No. 4 Cal (7-1) Returns Home to Tackle Utah
Feb. 25, 2003
WHATS ON TAP: After suffering its first setback of the year against No. 6 Florida, the No. 4 California men's tennis team (7-1) returns to Berkeley for its next match against Utah Wednesday, Feb. 26 at 1:30 p.m. The Bears own a 24-6-1 all-time advantage over the Utes, including a 7-0 victory exactly one year ago to the day.
ABOUT CALIFORNIA: The Bears are coming off a 2-1 performance and a tie for fifth-place at the National Team Indoor Championships last week. Through eight matches, sophomore Dane Mik Ledvonova leads Cal with an unblemished 7-0 record, including a 2-0 performance at the National Team Indoors. Court No. 4 has been the lucky number where the squad has compiled a 6-1 record (Kowalczyk, 3-0, Wong, 2-0 & Berke, 1-1). The doubles tandem of Patrick Briaud and Balazs Veress has been the mainstay of the doubles rotation, posting a 7-1 record while the team owns a 14-8 overall doubles slate.
BEARS IN THE INDOOR TOURNEY: In the first round of the National Team Indoor Championships, the Bears pounded No. 26 Arkansas, 4-0, while sweeping every match. Cal absolved its first blemish of the season in the next round, falling 4-2 to No. 6 Florida in a quarterfinal matchup. The road did not get any easier as the Golden Bears were then forced to face No. 8 Duke in a fifth-place consolation match. The two squads battled to a 3-3 tie until Cal's 82nd-ranked Robert Kowalczyk pulled out a three-set victory to claim the win for Cal. Ledvonova and Kowalczyk were the big winners of the weekend, both finishing unbeaten in singles play at 2-0. Kowalczyk has won four consecutive matches while Ledvonova has won an impressive seven straight and is a perfect 7-0. No. 31 Conor Niland, No. 37 Veress and Steve Berke all claimed a 2-1 tournament record. Cal continued its solid doubles play over the weekend, winning two of the three crucial doubles points.
ABOUT UTAH: The Utes enter this week with a 4-3 record as they travel to No. 7 Stanford on Tuesday before heading across the Bay to face Cal on Wednesday. The Bay Area matches represent the third and fourth contests vs. Pac-10 teams, as both Arizona State and Arizona defeated the Utes earlier in the year. Junior Tyler Poulson owns the best overall record for Utah, compiling an 11-4 slate.
HOME, SWEET HELLMAN: While the Bears' record of 19-7 last season was certainly impressive, Cal was a definite force to be reckoned with on their home courts. The Bears compiled a 13-1 record at home during the 2002 campaign, including a 10-match winning streak that spanned two months. The run was broken by Stanford (4/9/02) - then No. 6 in the nation - which only narrowly defeated the 17th-ranked Cal team by a 4-3 score. Cal has kicked off the 2003 home slate where it left off last year, starting the season 4-0 at Hellman.
DOUBLE TROUBLE?: Entering the 2002-03 season, Cal head coach Peter Wright pointed to doubles competition as a possible team weakness. But through three matches, the Bears have compiled an impressive 14-8 record while taking the doubles point in six of the eight matches. Cal's tandem of Patrick Briaud and Balazs Veress leads the pack with a 7-1 start.
OFF TO THE RACES: The last time that a Cal team opened the season 7-1 or better through eight matches was 1989 when the squad went 8-0 en route to a 24-8 record and a NCAA quarterfinal showing.
INJURY REPORT: Senior All-American John Paul Fruttero recently returned to the courts for light hitting for the first time since his wrist surgery Jan. 10th. If his recovery goes to plan, he should see action in March - just in time for Pac-10 play.
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