Despite some struggles early on, the No. 12 Stanford men’s tennis team finished its regular-season schedule on a high note Friday with a comfortable 5-2 victory at No. 14 Cal.
The win completed a season sweep of the rival Golden Bears by the Cardinal (16-7, 5-2 Pac-12) — following a 6-1 victory in the annual Big Slam match in February — and extended Stanford’s overall winning streak against Cal to five matches.
Following close on the heels of last Wednesday’s dominant 7-0 victory over Pacific, the road win also further builds momentum for the Cardinal in advance of the inaugural Pac-12 tournament, which starts this Wednesday in Ojai, Calif. The victory over the Golden Bears (11-10, 4-3 Pac-12) secured a third place finish in the conference for Stanford, and thus the tournament’s No. 3 seed.
“This last week of the season was crucial in generating positive momentum heading into Pac-12s and the NCAAs, especially after such a tough week in L.A.,” said senior Bradley Klahn, referring to the Cardinal’s heavy losses to No. 1 USC (7-0) and No. 9 UCLA (6-1) on April 14 and 15. “I think our team learned a lot from that weekend, though, and it is our job now to take that experience and turn it into something great.”
Having shuffled the Cardinal’s doubles lineup for the match against Pacific, head coach John Whitlinger continued the tactic against Cal. The Cardinal, however, struggled to maintain its previous success, dropping two matches and conceding the first point to the Golden Bears.
“Cal is always a big rivalry for us, and we knew going in that we had to be prepared for a battle,” Klahn said. “Our team responded exceptionally well to the challenges presented, especially losing the doubles point.”
In singles play, Stanford and Cal initially swapped points — with Klahn’s 6-3, 6-4 victory cancelled out by junior Denis Lin’s 6-1, 6-2 defeat — before the Cardinal pulled away to claim the last four singles matches. Junior Matt Kandath and freshman John Morrissey pulled off 6-2, 6-4 and 6-4, 6-3 wins, respectively, before senior Ryan Thacher battled to a clinching victory in three sets (3-6, 6-1, 6-4). Sophomore Daniel Ho rounded out the win with a 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (4) triumph.
“It was great to see Danny fight back in the third set from down two breaks [at 4-1], even after the match had been clinched,” Klahn said. “His effort showed a lot about his ability to gut out a tough match, but more importantly showed our resiliency as an entire team to stay determined and not be satisfied with any of our achievements.”
For Klahn and Thacher, the match also marked the final regular-season game of their Stanford careers. The seniors have put together outstanding careers for the Cardinal, collecting eight doubles titles as a pair while leading the Cardinal to three straight NCAA tournament appearances. Klahn also won the 2010 NCAA singles championship.
“It’s hard to believe that my last regular season at Stanford has finished,” Klahn said. “I am excited to begin my last postseason, and to see our team lay everything out there for the five weeks. There is still much for this team to accomplish, but I think we have a great foundation with the determination and work ethic. Now it is simply just about executing our game plan.”
The Cardinal will receive a first-round bye in this week’s Pac-12 tournament, and will face the winner of the match between the No. 6 and 7 seeds (which have yet to be determined) on Thursday.