Jan. 20, 2012
BERKELEY - Last season, the California men's tennis team made its first appearance in the NCAA round of 16 since 2003, but a narrow 4-2 loss at the hands of a Tennessee squad has the Golden Bears thirsty for a shot at redemption.
Cal opened its 2012 dual campaign with a 4-3 road victory over No. 23 Tulsa on Friday, Jan. 13, but that win was just the beginning of a long road for the Bears as they return a strong core of talent, this spring.
"2012 is going to be a strong year for us," said 19th-year head coach Peter Wright. "We have great leadership and some solid experience at the top end of our team. Our doubles teams had a lot of success in the fall, and we've built some momentum in singles, as well."
The Bears started the spring ranked No. 14 in the nation; the same spot in which they concluded the 2011 dual season. Cal's 14-8 record earned the team a school-record 12th consecutive appearance in the NCAA championships and the right to host first- and second-round matches at the Hellman Tennis Complex. The Bears defeated Marist, 4-0, in the first round, and came back after dropping the doubles point to Fresno State to claim a 4-3 victory in dramatic second-round finish.
Sophomore Ben McLachlan holds the Bears' only singles ranking at No. 42 and is half of the 27th-ranked doubles team with junior Carlos Cueto. Cal's roster also features the fifth-ranked doubles team in the nation in senior Nick Andrews and junior Christoffer Konigsfeldt.
"As we start the season, we feel that the experience of this team should carry us quite far," said Wright. "The emergence of Ben McLachlan and with our senior leader Nick Andrews' victories in the Napa Valley tournament, I think we have a strong core as we move ahead."
Andrews will serve as the Bears' team captain, this season, but he will have plenty of help from transfer senior Ahmed Ismail and Tommie Murphy. Down the lineup, junior Riki McLachlan has improved as he enters his third year and Cueto showed that he can control the top court with his success from a season ago.
"There's a lot of maturity on our team," said Wright, "and I think one of the qualities of that maturity is selflessness. These guys come together and pull together, as a group, and that's one of our greatest strengths. We don't have any selfish players."
Four freshmen will provide a strong foundation of depth for the Bears. Redshirt freshman Chase Melton returned to action in the fall and will enter his first dual season with Cal. Transfer freshman Gregory Bayane, and local products Andrew Pises and Andrew Scholnick will also play valuable roles on a squad that looks to compete for the first-ever Pac-12 championship.
"Our team is strong from top to bottom," said Wright. "When fans come to our matches, they'll see a lot of people contributing from a lot of different spots."