Bears Set to Face Sooners in First Round of NCAA Tournament

May 8, 2007


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No. 40 California (14-9, 4-3) heads to Stilwater, Okla., for the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament this weekend. The Golden Bears face No. 26 Oklahoma in the first round at 9 a.m. (PT) on Saturday, while host and eighth-ranked Oklahoma State takes on Sacramento State in the other first-round contest. The winners will square off in the second round on Sunday, May 13, at 12 noon (PT). Two victories will send the Bears to Athens, Ga., for the NCAA championships, which start May 17.

The Bears have never lost to any of the three teams in their bracket. They are 2-0 all time against the Sooners, last defeating them in 1997, 4-3. Cal's most recent match against Oklahoma State was in 1998, a 4-2 victory. The Bears hold a 2-0 all-time record against the Cowboys. Cal is 13-0 all time against Sac. State with the last meeting occurring in 2003.

Oklahoma (19-8, 2-4):
In the Big 12 tournament, the fifth-seeded Sooners defeated fourth-seeded Nebraska to reach the semifinals. OU was eventually knocked out by tournament-champion Baylor. OU went on a streak of winning 15 of 16 matches from Jan. 23 through March 25. Within that run, the Sooners claimed the Rice Invitational title after knocking off three teams ranked in the Top 30. The victories pushed the Sooners from No. 54 to No. 23 in the ITA polls, ending a 15-year drought of not being in the Top 25.

Oklahoma State (17-4, 6-3):
Like Oklahoma, the Cowboys also fell in the semifinals of the Big 12 tournament, dropping a 4-1 decision to Texas. Also similar to the Sooners, Oklahoma State began the season winning 15 of its first 16 matches. The Cowboys are undefeated on their home courts this season. In the ITA rankings, they are led by No. 23 Oleksandr Nedovyesov and No. 30 Ivan Puchkarov in singles, and in doubles, No. 47 Daniel Byrnes and Nedovyesov.

Sacramento State (20-5, 7-0):
The Hornets received an automatic bid into the regional by winning their sixth Big Sky title in the last 10 years. Since Feb. 17, Sacramento State has only lost three team matches. The Hornets are led by Xavier Barajas-Smith and his singles record of 19-5, 16-5 on the No. 1 court. Also recording a 19-5 overall singles record is Gabriel Loredo, who played primarily on the No. 3 court. Anton Stryhas has the most singles wins on the team with 20 and is currently 16-3 on the No. 2 court.

In the 2006 NCAA regional, Cal traveled down the Peninusla to Stanford and defeated UC Santa Barbara before falling to the Cardinal in the second round. In the Bears' opening-round victory against the Gauchos, Cal won the doubles point with victories on the first and third courts. Lennart Maack and Dean Wallace secured the first doubles win by upending current Bear Carsten Thorstensen, who transfered to Cal after last season, and Max Taylor, 8-2, on the third court. On the first court, Conor Niland and Tyler Browne beat Nick Brotman and Bijan Hejazi, 8-2, to win the point for Cal. In singles, Ken Nakahara notched the second point for the Bears on the fifth court when he defeated Scott Hohenstein in two sets, 6-1, 7-5. Niland notched the match-winning point as he got past Nick Brotman in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4, on the first court.

Two Bears reached the semifinals of three tournaments in the 2007 Pac-10 championships two weeks ago in Ojai. No. 26 junior Pierre Mouiilon advanced to the semifinals of the singles main draw before falling to eventual-champion Matt Bruch of Stanford, 6-4, 6-2. Mouillon also made it to the semifinals of the doubles invitational draw with senior Daniel Sebescen. The Cal duo, which won the ITA Northwest Regional doubles title last fall, picked up a second-round victory, after receiving a bye in the first round. Sebescen also got a first-round bye in the singles invitational draw. He picked up two wins in the later rounds before suffering defeat in the semifinals. Another Bear who did some damage in the conference championships was sophomore Eoin Heavey. Heavey racked up wins in the first two rounds of the singles main draw and a first-round victory in the doubles main draw with Geoff Chizever.

Cal has one lone team national title (1925), but 13 doubles NCAA titles and a pair of NCAA singles championships, as well. Bud Chandler won back-to-back singles titles in 1925 and 1926. Chandler was also a doubles national champion in 1926. The Bears last won a doubles national title in 1991 when Matt Lucena and Bent-Ove Pederson claimed the crown. It was the second-consecutive year the duo won the championship. The last time Cal made it past the first two rounds as a team was 2003 when it reached the quarterfinals. Since 1954, the Bears have made it to the NCAA final once (1980), and have made four appeareances in the Final Four (1954, 1961, 1965 and 1991).

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