By Olivia Moore
After disappointing losses against UCLA and USC on the road, the No. 28 Stanford men’s tennis team is looking to move back to .500 on the season in Sunday’s nonconference match at No. 12 Cal.
The clash between the Cardinal (3-4) and the rival Golden Bears (4-4) is predicted to be one of the closest of the season.
Though Cal has had a more successful season thus far, Stanford has had more time to prepare for the matchup. Cal spent the weekend at the National Tennis Indoor Championships in Seattle, while Stanford did not qualify for the championships and has enjoyed a two-week break from match play.
“It’s going to be a full week for Cal between their matches this weekend and when we play them on Sunday,” said sophomore John Morrissey. “The main advantage that we get from not playing this weekend is that we had a large chunk of time to really prepare and work on things and improve our game.”
Sophomore singles player Robert Stineman agreed, saying that while it’s been “mellow” having a break on back-to-back weekends, the team is “ready to get back into competition.”
“We’ve been working hard, training really hard,” Stineman said. “We’ve been focusing on stuff that we felt needed to improve based on our previous matches, especially the matches down in L.A.
Morrissey and senior Matt Kandath will anchor the top of the Cardinal’s lineup in both singles and doubles. As a duo, the pair is 7-5 overall this season. In singles, Morrissey has a 4-2 record at the No. 1 spot while Kandath has won two of six matches at the No. 2 position.
Freshman Nolan Paige earned Stanford’s only victory last weekend on court four against USC. Paige has alternated between the No. 3 and No. 4 positions this year and is likely to meet either Campbell Johnson or Gregory Bayane of Cal.
At the National Tennis Indoor Championships, Cal was defeated 0-4 by No. 4 Ohio State on Feb. 15 but clinched a victory over No. 11 Florida in the first round of the consolations.
In the second round of consolations, Cal lost 4-3 to No. 8 Oklahoma after Cal’s Nikhil Jayashankar lost in a three-set battle at sixth singles.
Last season, the Cardinal decisively defeated Cal at home 6-1 and away 5-2, and Stanford’s series record against Cal is 88-16. However, the Cardinal’s 0-2 record in away matches this season does not bode well for a victory—Golden Bears are 3-0 in home matches during the regular season.
While Stanford may have dominated Cal last year, Stineman said that losing two seniors this year and having a team with so many freshmen and sophomores might pose a challenge.
“We’re a young team this year, that’s for sure,” Stineman said. “We are really looking to rely on the experience we gained this fall and in the beginning of this season.”
The Cardinal’s chances may depend on whether or not several of Cal’s best players are able to recover from injuries. After the team’s loss to Ohio State on Feb. 15, Cal head coach Peter Wright said that both Ben Lachlan and Chase Melton were suffering from injuries, though both played in the Feb. 16 match against Florida and the Feb. 17 match against Oklahoma.
“The No. 1 player, Ben Lachlan, had a really good season last year [with] some really big wins,” Morrissey said. “He is a dangerous player, so in his day he can make it tough for everybody.”
Riki Lachlan, who usually plays doubles with his brother Ben, was injured at a Feb. 8 match against USC and hasn’t played since. The Lachlans are ranked as the No. 22 doubles team in the nation.
Regardless of whether or not Lachlan makes a recovery, Morrissey is confident that the Cardinal has a good chance of coming back from Berkeley with a victory.
“I think it’s going to be a very close match. They always are,” Morrissey said. “Last year we had a tough one when we went over to Cal, but we managed to pull through. I think everyone is really looking forward to it.”
Contact Olivia Moore at omoore ‘at’ stanford.edu