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NCAA Men’s Tennis Sweet 16: Cal eliminated by UNC 4-1

8th seed Golden Bears were eliminated from the team national championship by the 9th seed Tar Heels.

Golden Bears are in Athens, Georgia for the NCAA Men’s Tennis Championships this week.
Cal Men’s Tennis Facebook

Both 2017 bids by Cal Men’s Tennis to win a team national championships, the ITA Indoor Championship back in February and the NCAA Championship this week, were ended by the North Carolina Tar Heels. In both cases, the Golden Bears are technically the small favorites (4th vs. 5th seed in the ITA Indoor quarterfinal, 8th vs. 9th seed on Thursday night), but they just cannot overcome the Tar Heels, particularly in the singles.

Thursday’s contest started with a very close doubles point. After losing in court 3, Bears won 6-3 in court 2 behind Andre Goransson and Billy Griffith to set up a winner takes all court 1 result (all three doubles were of course played simultaneously). In a very tight competition that went to the tiebreaker, 5th ranked Cal seniors duo of Florian Lakat and Filip Bergevi lost to the 12th ranked UNC duo of William Blumberg and Robert Kelly 7-6 (2).

North Carolina used that momentum to win all 6 first sets in singles, but the Bears would not go quietly. Bears forced a decisive 3rd set in 5 of the 6 singles; No.5 singles was the lone result that was decided in two sets, but freshman Bjorn Hoffman was the lone Bears able to win his 3rd set. Bears lost in courts 1 and 2 to lose the meet; the unfinished courts 3 and 4 saw the Bears forcing a tiebreaker and down a break.

Golden Bears finish the team portion of their schedule with a record of 20-8, but the senior trio are not quite done. In the individual portion of the NCAA tennis championship, also taking place from Athens, Georgia, Florian Lakat and Andre Goransson will compete in the singles draw. Lakat the Filip Bergevi will compete in the doubles draw.

NCAA Division I Men's Tennis Championship Round of 16

[9] No. 9 North Carolina (27-4) def. [8] No. 8 California (20-8), 4-1

May 18, 2017, in Athens, Ga.Dan Magill Tennis Complex

Doubles

1. No. 12 William Blumberg/Robert Kelly (UNC) def. No. 5 Filip Bergevi/Florian Lakat (Cal), 7-6(2)

2. No. 74 Andre Goransson/Billy Griffith (Cal) def. No. 82 Jack Murray/Simon Soendergaard (UNC), 6-3

3. Anu Kodali/Ronnie Schneider (UNC) def. Bjorn Hoffmann/J.T. Nishimura (Cal), 6-1

UNC won the doubles point

Order of Finish – 3, 2, 1*

Singles

1. No. 22 Ronnie Schneider (UNC) def. No. 12 Florian Lakat (Cal), 6-4, 3-6, 6-4

2. No. 16 Willliam Blumberg (UNC) def. No. 61 Andre Goransson (Cal), 6-2, 3-6, 6-2

3. No. 116 Robert Kelly (UNC) vs. Filip Bergevi (Cal), 6-4, 2-6, 6-6 Unfinished

4. Simon Soendergaard (UNC) vs. No. 81 Billy Griffith (Cal), 6-3, 4-6, 5-3 Unfinished

5. Jack Murray (UNC) def. J.T. Nishimura (Cal), 6-4, 6-3

6. Bjorn Hoffmann (Cal) def. Bo Boyden (UNC), 3-6, 6-3, 6-0

Order of Finish – 5, 2, 6, 1^


After gliding through the first two rounds of the NCAA postseason via 4-0 win over Tennessee Tech and a 4-1 win over Northwestern from the friendly confines of Hellman Tennis Complex, 8th seed California Golden Bears will face a tough (but somewhat familiar) challenge in the 9th seed North Carolina Tar Heels in the Sweet 16 round on Thursday at 4pm PT. Should the Bears advance, they will play next on Saturday in the Elite 8 round against the winner between top seed Wake Forest and 10th seed Stanford at 1 pm PT on May 20th. The NCAA Semifinal are schedule for May 22nd (Monday) and May 23rd (Tuesday).

North Carolina Tar Heels gave the Bears their first loss of the season back in February when then No.5 UNC were able to upset No.4 Cal 4-2 at the ITA Indoor quarterfinals. Cal and North Carolina are meeting one round earlier this week down in Athens, Georgia. Bears are looking for a return trip to the Elite 8 after making it to the Final Four last year.

Let’s look at that matchup again. This was the Bears’ first team loss of the year, by the way.

