The Daily Californian Online

NCAA Berth Within Reach as Bears Host Two

By Joshua Linville
Contributing Writer
Friday, April 11, 2008
Category: Sports > Spring > Tennis (Men's)

Senior Ken Nakahara has come out on top in four of his last five singles matches. Nakahara has compiled a 7-3 record on Court Six during the dual season for the Bears.

In last season's matchup against Washington, the Cal men's tennis team looked to senior Ken Nakahara to bring home a win.

With the match tied at 3-3, Nakahara found himself down 5-2 in the second set of his match against the Huskies' Patrik Fischer. However, Nakahara battled back for a 6-7, 7-6, 6-3 win that clinched a 4-3 victory for the Bears.

Cal (10-9, 2-2 in the Pac-10) could look for more last-minute heroics as it takes on Oregon (11-11, 0-4) and No. 25 Washington (13-7, 1-3) this weekend at Hellman Tennis Complex. The Bears face the Ducks today at 1:30 p.m. and the Huskies on Saturday at 1 p.m.

"These are must-win matches for us, we know that coming in," coach Peter Wright said. "I think, if anything, we are energized by the challenge in front of us."

With only three games remaining in the season, Cal is facing crunch time. Currently ranked 36th in the nation, the Bears will need a few more wins if they want to receive an invite to the NCAA tournament in May.

"I think we definitely have to win two out of our three matches left to solidify a berth to the NCAAs," Nakahara said. "(But) our team is definitely a team that does better when we are feeling urgent."

Although Cal may thrive off that sense of urgency, the team would rather not have this weekend's matches be as close as the Bears' match against Washington was last season.

"Hopefully this year it doesn't come down to a single match to decide it, but if that's what it comes to I am sure all of our guys can step up and win their matches," Nakahara said.

There is no question that the Bears' opponents will be hungry. The Huskies will be trying to solidify their 11th straight postseason appearance while Oregon will be playing for pride.

"They have nothing to lose when they play us this week so those guys are dangerous," Nakahara said of the Ducks.

Oregon is a young team-the Ducks have no seniors and are led by sophomores Marcos Verdasco and Ric Mortera. This lack of experience, coupled with the fact that Cal is 23-0 all-time against Oregon, should be an indicator of the Bears' potential success today.

Washington is led by senior Andy Kuharszky, who is 19-11 in singles play so far. Freshman Jonathan Dahan ran into Kuharszky in the Chandler Cup last October but was unsuccessful, falling 6-1, 2-6, 6-4. Whether Dahan will play today is unknown as he is nursing a shoulder injury.

With both matches being equally important, and with the season coming quickly to a close, there is no need for Cal to hold anything back. A sweep this weekend could garner the Bears their ninth straight tournament appearance.

"The most important thing we can do is win out, and whatever happens, happens," sophomore Kallim Stewart said. "We should just try to put ourselves in the best position to win.

"These are must win matches for us. We know that coming in. I think, if anything, we are energized by the challenge in front of us."


Article Link: