COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Playing at one of the most challenging college venues in the nation, California led early and then held on to upset eighth-seeded Texas A&M 4-3 in the NCAA championship’s second round on Sunday at the Mitchell Tennis Center. Campbell Johnson clinched the victory with a court No. 2 singles win. The Golden Bears move on to play in the NCAA Round of 16 in Athens, Georgia, where they will take on ninth-seeded Texas at 9 a.m. ET Friday.
Cal improved its record to 17-7, while the Aggies -- who were unbeaten at home before Sunday’s match at 15-0 -- ended their run in the team tournament with a 25-7 record.
“This was a great college tennis match with plenty of twists and turns, and it was a dramatic but quite fortunate ending,” Cal head coach Peter Wright said. “In the end it was two teams battling all day in the Texas heat and humidity. Full credit is due to our strength and conditioning coach, Joel Smith, as well as to our trainer, Elaine Garcia, for handling all of the hydration needs of our guys. In the end, it made a huge difference.”
“I’m so proud of our guys for playing a great doubles point and then putting their hearts into singles. [Sunday] we proved something to ourselves. We’re looking forward to playing against Texas in Athens in the sweet 16.”
The Bears trailed early, as the Cal duo of juniors Gregory Bayane and Chase Melton fell to the team of Junior Ore/Jackson Withrow 8-6 on court No. 1. The Bears rebounded to win on court No. 3 -- with freshman Filip Bergevi and sophomore Mads Engsted beating Jeremy Efferding/Jordan Szabo 8-7(2) – to make the No. 2 clash the deciding match. In another close result, the tandem of senior Ben McLachlan and freshman Andre Goransson beat the pair of Harrison Adams/Shane Vinsant 8-6 to capture the doubles point for the Bears.
Cal took a 2-0 lead in the overall match when Goransson topped Ore 6-3, 6-2 in singles on court No. 4. Texas A&M then got on the scoreboard at 2-1, as Adams beat McLachlan 6-4, 6-1 on court No. 1.
Next in the see-saw battle, Bayane bested Withrow on court No. 5 6-3, 6-2 to give Cal a 3-1 lead, with the Bears needing just one more point to secure the match. But the Aggies won the next match, as Efferding defeated Bergevi 7-6(6), 6-3 on court No. 3 to make the score 3-2.
Nikhil Jayashankar, a junior, came close to clinching for the Bears on court No. 6 after winning the first set, but Szabo won a second-set tiebreaker and eventually posted a 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-2 win to make the Johnson/Vinsant match the decider.
On court No. 2, Johnson came out strong against Vinsant, winning the first set. Vinsant won the next to force a third, and the Cal senior came out victorious 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 to send the Bears back to the Round of 16.
Cal next plays its third consecutive opponent from the state of Texas in the Longhorns, as the Bears defeated Texas Tech 4-0 on Saturday in the NCAA first round in College Station.