COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Playing at one of the most challenging college venues in the nation, 17th-ranked California led early and then held on to upset eighth-seeded and 10th-ranked host Texas A&M, 4-3, in the NCAA Championship’s second round on Sunday at the Mitchell Tennis Center. Campbell Johnson clinched the victory with a court-two singles win. The Golden Bears move on to play in the NCAA round of 16 in Athens, Georgia, where they will take on ninth-seeded Texas on Friday at 6 a.m. PT.
Cal improved its record to 17-7, while the Aggies – who were unbeaten at home before today’s match at 15-0 – ended their run in the team tournament with a 25-7 record.
The weather in College Station included high humidity and temperatures in the high 80s.
“This was a great college tennis match with plenty of twists and turns, and it was a dramatic but quite unfortunate ending,” Cal head coach Peter Wright said. “In the end it was two teams battling all day in the Texas heat and humidity. Full credit is due to our strength and conditioning coach, Joel Smith, as well as to our trainer, Elaine Garcia, for handling all of the hydration needs of our guys. In the end, it made a huge difference.”
“I’m so proud of our guys for playing a great doubles point and then putting their hearts into singles. Today we proved something to ourselves. We’re looking forward to playing against Texas in Athens in the sweet 16.”
The Bears trailed early, as the 28th-ranked Cal duo of juniors Gregory Bayane and Chase Melton fell to the sixth-ranked team of Junior Ore/Jackson Withrow, 8-6, on court one. The Bears rebounded to win on court three – with freshman Filip Bergevi and sophomore Mads Engsted upsetting the 89th-ranked Jeremy Efferding/Jordan Szabo, 8-7(2) – to make the court-two clash the deciding match. In another close result, the 86th-ranked tandem of senior Ben McLachlan and freshman Andre Goransson beat the 70th-ranked pair of Harrison Adams/Shane Vinsant, 8-6, to capture the doubles point for the Bears.
Cal took a 2-0 lead in the overall match when Goransson topped Ore, 6-3, 6-2, in singles on court four. Texas A&M then got on the scoreboard at 2-1, as the 19th-ranked Adams beat the 55th-ranked McLachlan, 6-4, 6-1, on court one.
Next in the see-saw battle, Bayane bested Withrow on court five, 6-3, 6-2, to give Cal a 3-1 lead, with the Bears needing just one more point to secure the match. But the Aggies won the next match, as the 69th-ranked Efferding defeated Bergevi, 7-6(6), 6-3, on court three to make the score 3-2.
Nikhil Jayashankar, a junior, came close to clinching for the Bears on court six after winning the first set, but Szabo won a second-set tiebreaker and eventually posted a 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-2 win to make the Johnson/Vinsant match the decider.
On court two, Johnson came out strong against the 22nd-ranked Vinsant, winning the first set. Vinsant won the next to force a third, and the Cal senior came out victorious, 6-4, 2-6, 6-3, to send the Bears back to the round of 16.
Cal next plays its third consecutive opponent from the state of Texas in the Longhorns, as the Bears defeated Texas Tech, 4-0, on Saturday in the NCAA first round in College Station. The Bears will play Texas in the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, with the University of Georgia hosting the remainder of the NCAA team tournament as well as the NCAA singles and doubles tournaments.