Escaping Chicago for the week, the Maroons trekked down to sunny Altamonte Springs, FL last week to take part in the UAA Championship, as they looked to cap off one of the most successful seasons in school history.
Competing as the No. 5 seed, the Maroons opened up the eight-team tournament with a Thursday matchup against the No. 4 seed Spartans from Case. Having lost to the Spartans earlier in the season, the South Siders entered the match with a strong hunger for victory.
Unfortunately for Chicago, it was not able to have its appetite satisfied, as the Maroons dropped a 7–2 match to Case. For the South Siders, first-year Max Hawkins (No. 6 singles) won a three-set thriller by a score of 6–3, 0–6, 6–4, and the doubles pair of fourth-year Krishna Ravella and Hawkins won its pro set at No. 2 doubles by a score of 8–6.
Not to be beaten down by their opening loss, the Maroons demonstrated the same impressive resilience and determination they have shown all season long.
“After we lost our first round, we immediately focused on holding up our seeding, which would mean a fifth-place finish,” said third-year Deepak Sabada (No. 1 singles). “One of the characteristics of this team all year has been resilience, and I think we proved that with some good wins in the latter part of the season after a couple of tough losses early on.”
Next on the platter for Chicago were the No. 8 seed Judges of Brandeis. Not to be misled by the low-seeded Judges, who entered the matchup with a top-30 ranking and 10–8 record, the Maroons got to work early on, as they were able to sweep the three doubles matches that opened the day and jumped out to a 3–0 lead.
However, the recipe for victory would prove to be difficult to master, as the South Siders had to rely on victories in singles by third-year Ankur Bhargava (No. 3) and fourth-year Zsolt Szabo (No. 5) in order to squeak by the Judges by a final match score of 5–4.
With a victory and momentum in hand, the Maroons were prepared to end their stay in Florida on a strong note, as they took on the Violets of NYU in a match that would determine fifth place at the Championship. Refusing to let the Violets smell even the faintest hints of triumph, Chicago dashed NYU’s hopes early with 3–0 sweep on the doubles side of things.
Contrasting with their match against Brandeis, the Maroons were able to handily take care of matters on the singles side, as Bhargava, first-year Brian Sun (No. 4), Szabo, and Hawkins all cruised to victories over their respective conference foes. The South Siders roared back from an opening round defeat to take home their last two matches and a fifth-place finish.
Sabada looked back on the season with fondness.
“[The] team had one of its best seasons in the last couple of years and will finish ranked inside the top 20 in the nation,” he said. “Coach Tee and coach Richie Gray were a big part of that success, and everyone is looking forward to building on this season next year.”