Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wildcats ready to battle California schools
Wins have an interesting way of changing the course of an entire season. In the past two weeks, the Arizona men's tennis team has climbed the national polls after an April 6 upset against No. 8 Washington.
The No. 33 Wildcats have blown through 35 spots in the national field in the past two weeks.
"Everyone is happy this week," UA freshman Carl Hagman said. "We've been waiting for this for a long time."
Recognition isn't everything, though. According to UA head coach Bill Wright, quality play helps a team receive a bid to the postseason NCAA Regionals more than rankings do.
"Rankings aren't crucial, wins are," he said. "We aren't living and dying by the rankings."
Two straight weekend upsets over No. 30 Cal March 31 and UW April 6 fueled the rankings jump. The hot play comes courtesy of UA's underclassmen, junior Steve Capriati and freshman Carl Hagman, both of whom are in the top two positions of the singles lineup.
With only one senior - Jari Niskala - the Wildcats could be poised to compete for the next few seasons.
"They all have very large upsides," Wright said. "They have a lot of good tennis potential ahead of them."
Today, UA (12-6 overall, 3-5 in Pac-10) will stop in Berkeley to take on No. 26 California.
The last time the two teams met, Arizona upset the then-No. 30 Golden Bears (10-7, 2-3) 4-3 in Tucson. Capriati led the victory with a stunning 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 win over No. 25 John Paul Fruttero. Hagman also helped key the upset, beating No. 66 Adrian Bavnes 7-5, 6-7, 7-5.
Tomorrow, the Wildcats continue the California tour when they take on No. 4 Stanford in Palo Alto. The Cardinal's (16-1, 5-0) only loss of the season came to No. 1 UCLA Feb. 18 at the Indoor National Championships.
The loss, however, did not count against Stanford because it was a nonconference game.
Since the loss, the Cardinal have won 10 straight games, including a 4-3 upset over the top-ranked Bruins in Los Angeles. The 2000 NCAA singles champion, Alex Kim, will face Capriati in the top position. Kim, ranked second in the nation, won the last meeting, 6-3, 6-1.
But there were two bright spots in Arizona's lineup. Hagman beat No. 73 David Martin 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 and freshman Whi Kim's 6-3, 7-6(4) upset over No. 78 Ryan Haviland.
Wright said the history between the two teams won't mean anything when they meet this weekend.
"We won't let them think that they can win," Wright said. "We'll just play."