In the first season in 29 years where the Bears won’t be calling Peter Wright their head coach, the Cal’s men’s tennis team continued its stride under interim head coach and former women’s tennis coach Amanda Augustus.
Cal started off the season at the Battle of the Bay, where senior Philip Hjorth’s performance in singles defined Cal’s initial success. Cal went on to have a strong showing at the Chowderfest, when Hjorth and freshman Carl Emil Overbeck both bested their Harvard counterparts in singles play.
Fresh off of a solid performance at the ITA All-American Championships in Tulsa, which featured a giant upset in singles on the part of Yuta Kikuchi against South Florida’s top-ranked player Chase Ferguson, the Cal men’s tennis team looked to continue its impressive start to the season at the UCSB Classic.
Cal played a relatively youthful group, starring freshmen Alex Chang and Michael Wright, as well as sophomores Lucas Magnaudet and Noah Gampel. This lineup proved itself to be integral to the team, to say the least.
On the first day of the Classic, Gampel and Magnaudet convincingly beat their competition to advance to the quarterfinals on the second day, while Wright lost to UCSB’s Jonathan Zhang. The duo of Chang and Wright narrowly lost in doubles to the USF pair of Stevie Gould and David Woodland.
The second day saw Gampel and Magnaudet continue their pursuit, advancing onward from the quarterfinals. Gampel bested New Mexico’s Arda Azkara in the quarterfinals and BYU’s Mateo Vereau to advance to Sunday’s finals, where he ultimately fell to UCSB’s Gianluca Brunkow. Magnaudet got past Cal Poly’s Alexis Delisle in the quarterfinals, but came up short in the semifinals against New Mexico’s Nico Prieto. Magnaudet went on to win the third place match.
Most notably, the duo of Chang and Wright won both the consolation double finals against Cal Poly’s duo of Delisle and Ben Keyser by a score of 8-5 as well as the Extra Doubles Match against UCSB’s duo of Diego Castillo and Josh Williams by a score of 8-3. This feat was especially impressive for Chang, as this was his debut playing for the Bears.
Chang and Gampel showed great signs for the team’s future, complementing the upperclassmen talent that was showcased earlier in the season and paving the way for a bright future. Overall, the four Cal players at the UCSB Gaucho classic held up very well. Chang, a five-star recruit who was ranked 36th nationally and No. 9 in California on TennisRecruiting.net, certainly proved himself as a quality member of the lineup.
“We were excited to see the debut of Alex Chang in the doubles at UCSB,” Augustus said. “Winning two out of his three matches was a great start. We’re looking forward to seeing his progression and hopefully see him in the mix for singles as well as doubles soon.”
After a short break, the Cal’s men’s tennis team will travel to Saint Mary’s College in Moraga to compete in the ITA Northwest Regional Championships. In doing so, it will attempt to qualify for a trip to Seattle for the Northwest Super Regional Championships. Cal will send the four players that competed in the UCSB Gaucho Classic along with standouts Hjorth and Overbeck.
Hjorth, who previously withdrew from the ITA All-American Championships due to injury, will play for the first time since Oct. 3 to continue what has been a great start to his season. Hjorth notably earned victories in both singles and doubles at the Chowderfest.
If nothing else, this five-man lineup is certain to further highlight Cal’s ability to compete at an elite level.
“This tournament’s a great opportunity for all the players to advance to Super Regionals and possibly fall nationals,” Augustus said.
After an offseason of great turnover, the blue and gold have started this season according to plan. The return of Hjorth from injury could serve as a catalyst for a strong performance at the ITA All-American Championships and a potential trip to Seattle.
AJ Alany covers men’s tennis. Contact him at email@example.com.