ITA National Men's Team Indoor Championship

Feb. 18, 2017, in Charlottesville, Va.

Boar's Head Sports Club

Quarterfinal Round No. 5 [5] North Carolina (11-0) defeated No. 4 [4] California (4-1), 4-2

Doubles

1. No. 3 Filip Bergevi/Florian Lakat (Cal) def. No. 21 William Blumberg/Robert Kelly (UNC), 6-3

2. Andre Goransson/Billy Griffith (Cal) def. Jack Murray/Ronnie Schneider (UNC), 6-3

3. Bjorn Hoffmann/J.T. Nishimura (Cal) vs. Blaine Boyden/Simon Soendergaard (UNC), 5-4 Abandoned

Cal won the doubles point

Order of Finish: 1, 2*

*Clinched the doubles point

Singles

1. No. 11 Florian Lakat (Cal) vs. No. 16 Ronnie Schneider (UNC), 4-6, 6-1, 6-6(4-1) Abandoned

2. No. 27 Andre Goransson (Cal) def. William Blumberg (UNC), 2-6, 6-2, 6-2

3. Simon Soendergaard (UNC) def. No. 42 Filip Bergevi (Cal), 6-4, 6-2

4. Robert Kelly (UNC) def. No. 40 Billy Griffith (Cal), 6-4, 4-6, 6-2

5. Jack Murray (UNC) def. Bjorn Hoffmann (Cal), 6-3, 3-6, 7-5

6. Blaine Boyden (UNC) def. Connor Heap (Cal), 6-2, 7-5

Order of Finish: 3, 6, 2, 5, 4^

^Clinched the overall match

Bears won the doubles point back then. That is the same doubles lineup as today.

In singles, Bears have a slight change since the beginning of the season. J.T. Nishimura, who was in the lineup last year, is back in the lineup over freshman Connor Heap. Nishimura is playing at the No.5 spot while freshman Bjorn Hoffman slides down to No.6.

Seniors Florian Lakat, Andre Goransson, and Filip Bergevi lead the way for the Golden Bears. While the No.1 ranked recruiting class will be arriving in the fall to replace them, one would think 2017 is a Golden opportunity for the Bears to break through and win the program’s 4th national title, and the first in the current NCAA format.

Billy Griffith and J.T. Nishimura are battle tested from the Bears’ run in the NCAA last year. Freshman Bjorn Hoffman had his struggles at the ITA Indoor but has since found his rhythm playing as the Bears’ No.6. Hoffman won the clinching match in the decisive 3rd set against Northwestern on Saturday.

In the latest ranking from a couple of weeks ago, several Bears are ranked fairly high. Once the team portion of the NCAA championship is over by next Tuesday, Bears will be playing as individual for the NCAA singles and doubles championships.

North Carolina defeated VCU 4-0 and South Carolina 4-1 to advance to the Sweet 16. Their latest lineup for the South Carolina win consists of:

Doubles:

Court 1. #12 Blumberg/Kelly (UNC)

Court 2. Murray/Soendergaard (UNC)

Court 3. Kodali/Schneider (UNC)

Singles:

Court 1. #22 Ronnie Schneider (UNC)

Court 2. #16 William Blumberg (UNC)

Court 3. #116 Robert Kelly (UNC)

Court 4. Simon Soendergaard (UNC)

Court 5. Jack Murray (UNC)

Court 6. Blaine Boyden (UNC)

That’s essentially the same lineup as before with the flipping of Kelly and Soendergaard in courts 3 and 4.

It should be a close contest that will be decided by some key points here and there.


5 Keys to a Cal Victory

1) Avenge those three set close losses from February

Bears were right there, but several 3rd set matches in singles. The two sides are fairly evenly matched, but the Bears should remember that they are the favorites.

2) Adjust to the Georgia humidity

Got to make Athens a Bear Territory. Athens, Georgia is the site for both this team competition and the singles/doubles championships next week.

3) Quick start - win the doubles point (again) and first sets.

Apply the pressure on UNC.

4) Keep the emotion in check

College team tennis is an emotional game where a break in one court often can lead to more breaks by teammates in the other courts. Bears, like most teams, have several outwardly emotional players. They can both lift their teammates up or supply unnecessary pressures on them.

5) Make shots!

This is true even for the counter puncher players on the team who will just keep returning the ball until the opponents make a mistake.


8th seed California Golden Bears vs. 9th seed North Carolina Tar Heels

Where: Dan Magill Tennis Complex (Athens, Georgia)

When: May 18th, 4 pm PT

Online Stream: GeorgiaDogs.com

GO BEARS!