No matter the sport, this is the matchup that fans look forward to—Chicago against Wash U.
When Chicago takes on Wash U this Saturday, the rivalry will take on even more meaning than usual. Currently, the Maroons (13–3) are ranked sixth in the nation, riding a 10–game winning streak, while the Bears (11–5) are ranked 13th.
A win for the Maroons will be critical for seeding at the UAA Championships. Chicago defeated Wash U 6–3 last week, but Bears’ No. 3 singles player Jamie Silverberg did not play. Silverberg is 19–1 in singles overall with an 8–0 record at No. 3.
Chicago head coach Jay Tee said that last week’s 6–3 victory over the Bears does not tell the whole story.
“It was closer than the score says,” he said. ”We pulled out a close 8–6 win at No. 2 doubles and close singles matches at No. 2, No. 3, and No. 6. If we don’t pull out those close sets, we could have easily lost 6–3.”
For Chicago to get a victory against its regional and conference rivals again on Saturday, the Maroons will look for at least a 2–1 advantage going into singles action.
“We’ve worked so hard on doubles this year that we’re starting to expect to take two out of three, but I’d like to get greedy and get all three this time,” Tee said.
Tee’s expectations for a lead going into singles come with good reason.
Currently, the No. 1 pair of second-year Megan Tang and first-year Helen Sdizkhov is riding a seven-match winning streak and is ranked first in the Central Region. The No. 2 doubles tandem of fourth-year Linden Li and second-year Kelsey McGillis has an eight-match winning streak. First-years Stephanie Lee and Sruthi Ramaswami have an 8–4 doubles record overall and 8–3 record at No. 3.
Chicago’s firepower does not stop at doubles. Tang is on a 12-match winning streak at No. 1 singles and is 22–2 overall on the season. Tee said that Tang’s intangibles allow for her success.
“[Tang] definitely possesses some great physical tools, but what sets her apart from the competition is her tenacity,” he said. ”Megan competes as hard as any player I’ve ever seen, including many good players at the DI level. What she might lack in size or strength she makes up tenfold by the way she competes for every single point.”
Tang easily defeated Wash U’s Theresa Petraskova, who is No. 2 in the Central Region, 6–2, 6–2 last week.
It will be important for Chicago to garner victories at the top of the singles lineup given that Silverberg’s return might cause the bottom of the lineup to face unfamiliar opponents.
Therefore, No. 2 singles player Linden Li will look to edge out Wash U’s Kate Klein again. In the Midwest Invitational final, Li defeated Klein 6–4, 6–4. Both are ranked top 25 singles players in the region.
With two ranked conference squads facing each other, Tee said the winner will be the team that exhibits greater focus.
“We’re very evenly matched this year, and we know it’s going to come down to the team that can stay focused for the entire match and find a way to compete even when we aren’t playing our best,” he said.
The match is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. in St. Louis tomorrow.