Ending the regular season against conference rivals can be the best of times or the worst of times, and the No. 29 Stanford men’s tennis team (13-9, 4-3 Pac-12) learned this the hard way after falling 4-1 to No. 16 California (15-5, 5-2) on Saturday to close out regular-season play.
The Cardinal never managed to take control of the match, uncharacteristically losing the doubles point early to the Bears. Both the No. 2 doubles team of senior Nolan Paige and sophomore David Wilczynski and the No. 3 team of junior Yale Goldberg and freshman Sameer Kumar lost lopsided matches, never allowing early momentum to grow. The No. 41 doubles team in the country of sophomore Tom Fawcett and senior Maciek Romanowicz battled hard, but were still down 4-3 when the doubles point was awarded to California.
The match did not get off to a better start in the singles portion. This season, one of the key components of the team’s success has been consistent play from the top of the lineup. However, under the hot sun, Stanford’s high seeds struggled against tough competition from the Bears.
The only win of the day came courtesy of junior Brandon Sutter, who defeated Mads Engsted 6-4, 6-3 in the No. 6 position. Stanford was defeated in the No. 1, 2 and 4 spots, and was down a set in the No. 3 position when the match was called for the Bears.
The day was capped off with No. 10 Fawcett’s upset loss to California’s No. 30 Florian Lakat. In a battle of powerful right-handers, Lakat dispatched Fawcett in two sets, 7-6 (2), 6-3. Lakat proved to be the more disciplined player in the match, hitting calculated winners during key moments of the tiebreak that secured the first set and the momentum. Fawcett is now 19-6 in singles play during the regular season, and will hope to go deep in the NCAA Singles Tournament later in the year.
No. 72 Wilczynski’s tough three-set loss to the Bears’ No. 27 Andre Goransson sealed Stanford’s loss. While a victory would have still left Stanford’s chances of victory slim, it would have allowed the tightly contested matches at the No. 3 and No. 5 spots to finish and potentially fall the Cardinal’s way.
The loss on Saturday meant that Cal dealt Stanford a regular-season sweep after already having won 4-3 in nonconference play earlier in the season. Next up for the Cardinal are the Pac-12 Championships, taking place this week from April 20-24 in Ojai, California. The team is currently fourth in the conference standings, and will have to overcome national powerhouses No. 4 UCLA and No. 9 USC in order to bring home the title.
Contact Amanda McLean at ammclean ‘at’ stanford.edu.