Bruins, Trojans Top Beleaguered Bears

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The Cal men's tennis team knew it was walking into a difficult situation.

Not only was the squad not at full strength, but it had to travel to Southern California to take on No. 2 UCLA and No. 16 USC on consecutive days.

The Bears had already lost to both squads earlier in the year with a healthier team and were coming off a 5-2 loss to No. 3 Pepperdine. The prospects for an upset by a depleted Cal team weren't good.

The results were a 7-0 defeat at the hands of the Bruins Friday, and despite putting up more of a fight the next day, the Bears fell to the Trojans, 6-1.

Injuries withstanding, Cal (12-10) was still in a position to pull off an upset Saturday against USC (16-8). Despite losing the doubles point, Robert Kowalczyk and Ben Miles knocked off their first top-5 team when they upset the No. 4 duo of Nicholas Rainey and Ryan Moore.

"That was really big for us," Kowalczyk said. "That might have got us (Kowalczyk/Miles) into the NCAA tournament."

The Bears took the Trojans to three sets in five of six singles matches, but were only able to notch one victory. John Paul Fruttero defeated Patrick Gottesleben at the No. 1 singles court, 7-6, 3-6, 6-1, to account for Cal's scoring on the day.

"We definitely could have won that match," Erik Dmytruk said. "Our team definitely wasn't 100 percent, (but) everyone had an opportunity to win."

The Bears were unable to field a complete team either day. Adrian Barnes did not play due to continued problems with his surgically repaired shoulder, and several of the players that did compete were not at full strength.

"(Cal coach Peter Wright) is giving us two days off (after the matches)," Kowalczyk said. "Everybody is pretty banged up with minor injuries. I think everybody's going to play (Thursday at the Pac-10 Tournament)."

Despite falling to USC, Cal can look to the fact that it nearly knocked off a top-20 team when the Bears weren't at full strength. Dmytruk and Scott Kintz, the No. 22 doubles team in the nation, did not play against the Trojans, allowing for Miles and Kowalczyk to pull off their upset. Normally, Kintz and Dmytruk would have played Rainey and Moore at No. 1. Dmytruk also did not compete in singles against USC.

"Having two of your top six out hurts," Dmytruk said. "That's (one-third) of your team gone. You can win a lot of the points and still lose the match. I guess that's the way tennis is."

Meanwhile, the Bears fell behind early and were not able to recover Friday against UCLA (21-3). The Bruins swept the doubles matches to clinch the point, and dispatched Cal in two sets in five of six singles matches.

Fruttero put up the greatest fight of any Bears player. He fell in three sets to UCLA's Jong-Min Lee at the No. 1 court, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

The losses compounded Cal's struggles of late. The Bears have dropped four of their last five matches, including three conference losses.

Cal has also lost three straight, all to top-20 opponents. In fact, all but two of the Bears' losses this season have come at the hands of top-20 teams.

If this weekend is any indication of what Cal is capable of, an injured Bears squad will not fare too well.

Luckily for Cal, the regular season is over. The Pac-10 Championships beginning Thursday will be geared toward individual results and have no bearing on the team's record heading into the NCAA Regionals.


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