Young Players Emerge for an Optimistic 2009





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Sometimes success is measured in baby steps.

As the Cal men's tennis team walked out of David X. Marks Tennis Stadium in Los Angeles on May 12, they were left to once again dream about next season. A 4-0 loss to No. 6 USC (21-4, 6-1) in the second round of the NCAA Tournament was a tough pill to swallow, especially considering that the Trojans had already beaten the Bears twice this season.

Nevertheless, Cal (13-11, 4-3 in the Pac-10) finished with a similar record as last season's-they were a slightly better 14-10 in 2007-and did manage to achieve some playoff success, beating Boise State (21-13, 2-2 in the WAC) by a score of 4-2 in the first round of NCAAs. In comparison, the Bears were one and done in 2007, losing to Oklahoma 4-3.

Cal kept things interesting this season, as eight of its matches were decided by a score of 4-3, and the Bears held a record of 5-3 in such narrow contests.

"I think the most exciting part of the season was all the 4-3 matches we had," Coach Peter Wright said. "I'd really have to point to those as being the most invigorating and enjoyable moments. We did not win them all, but I think they really helped us grow."

Some of the more notable close wins came against then-No. 11 Oklahoma State and No. 15 Arizona State. Cal was a combined 3-7 against ranked opponents this season, but five of those losses came at the hands of USC and UCLA.

The Bears saw a number of milestones reached in 2008, as Wright garnered his 200th career coaching win against Arizona State on March 29. Bozhidar Katsarov also set a freshman record for singles wins with 35.

"The energy the freshmen class brought to the equation, I think that was a big part of the success we had this year," Wright said.

In addition, freshman Pedro Zerbini had a very productive season going 28-11 in singles and 22-15 in doubles. Freshman Jonathan Dahan chipped in with a singles record of 17-13.

Still, the Bears did face their fair share of struggles. 2007 All-Pac-10 first team selection Pierre Mouillon struggled in his senior year, going 9-18 in singles play, a huge dip from his 28-16 record a season ago.

During this time Mouillon went from playing on court one to court three.

"The hardest part of the year was trying to get us on track in the one, two and three spots," Wright said. "We played consistently well at four, five and six, but we didn't quite get the fire power going (in the top spots). For us that was a little bit more challenging.

With Cal losing only two players to graduation in the offseason, the Bears return four out of their top five singles players in terms of win production.

"We have already started preparing for next season and are excited about the prospects," Wright said. "They way we played this year, we are only going to build on that."

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Contact Joshua Linville at [email protected]



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