California Men's Tennis 2008 Season Outlook
Jan. 24, 2008
BERKELEY - Going deeper has more than one meaning for the 2008 version of the California men's tennis team. Bringing in the talents of five freshmen, the Golden Bears will add incredible depth and lineup options in 2008 while the team as a unit aims to go deeper into the postseason. Led by a core duo of seniors in captain Ken Nakahara and All-Pac-10 First Team sensation Pierre Mouillon, the Bears will once again do battle in one of the toughest conferences for collegiate men's tennis.
In his 15th season guiding the Bears, head coach Peter Wright will be looking to take his team to postseason NCAA play for a school-record ninth consecutive year.
'Our expectations are very high' Wright said, 'We have high quality players and a good number of them. The strengths of the team are evenly balanced clear across the board, and we will be looking for marked improvement throughout the season.'
Cal finished the 2007 season with a 14-10 overall record in dual matches and took four wins (three losses) in Pac-10 Conference play to end up in a third-place tie, holding the No. 42 ITA national ranking at season's end. The Bears met No. 26 Oklahoma in the first round of the NCAA Championships and suffered a heartbreaking 4-3 loss at the hands of the Sooners. The last time Cal advanced past the second round in postseason play was in 2003, but this 2008 squad feels it has the balance and depth needed to make a deep run into the NCAA Championship Tournament.
Senior captain Ken Nakahara needs one singles win to reach the 80-win plateau after putting up a 10-5 fall tournament record and winning the Chandler Cup Blue Flight singles title. The team rallies around Nakahara's spirit on the court and will look to their captain for inspiration throughout the dual season. The other elder statesman for the Golden Bears is 2007 All-Pac-10 First Team honoree Pierre Mouillon. A transfer from Mississippi State, Mouillon put together a 28-16 overall singles record in 2007 and was named the ITA West Region Player to Watch coming into the 2007-08 season.
The junior class is depth with breadth and is led by Eoin Heavey, who notched a 20-15 overall record in 2006-07 and went 7-2 in dual matches on court No. 4 for the Bears. Heavey brings a fiery attitude to the squad and has the tools to make an impact in both singles and doubles play this season. A deceptively court-aware doubles player, Geoff Chizever specializes in duets, putting up a 10-4 record in fall tournaments when teamed up on the court. Chizever and Heavey led all Bears doubles teams with 10 wins last season. Rounding out the junior class is Nicolai Horgen. An aggressive player at the net, Horgen brought home five singles victories in the fall and advanced to the semifinal at the Fresno State Bulldog Classic.
Leading the sophomore class is Kallim Stewart. Stewart will look to continue his strong play on the second court for the Bears as they head into the dual season. As a freshman, Stewart put up a 20-16 record and went 5-2 in Pac-10 dual matches. This fall, he compiled an 8-4 singles record and advanced to the quarterfinal round at the Wilson/ITA Northwest Regional Championships. Andy Chirita joined the team before the dual season last year and did not participate in competition. Armed with a deadly volley, the strong attacker at the net will look to contribute to Cal's success this season.
The freshman class boasts the talents of five newcomers, each with already impressive resumes. Coming out of fall tournaments, Bozhidar Katsarov leads all Bears with 13 singles victories. As a result of those wins, Katsarov won the Fresno State Bulldog Classic and the Chandler Cup titles. His play at the Wilson/ITA Northwest Regional Championships also put him in the singles semifinal. Frosh Pedro Zerbini nabbed eight wins in fall singles play and advanced to the quarterfinal at the Wilson/ITA Northwest Regional Championship. Zerbini's performance as one half of the Bears' most impressive fall doubles duo has caught the attention of opponents. Teamed with Chizever, Zerbini helped put together a 10-2 doubles record, advancing to the semifinal at the Wilson/ITA Northwest Regional Championships before winning the Chandler Cup doubles title to close the tournament season.
Jonathan Dahan and Zach Gilbert each registered five wins in singles play to open their collegiate careers. As one of the Bears' most cerebral players, Dahan looks to get time on the court in both singles and doubles as a freshman. Partnered with senior Nakahara, Gilbert enjoyed success in doubles play, advancing to the final at the Fresno State Bulldog Classic and the doubles quarterfinal at the Wilson/ITA Northwest Regional Championship. The most recent addition to the Bear squad is Saddleback CC transfer Shan Sondhu who will compete as a redshirt freshman this season. Sondhu was a top-five national recruit as a senior coming out of Dana Hills HS and will bring a steady all-around game to the Bears.
With the departure of John Petit, Daniel Sebescen, Vaclav Burger and Carsten Thorstensen, the Bears lose a wealth of on-court experience but the team will retain the expertise of one of last year's team captains in undergraduate assistant coach Tyler Browne. Browne received All-Pac-10 Honorable Mention last season after returning from an injury to post 12 wins in dual matches. Also returning to the coaching staff this year will be third-year assistant coach Morten Christensen and ninth-year volunteer assistant coach Wayne Ferreira.
The Golden Bears open the dual season with matches at Tulsa and Oklahoma State before returning to Berkeley for a daytime double-header against Reno and St. Mary's on Jan. 26 at Hellman Tennis Complex. Cal will meet its first Pac-10 opponents on Feb. 1 and 2 as it hosts perennial conference-powers USC and UCLA, respectively. The team will travel to La Jolla, Calif. on Feb. 29-Mar. 2 to participate in the 119th Pacific Coast Men's Doubles Championships. The Bears will begin Pac-10 Conference matches against Arizona on Mar. 28 and play all seven conference matches in a row, concluding with Stanford on Apr. 19. The 2008 Pac-10 Championships will be held in Ojai, Calif. on Apr. 24-27.
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