February 7, 2013

South Siders to test their mettle against second-ranked Kenyon

It may only be the second week of the Maroons’ season, but it’s already time to step up.

This Sunday, Chicago will face Kenyon College, the second-ranked team in the nation and runner-up at last year’s DIII National Championship.

After a relatively comfortable season-opening victory at Elmhurst last week, the Maroons are expecting much greater resistance from the Lords.

“Kenyon is very talented,” head coach Jay Tee said. “I think they’re one of the two favorites to win the NCAA Championship this year. They play fast, they play aggressive, and they play with confidence.”

Whatever qualities Kenyon brings to the court, Tee expects his players to be the aggressors, to play on the front foot, and generally stifle the Lords’ competitive energy.

“I don’t want to be intimidated by them,” he said. “I want to come out and force the action on them and not be reactionary ourselves. I think that’s the biggest thing we can do to combat their talent and energy.”

All of that is easier said than done, of course, and there is a feeling that the Maroons’ win at Elmhurst last week, convincing though it was, left a lot of room for improvement. A lot can change in a week, but the gap in quality between Elmhurst and Kenyon is not an easy one to bridge.

“We have a long way to go. I think we out-talented Elmhurst, but we didn’t do a lot of the right things that we needed to do to be the better team,” Tee said. “That’s what we’ve been working on all week in practice. We’re a very young team, so I’m not sure how much we’re going to get done this week, and we have a lot of growing to do. But I think we’re going to just get better and better as the season goes.”

Chicago has five first-years on its 11-man squad: Bobby Adusumilli, Jake Crawford, William Leddy, Tory Tronrud, and Gordon Zhang. Zhang and Crawford competed in the singles lineup last weekend at Elmhurst, both winning in straight sets. The other three didn’t play but may see doubles action this weekend.

“We’re going to keep the same singles lineup, but we’re going to add some freshmen into the doubles lineup,” Tee said. “I think they’ve been doing some good things in practice, and they’re very good players, and they deserve a shot to show what they can do.”

There are certainly easier shots than playing the number-two team in the country in one’s first collegiate match, but that is the sort of confidence Tee has in his team. He believes in their talent and fully expects them to match Kenyon.

“We might be underdogs on paper, but we’re all fully expecting to go into this match to win it,” he said. “We’re not looking for a close loss or a moral victory: We’re looking to go out there and upset the number-two team in the country, and I don’t think we’re that far off. I think our ranking says we are, but the belief we have in the talent we have on the team says we can give these guys a fight.”

Play is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Sunday morning in Burr Ridge, IL.