Women’s tennis fell to Emory at the UAA Championships in St. Louis this weekend. An injury rendered fourth-year first doubles player Chrissy Hu unable to play in the tournament, putting the Maroons at a disadvantage. While Chicago (17-3) triumphed against Case (9-8) 9-0 in Friday’s quarterfinal and bested Carnegie (11-8) 5-2 in Saturday’s semifinal, the second-seeded Maroons were unable to overcome the loss of Hu as they were defeated by top-seeded Emory (19—4) 5-2 in Sunday morning’s final. The respectable second-place finish for the Maroons did not diminish their momentum going into the NCAA Division III tournament.
With the dynamic duo of Hu and third-year Kendra Higgins unable to make their mark once again in the first doubles position, head coach Marty Perry pursued the lineup change in doubles that he hoped would ensure victory: Third-year Jennifer Kung moved up from third doubles to play with Higgins, third-year Tiffany Nguyen paired with third-year Aswini Krishnan at third doubles, while second-year Linden Li and third-year Carmen Vaca Guzman stayed at second doubles.
“We only had a couple of days to practice with our new doubles teams after we found out Chrissy couldn’t play,” Kung said. “So, that made doubles tougher since the new teams didn’t really have any experience playing together.”
This inexperience did not show in Friday’s quarterfinal against Case. All three pairs took victories, with Higgins and Kung winning 8-4, Li and Vaca Guzman triumphing 8-2, and Krishnan and Nguyen crushing their opponents 8-2. The doubles explosion rolled over and made for even more impressive singles performances. No Maroon allowed more than two games in a match, and nine of the 12 sets ended 6-0 in the quarterfinal. The 9-0 obliteration of Case brought a crucial boost for Chicago as they faced third-seeded Carnegie the next day.
“Defeating Case 9-0 did give us some momentum for the rest of the weekend, because every single player performed at their peak that day,” Li said.
Unfortunately, the Maroons showed early signs of doubles inexperience in the semifinal. Despite a commanding 8-2 victory by veteran duo Li and Vaca Guzman at second doubles, the new pairs were unable to defeat their opponents. Higgins and Kung fell short 8-4, and with one point apiece, Carnegie barely bested Krishnan and Nguyen 9-7.
The 2—1 deficit going into singles did not at all worry Chicago. Wins by second-year Shanelle Trail, 6-1, 6-3, at sixth singles, Krishnan, 6-2, 6-0, at fifth singles, Higgins, 6-1, 6-2, at first singles, and Kung, 6-1, 6-1, at second singles clinched a spot in Sunday’s final against Emory, as expected. While the other two singles matched went unfinished, Li was pleased with her dominating 6-2, 5-2 performance at fourth singles.
“My singles match against Carnegie was pretty solid,” she said.
In spite of the 5-2 win in the semifinal, the Maroons knew defeating Emory would be much more of a struggle.
“The odds were against us, but we believed that if everyone came out confidently and competed to the best of their ability, then we could walk away with another UAA title,” Kung said.
Chicago got off on the wrong foot. An early 8-3 loss by Krishnan and Nguyen at third doubles put the Maroons in an unwanted 1-0 deficit. Shortly after, Higgins and Kung fought off their inexperience playing with each other to rattle their opponents off the court at first doubles, 8-1. However, Vaca Guzman and Li’s experience was not enough to pass their opponents at second doubles, as the pair lost 8-3.
At singles, Chicago was unable to mirror the performances of the past two days. Emory clinched the championship just before Kung put another point on the board for the Maroons, when she tightly won 6-7 (3), 6-2, 10-4 at second singles. Chicago fell 5-2.
The South Siders feel that there remains much room for improvement.
“Up to this point, we know that we still haven’t had a match where every single person played as well as they could, and despite this, we’ve still had a good year. We know that if everyone can bring their best game on the same day in singles and doubles, we can beat any team in the country. Hopefully, we’ll finally make that happen this year at NCAA’s,” Kung said.