For the third straight year, the women’s tennis team captured a very impressive fourth place at the NCAA D-III National Tournament in Claremont, CA. After easily taking out Denison 5—0 in Tuesday’s quarterfinal, the fourth-ranked Chicago squad lost to the defending champions, Williams, 5—0 in Wednesday’s semifinal. A tight 5—3 loss on Thursday to UAA rivals Emory completed the three-peat for the veteran lineup.
Maroon tennis was at its best on Tuesday. Having fourth-year Chrissy Hu fully back from injury, the experience of the South Siders was too much for Denison to handle in doubles. All three doubles teams cruised to easy victories, losing only nine games combined.
Singles proved to be just as easy as doubles. Wins by third-year Carmen Vaca Guzman at three singles, 6—2, 7—5, and third-year Aswini Krishnan, 6—4, 6—1, at number six singles, clinched a spot in the semifinal against defending champions, Williams. Every other singles match went unfinished, with the Maroons each having one-set leads on their Denison opponents.
Williams had just as much momentum as Chicago going into the semifinal, losing the same number of matches they would have lost had they had no opponents: 0. Their 15 victories in singles and doubles going into the semifinal caused the dual to be a test of mental toughness. As the Maroons swept Williams in doubles in their last meeting in March, they knew the importance of getting in front again in the dual.
“I think that was very important, as it gave us more confidence and momentum going into singles,” third-year Jennifer Kung said of the value of getting ahead early in doubles play.
Unfortunately for Chicago, they saw the exact opposite fate. Surprising losses at number one doubles by Hu and third-year Kendra Higgins, 8—3, and Kung and Krishnan, 8—2, gave the Maroons an unwanted and early 2—0 deficit.
However, Vaca Guzman and second-year Linden Li gave the Maroons a spark of hope. After being up 7—5, one game would give Chicago a well-needed point to fight back in the dual. Yet, just as with the other matches, Vaca Guzman and Li were unable to pull off the victory. A hold of serve by Williams and a break of Chicago’s serve tied the game at 7—7. Vaca Guzman and Li then broke back to lead 8—7. Once again, a hold of serve would give the Maroons the point. That hold never came. Vaca Guzman and Li would lose by a score of 9—8 (5).
The momentum of Williams was too much for Chicago to handle in singles action. Losses by Krishnan 6—2, 6—2, and Hu, 6—3, 6—3 at number five singles gave the Maroons their first loss of the tournament.
However, the South Siders had to quickly forget about the loss in order take their best finish ever at the national tournament. Facing UAA rival Emory in a rematch of the conference final, the dual was as close as anticipated.
An 8—3 loss by Kung and Krishnan followed by an 8—5 win by Vaca Guzman and Li stagnated the match at one point apiece. The Maroons would need a win by one of the strongest doubles team in D-III NCAA history of Hu and Higgins to gain momentum going into singles. Aggressiveness by both teams led to a tiebreak which the Chicago pair lost, ending the number one doubles match at 9—8.
With a 2—1 deficit going into singles, Chicago was unable to make a comeback, losing 5—3.
Kung, Higgins, and Hu return to action tomorrow in the Individual NCAA D-III Championships, where Hu and Higgins look to be the first team in D-III history to win three consecutive national titles.