Sometimes rankings don’t reveal everything. That’s certainly the case in the Pac-12 this year.
The No. 5 UCLA men’s tennis team will be tested when it squares off against Stanford on Friday and No. 16 California on Saturday at home.
“A lot of the Pac-12 schools this year are good teams, but for whatever reason, their rankings aren’t as high,” said sophomore Martin Redlicki.
The Cardinal and the Golden Bears may not be ranked as competitively as other teams, but they have proven to be formidable opponents this season.
Stanford (10-6, 2-0 Pac-12) has won every game since its loss to UCLA. And California (11-3, 2-0) is on a three-game winning streak and has racked up key victories against top teams like TCU earlier this season.
But the players took to practice with confidence on Tuesday.
“After practice today, it makes me worried that we’re a little full of ourselves, quite honestly,” said coach Billy Martin. “And that’s the worst thing that can happen. I feel we’re capable of beating both those teams, especially at home, but how hungry are we at this point in time and how bad do we want it just remains to be seen.”
UCLA won its last dual match against Stanford 4-3, but the match revealed some of the team’s vulnerabilities – particularly in doubles, a sharp turnaround from its early season success.
The Cardinal took the doubles point from the Bruins after a lethargic start.
“I think the most important thing is just going to be coming out in doubles, ready to go, because we came out sluggish on every court,” Redlicki said. “(Junior) Mackie (McDonald) and I won our match but it was ugly, it wasn’t pretty.”
Stanford and California both have solid doubles pairs. Stanford’s No. 64 Maciek Romanowicz and Nolan Paige and California’s No. 44 Filip Bergevi and Florian Lakat will be especially tough. The No. 4 duo of Redlicki and McDonald will likely face these two opponents at the No. 1 spot.
The Bruins will also face significant competition in singles.
The Cardinal boasts two top-100 ranked singles players in No. 6 Tom Fawcett and No. 56 David Wilczynski. And four of the six players on the Bears’ singles lineup are ranked in the top-100: No. 17 Andre Goransson, No. 28 Lakat, No. 40 Billy Griffith and No. 62 Oskar Wikberg.
But UCLA has an opportunity to cash in on its recent success in singles. Several players had standout performances over spring break, including sophomore Logan Staggs, who took down each of his opponents in straight sets. Two of Staggs wins – against Oregon and Washington – clinched the team victory for UCLA.
“I think I’ve been playing a little bit too defensive in past matches,” Staggs said. “When we went to Oregon and Washington and UNLV I feel like I’m coming forward, utilizing my forehand more and opening up the court. I started playing well and I’m going to keep doing it and see how it works outdoors but I feel like it’s a good way to go.”