Seniors bid farewell to Hellman, for now

Photo: Pedro Zerbini has amassed an 11-4 singles record on court No. 1 this season. The senior is ranked No. 17 in the country in singles.
Anne Marie Schuler/Staff
Pedro Zerbini has amassed an 11-4 singles record on court No. 1 this season. The senior is ranked No. 17 in the country in singles.

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Like nearly every home match for the last three years, senior captain Pedro Zerbini will wage battle on the top singles court. Today's 1:30 p.m. match against San Diego is the last time it will happen at home in the regular season.

But it might not be the last time it will happen in his career.

A win today could boost the No. 6 Cal men's tennis team's chances at hosting the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament in May, giving Zerbini and fellow seniors Bozhidar Katsarov, Jonathan Dahan and Zach Gilbert an opporunity to play at the Hellman Tennis Complex even after the Senior Day celebration closes.

"They're not a conference team," coach Peter Wright said of San Diego. "But as far as NCAA goes, combined with the fact that this is our last home match, makes it critical."

The last time the two teams met was in 2005, when the Bears defeated the Toreros, 4-2.

Rosters of players and coaches have changed since then - this is only Brett Masi's second year as coach at USD - but similar results from both teams throughout this season could lead to a similarly close final score.

After a five-match winning streak was snapped by Texas A&M on March 16, the Bears (10-5, 2-1 in the Pac-10) have traded wins and losses for the last three matches. Meanwhile, the Toreros' 12-match winning streak - two matches short of an all-time school record - came to a halt after Pepperdine handed them a 6-1 loss last Saturday.

The Toreros have played lower-profile colleges while the Bears scheduled more top-25 competition; still, both USD and Cal earned wins over Arizona, UCSB and Utah and lost to No. 2 USC.

The team's performance in doubles is bound to be one of the deciding factors of the day.

The Toreros only dropped the doubles point three times in that 12-match streak, and they field a No. 15 tandem of senior Dean Jackson and junior Patrick Pohlmann on the top court.

Cal went four matches at the beginning of the season before grasping a doubles point, and the team didn't reap results until it settled on a regular lineup that placed the No. 22 duo of junior Nick Andrews and sophomore Christoffer Konigsfeldt at court No. 1.

According to Zerbini, the team has been playing "lots of doubles" in practice, with a focus on keeping the ball low on returns.

"If we can make lots of first serves, then that makes all the difference," Zerbini said.

Wright said that at this stage in the season, longer, more all-encompassing practices have given way to more specific drills to sharpen the players' competitive skills in preparation for postseason.

But regardless of the final score, the seniors will remember this day as the culmination of their time spent at Hellman.

"It shouldn't be any different in terms of play," said Zerbini. "But at the same time it's more special. It's been a great experience playing here the last four years. It means a lot to me."


Annie Gerlach covers men's tennis. Contact her at [email protected]

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