The Maroons were not about to lose with the crowd on their side.
In front of an unthinkable 212 fans, No. 3 Chicago (2–2) buried Denison (0–2) by a final score of 8–1 on Saturday’s Friends and Family Night at the Five Seasons Sports Club in Burr Ridge, IL.
“We were all really surprised at the number of people who came to watch,” second-year Kelsey McGillis said. “Having the 2012 graduates here made a huge difference; being together and seeing them in the crowd and hearing them cheer for us was a great experience.”
The impact of the crowd became clear early on.
With a large focus on attacking the net in practice, first-year Helen Sdvizkhov and second-year Megan Tang stormed to an 8–5 victory at No. 1 doubles.
“I think our match against Denison was the best example of [attacking the net],” Tang said. “We would use our serves and groundstrokes to set one another up to finish points at the net. It has been going really well so far, and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do against stronger teams.”
McGillis and fourth-year Linden Li showed similar aggression at the net in an 8–4 win at No. 2 doubles.
“On the serve, if we were able to put our first serve in play, we had no trouble finishing the point at the net,” McGillis said.
The lone loss of the evening came in doubles match where first-year Stephanie Lee and second-year Maggie Schumann were shut out 8–0.
But with a 2–1 lead going into singles, the Maroons never looked back, sweeping all six singles matches.
McGillis faced a familiar opponent in her singles match. The second-year had already beaten Denison’s Taylor Hawkins in doubles when she played her again at No. 3 singles. That familiarity put McGillis at an immediate strategic advantage.
“She had a weak second serve and got nervous at important points; she also did not like when I took the ball early and gave her less time to react,” McGillis said. “Oftentimes, however, players are much better at singles than doubles, or vice versa, so it is important not to underestimate your opponent under any circumstances.”
This time, McGillis’s estimations were correct, and she won 6–3, 6–2.
Tang relied on her footwork for a 6–2, 7–5 win at No. 1. Last week, head coach Jay Tee said that Tang was one of the quickest players in DIII.
“When I get in position and move my feet quick enough, I am able to execute the shots I want in matches,” Tang said. “Ultimately, it comes down to my footwork. If I don’t move fast enough, I won’t be able to hit the offensive shots.”
Li edged out Alex Marcell 7–6 (7–3), 6–3 at No. 2 while the rest of the Chicago lineup had decisive wins. Sdvizkhov cruised to a 6–2, 6–2 win at No. 4, and first-year Sruthi Ramaswami dominated her opponent in a 6–0, 6–2 victory at No. 5.
First-year Stephanie Lee rounded out the Maroons’ lineup with 6–0, 6–1 win at No. 6.
Chicago will play its most important matches to date this weekend at the ITA Indoor Championships. Matches take place from Friday through Sunday in Greencastle, IN.