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February 12, 2013

Chicago endures lopsided but illuminating defeat to #2 Kenyon

It was always going to be a big task for Chicago to come out on top against Kenyon, the second-ranked team in the country. It should be no real surprise that the task was too big.

The Maroons fell 9–0 to Kenyon on Sunday, picking up only one set in singles play, and losing all three doubles matches by at least four games.

“Doubles did not go our way at all, but when you are playing a team that has the best doubles lineup in the country, it’s going to be tough,” first-year Gordon Zhang said. “We did not execute in doubles and that shows in the scores we had.”

In the #1 doubles spot, second-year Ankur Bhargava and third-year Neil Karandikar slumped to an 8–3 defeat. First-year Jake Crawford and second-year Deepak Sabada lost 8–2 in the #2 spot, and third-years Alexander Golovin and Krishna Ravella fell 8–4 at #3.

It was a disappointing performance for the South Siders, but perspective is necessary. This was only their second competition of the season and they were facing last year’s runner-up from the NCAA championship. It was a resounding loss, but with the UAA championship still two months away, there will be plenty of time to recover. Not that this is any consolation to the Maroons involved in the defeat.

“We were all pumped up to play Kenyon because we all knew that we had a good chance to beat them,” Zhang said. “Even though they are #2 in the country, our talent level is similar to theirs. Besides that, knowing that they were the #2 team in the country did not affect our performance. We treat every match the same. We had a good week of practice and unfortunately it was not able to translate the same in our match.”

Singles was a similarly one-sided affair, although Bhargava and Crawford showed promise in their defeats at #2 and #3, respectively. Bhargava was beaten in two close sets, 7–6, 7–5, and Crawford forced a decider as he lost 4–6, 6–4, 6–4.

In the #1 spot, Sabada lost 6–2, 6–2. Golovin dropped his match, 6–3, 6–4, and fourth-year Harrison Abrams fell 6–2, 6–3 at #6.

Zhang at #5 shined briefly in the second set before losing 6–2, 7–5. Zhang blew two break points while leading 5–2 in the second.

“I thought singles went a lot better for us,” Zhang said. “We had chances at #2, #3, #4, and #5 singles, but again we did not execute on the big points. That is something our team has to work on: being able to close out big games and win points when it matters.”

As the disappointment wears off, Chicago will have to turn its attention to North Central, the team it faces next Saturday. It will be an easier test for the Maroons, but it will also be a chance to show what they learned in their loss to Kenyon.

It was a defeat, yes, and a lopsided defeat at that, but the opportunity to play a team of the Lords’ quality this early in the season, a chance to see the level the Maroons expect themselves to reach come UAA time, should not be sniffed at.

“Going into our next meet, we have to play with more energy,” Zhang said. “I thought we were too relaxed, and they took it to us when we should have been taking it to them. That was the biggest thing today. Kenyon played with much more tempo and energy, which is something we will learn from them.”

The Maroons are set to face North Central on Saturday at 3 p.m. in Burr Ridge, IL.

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