Fighting off soreness and a demoralizing loss, men’s tennis placed third at this past weekend’s UAA Championships. After cruising past NYU (7—6) 8—1 in Friday’s quarterfinal, the Maroons were unable to make a comeback in Saturday afternoon’s thrilling semifinal, losing to Wash U (14—5) 5—3. In Sunday morning’s match for third place, Chicago barely bested Carnegie 5—4. The weekend improves the South Siders’ record to 16—4. Chicago’s fate of receiving an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament is out of their control.
Going into Friday’s quarterfinal, the Maroons were prepared to make an impressive showing at the conference tournament. After gaining the second seed by upsetting Wash U just two weeks earlier, head coach Marty Perry decided to keep the doubles teams the same, a tactic he hoped would be successful throughout the weekend.
“The doubles tactics worked really well against Wash U,” first-year Zsolt Szabo said. “All of our doubles teams practiced really well together, and we knew we would bring energy into the weekend.”
All three doubles teams triumphed against NYU, losing just six games combined, with first-years Zsolt Szabo and Krishna Ravella emphatically making their mark, winning at third doubles. Chicago did not ease up despite needing just two wins in singles to clinch a spot in the semifinal, and second-year sixth singles player Harrison Abrams posted the first win 6—4, 6—1. A win by third-year fifth singles player Jan Stefanski then secured a spot for the Maroons to play their archrivals Wash U the next day. The South Siders, however, continued to rattle NYU off the courts, winning three out of their final four singles match.
The 8—1 landslide victory in the quarterfinals gave the Maroons much-needed momentum going against a traditionally strong Wash U squad.
“Even though we were happy to have beaten Wash U in the regular season, we wanted to step up our singles performances because Wash U virtually swept us in singles a couple weeks ago,” Szabo said.
Although all three Chicago doubles teams got out to early leads, Wash U quickly recovered to put up a fight. An 8-4 loss by first-year Alex Golovin and Stefanski put the Maroons on a deficit but, shortly after, third-year Troy Brinker and first-year Neil Karandikar won at second doubles 8—5. The momentum going into singles was going to go the way of the winner of the third doubles match.
Powerful serving by Szabo and accurate volleys by Ravella put the pair up 7—4. However, a break of Ravella’s serve, a held serve by Wash U, and a break of Szabo’s serve, evened the score at 7—7. The Chicago pair quickly regained their composure by breaking Wash U’s serve and only needing one game for the win. However, a break of Ravella’s serve caused the match to go to a tiebreaker. Wash U led the tiebreaker the whole way, besting the Chicago pair with a final score of 9—8 (4). While Chicago was down 2—1, the team did not feel a sense of urgency going into singles action.
“[Wash U’s] win at third doubles was definitely a big one,” Ravella said. “Even then, we still liked our chances in singles.”
Singles turned out to be just as close as doubles. A Szabo loss at second singles brought urgency to all the other players. A 7—6 (5), 6—2 win by Brinker at third singles and 4—6, 6—3, 6—4 win by Stefanski at fifth singles brought a spark of hope for the Maroons. With only fourth-year Will Zhang, Golovin, and second-year Harrison Abrams on the courts, Chicago would need to pull off two dramatic victories. Those victories never came. Golovin was edged out 6—3, 4—6, 6—4, and Zhang, fighting through cramping, lost 2-6, 6-4, 6-4. Given that the Bears clinched a spot in the final, Abrams’ match went unfinished; Wash U defeated Chicago 5-3.
“Even though the loss was very disappointing, we had to forget about it very quickly,” Szabo said. “Losing against Carnegie was not an option.”
Sunday’s third-place match against Carnegie proved to be just as close as Saturday’s match against Wash U. After dropping two matches in doubles the Maroons were down 2—1 going into singles action. However, this time Chicago’s perseverance showed. 6—1, 6—1 wins by Golovin and Stefanski put Chicago up 3-2. Brinker then won 6—3, 7—5. One win would clinch third place for the Maroons. That win came by Abrams, who cruised past his opponent, winning 6—1, 6—0.
The South Siders are content with their finish, and hope their season continues.
“Finishing in third place is respectable, but we definitely need to put more practice in the next couple of weeks to get ready for the NCAA tournament, if we do get a bid to the tournament,” Ravella said.