Bears' Road to Pac-10 Tile Runs Through Los Angeles

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Sometimes a team has to put aside all the records and statistics and just go out and play.

This is the case for the Cal men's tennis team as it travels to Los Angeles this weekend to take on No. 4 UCLA (15-1, 2-0 Pac-10) and No. 5 USC (15-3, 2-0) in a pair of pivotal conference showdowns. The Bears will face the Bruins today at 1:30 p.m. and then play the Trojans tomorrow at 1:00 p.m.

Although the season is only half-over, it's do or die time for Cal (10-7, 2-0) as it looks to do what no other Bears squad has done before-win a Pac-10 title.

It's simple-two wins against these storied programs and Cal will maintain its hold of first place in the conference-two losses and the Bears' hopes of winning that elusive Pac-10 title are all but dashed.

In fact, Cal hasn't won a title of any kind since 1953 when it was a member of the Pacific Coast Conference. UCLA and USC on the other hand have won a combined total of 32 national championships-16 apiece.

"The road to the Pac-10 title certainly goes through Los Angeles but we've got this weekend down there to take care of business," coach Peter Wright said. "For us this is the most exciting time of the year."

The Bears faced the Bruins and the Trojans earlier this season in a couple of nonconference matches and fell 5-2 and 4-2, respectively.

"We played them both tough in Berkeley and we have done a lot of improving along the way," Wright said. "We are not the same team now that we were when we played them (before)."

Granted, Cal is riding a wave of confidence after upsetting then-No. 15 Arizona State last week.

"Our main focus is to carry on the momentum we have right now," senior captain Ken Nakahara said. "We have to believe in ourselves. I think every single guy has to believe we can do this."

The mental aspect of the game looks to be the biggest factor as the Bears know they have the talent to hang with the best.

Against USC in February, sophomore Kallim Stewart had an impressive 6-4, 6-2 victory over No. 7 Robert Farah. Senior Pierre Mouillon also chipped in with a win over Gary Sacks, 6-4, 7-5.

"(The L.A. teams) are four and five, but I don't think the rankings really matter at this point," Mouillon said. "We are more motivated and I'm sure we are going to make it a lot tougher for them this time."

If anything, UCLA has made it tough on its opponents as they have been in only three matches decided by one point this season, one of those being a 4-3 loss to No. 1 Virginia.

Needless to say, Cal will have to bring it's A-game.

"It is just going to be a matter of focusing together as a team and playing with six singles players all on the same page," Wright said.


Contact Joshua Linville at [email protected]

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