Chicago head coach Jay Tee cares about more than just winning and losing.
“I try and schedule a tough schedule,” he said. “As a competitor, I would rather lose a match 7–0 against a really good team than win a match 9–0, or whatever the score might be, against a very weak team. I want to get better rather than getting confidence from beating lesser teams.”
The Maroons were able to do both—gain experience and confidence—on Saturday. Chicago buried UW–Green Bay, a DI team, 6–1.
With no tangible implications for the Maroons’ record, the match helped Chicago sort out its flaws in time for the regular season. Second-year Kelsey McGillis said these conditions especially helped in doubles.
“In the past, we have been more docile at the net, so playing a DI school who also is much more active at the net, gave us a great opportunity to see how working on these aspects of our game translated into matches, especially against teams with lots of experience in moving forward aggressively,” she said.
The new approach McGillis and No. 2 doubles partner and fourth-year Linden Li took helped ensure an 8–5 victory.
Still, the win wasn’t perfect. After storming to a 6–2 lead, the Chicago tandem lost the next three games before finally clinching the win.
“Once they started adjusting and stepping up their game, we failed to adjust at first,” McGillis said. “At that point, we got our energy back and continued to play the way we did in the beginning of the match, which consisted of moving forward and crossing at the net.”
Second-year Megan Tang and first-year Helen Sdvizkhov won by the same score at No. 1.
Despite playing with Tang most of the season last year at No. 3 doubles, McGillis said that the transition partnering up with Li was smooth.
“Megan [Tang] and Linden [Li] definitely have different styles of play, so, in that sense, our doubles strategy is much more aggressive in terms of crossing and coming to the net,” she said. “I am really excited to see how the teams turn out once all the teams get more acquainted with one another and the chemistry starts to flow more.”
First-year Stephanie Lee and second-year Maggie Schumann eased through their No. 3 doubles match, 8–2.
“Stephanie Lee was a local girl who I didn’t think would even make the team coming out of fall practice, and now she’s hold[ing] down the No. 3 doubles spot and playing really, really well there,” Tee said. “I think she’s another person that could be one of the best players we’ve had if she keeps improving and working hard.”
Even though the Maroons swept doubles, it only gave them one point, given DI rules, making singles wins all the more important.
Tang only lost three games in her 6–2, 6–1 victory at No. 1 singles. Last year, as a first-year, she mainly played No. 5 and No. 6.
“She worked a lot on her fitness over the summer, and she’s probably one of the quickest players in DIII,” Tee said. “Her footwork is great, and it all starts with that. I think she made a great emphasis on that this summer, and it’s really paid off for her.”
First-year Sruthi Ramaswami defeated Samantha Iwen 6–2, 6–2 at No. 5 in another match of note. Tee said that he did not have extremely high expectations for Sruthi in the fall, but that changed quickly.
“Sruthi came in as a little bit of an unknown, but she’s really stepped up from the fall until now,” Tee said. “We’ve got her playing with a little more passion, a little more energy, and the results are getting there.”
Fellow first-year Sdvizkhov edged Rebecca Nelson 6–0, 7–6 (0) at No. 4.
“Everyday in practice we’re trying to get more and more out of her because I think she can be one of the best players we’ve ever had here if she continues to improve,” Tee said.
McGillis pulled out her No. 3 match in a third-set tiebreak, 6–7 (1), 6–1, 1–0 (10–5). The second-year struggled with shoulder problems last year but said she is now healthy and hopes to never serve underhand again, as she was forced to last year.
Schumann cruised to a 6–1, 6–1 win at No. 6.
The lone loss on Chicago’s side came at No. 2 with Li. After overpowering Stephanie Londre 6–2 in the first set, Londre came back to win 2–6, 6–4, 1–0 (10–4).
“Linden’s got this game where she hits a big ball, and it takes a little while for the other player to figure it out, so she wins a lot of first sets,” Tee said. “Right now with Linden, we’re working on what do we do when the power and pace isn’t enough and trying to get her to make a few more balls. I’ve talked [to] her and she knows that if she would’ve made a few more balls there, put the pressure back on her, it would’ve been a straight set win.”
Overall, Tee has worked tirelessly in creating even more success for a program that has been at the top of the nation for the past few years through many practices and strength and conditioning training.
“I think they need to be pushed a little bit, ‘cause they’re very, very talented, and I want to get the most out of them as we can,” Tee said. “That means getting faster and bigger and spending more time on the practice court, and I ask a little more of them than maybe the last coaches do, and at first it was a tough adjustment, but they’re all coming around, and I think they’re starting to see it in their play, and they’re buying into it a little bit.”
The Maroons open up their regular season on Saturday at 6 p.m. against Denison. The match will be held at 5 Seasons in Burr Ridge, Illinois.