Thursday when it plays the winner of Wednesday’s match between fifth-seeded Utah and eighth-seeded Arizona in Ojai, Calif. The Golden Bears (14-6 record, 4-3 in the Pac-12) will play either the 57th-ranked Utes (14-8, 2-5 Pac-12) or Wildcats (12-14, 1-6 Pac-12) at 11 a.m. on Thursday at Libbey Park in their debut at the eight-team tournament, which ends on Saturday.
Cal defeated both teams in conference play this season, winning 4-0 at Arizona on March 28 and 4-2 at Utah on March 30. In each team’s last match of the regular season, Arizona upset Utah, 4-1, on April 19 in Tucson, Ariz.
The winner of Thursday’s match plays regular-season conference champion, top-seeded and top-ranked USC on Friday at noon in a semifinal match at Libbey Park.
Pac-12 competition will be held in conjunction with the 114th Annual Ojai Valley Tennis Tournament, which includes the Pac-12 Women’s Tennis Championships, with all the men’s action taking place at Libbey Park. The Pac-12 Networks will air the men’s team final delayed on Sunday at 5 p.m., just prior to the 7 p.m. delayed broadcast of the Pac-12 women’s doubles final.
Cal dropped three spots in Tuesday’s ITA team poll after the Bears’ setback on April 19 (see below). There are one Bear ranked in singles and two Cal teams ranked in doubles (see below). Seven of the eight teams competing at Pac-12s are ranked this week: No. 1 USC, No. 5 UCLA, No. 19 Cal, No. 27 Stanford, No. 49 Oregon, No. 57 Utah and No. 66 Washington. Arizona is unranked.
Scouting the Bears
Senior Ben McLachlan, who has a record of 6-7, is ranked 61st in singles
Senior Campbell Johnson, Cal’s No. 2 singles player, brings a 17-11 record into Pac-12s
Freshman Filip Bergevi, normally the Bears’ No. 3 singles player, has a 20-11 mark
Freshman Andre Goransson, Cal’s court-four singles player, has an 18-9 record
Junior Gregory Bayane, one of Cal’s doubles stars who also plays court-five singles, has a 17-10 singles mark
At No. 6 singles, sophomore Mads Engsted has a 12-9 overall record
The pair of Bayane and junior Chase Melton is ranked No. 23 in doubles and has a 17-5 record
Bergevi and Engsted bring an 8-3 record into Pac-12s
Bayane earned the Pac-12 Player of the Week honor on Jan. 28 after winning two singles and two doubles matches when Cal played in the ITA Kick-Off Weekend at Pepperdine
Two proud Cal alumni lead the Golden Bears: Peter Wright (class of ’91) is in his 21st year as head coach, while associate head coach Tyler Browne (class of 2008) is in his sixth year on the staff
Scouting the Utes
Slim Hamza is ranked 84th in singles
Against Cal earlier this year, Cedric Willems teamed with Hamza to help clinch doubles, and Willems also won in singles
F.D. Robbins is in his 28th year as head coach of Utah
Scouting the Wildcats
Naoki Takeda clinched the win over Utah on April 18 with a 6-2, 6-2 singles win over Ben Tasevac on court two
Takeda also clinched the doubles point with teammate Sumeet Shinde, as the Wildcats beat Utah’s Slim Hamza/Cedric Willems on court one, 8-5
Tad Berkowitz is in his eighth year as head coach of Arizona
Last Time: Bears Fall on Senior Day
Saturday, April 19, started off well, as the Golden Bears celebrated seniors Campbell Johnson and Ben McLachlan before the last regular-season match – and possibly the last home match – of their careers. The good fortune continued when 16th-ranked California beat No. 37 Stanford in doubles to take a 1-0 lead into singles. But the Cardinal rallied to upend the Bears, 4-2, at the Hellman Tennis Complex.
The 24th-ranked Cal team of juniors Gregory Bayane and Chase Melton opened the day with an 8-5 win over Daniel Ho/Robert Stineman on court one. The Bears clinched doubles when freshman Filip Bergevi and sophomore Mads Engsted edged the Cardinal duo of Yale Goldberg/Trey Strobel, 8-7(5). McLachlan, playing in his last doubles match in Berkeley, teamed with freshman Andre Goransson to play Jamin Ball/John Morrissey on court two, but their match was abandoned when the Bears clinched.
In singles, Goransson played a tight match with Nolan Paige on court four, but the Cardinal player prevailed,7-5, 7-5, to tie the overall contest at 1-1. In the first of four matches to go three sets, Bergevi untied the match with a 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 victory over Strobel on court three; Cal lead, 2-1.
Over on court two, Johnson won the first set over Ho in his bid to win his last singles match at Hellman. But Ho rallied to win, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4, and tie matters at 2-2. Stineman followed with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-0 win over Engsted on court six that put Stanford, now up 3-2, on the verge of claiming the match.
On court one, the 56th-ranked McLachlan looked good after winning the first set over Morrissey in his last regular-season match. But McLachlan fell to Morrissey, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, to give Stanford it’s 4-2 victory. Bayane’s match against Anthony Tsodikov on court five was abandoned.
Stanford’s win evened the season series with the Bears, who routed the Cardinal, 7-0, at Stanford in a nonconference match on Feb. 22.
Last Time at Pac-12s: No. 18 Cal Falls to No. 5 USC, 4-1
California produced a promising start against defending Pac-12 and NCAA champion USC, but the 18th-ranked Golden Bears ultimately fell to the fifth-ranked Trojans, 4-1, in the April 26 semifinal round of the 2013 Pac-12 Championships in Ojai, Calif. Cal won the doubles point but lost four times in singles to end the match. The loss eliminated the third-seeded Bears from the conference tournament and left their record at 14-9. USC improved to 23-3.
Cal was on fire in doubles against the Trojans. Sophomores Gregory Bayane and Chase Melton kicked off the day with an 8-6 victory over USC's Eric Johnson and Max de Vroome, and then the 32nd-ranked duo of junior Campbell Johnson and senior Christoffer Konigsfeldt outlasted USC's 40th-ranked pair of Ray Sarmiento and Yannick Hanfmann, 9-8(7), to wrap up the doubles point.
The Bears put up a fight in singles, but the talented Trojans ultimately prevailed. On court two, the 82nd-ranked Konigsfeldt lost to the 65th-ranked Hanfmann, 6-2, 6-4, to tie the team score at 1-1, and then Bayane fell to the 80th-ranked Johnson, 6-4, 6-4, to give USC a 2-1 advantage.
Cal won its first set on court five, with Engsted winning 6-2 against 93rd-ranked Jonny Wang. But the Trojan won the last two sets 6-0, 6-2, to take the match. The 62nd-ranked Johnson pushed 34th-ranked Quiroz on court three, as the Trojan edged the Bear, 7-6(7), in the first set. Quiroz won the second, 6-2, to give USC the semifinal victory.
Cal will find out if it will compete in the NCAA team tournament when the postseason berths are announced on April 29.