While the “sophomore slump” is all too real for many college athletes, second-years Ariana Iranpour, David Liu, and Nicholas Chua have not felt the effects. All three athletes had the opportunity to travel to sunny South Carolina for the ITA National Small College Championships to represent the Maroons this past weekend.
Regarding youth, Iranpour said, “I think college tennis gives an advantage to younger players because you have a lot of room to grow.” This was displayed at the competition; three of the four players to which Chicago fell were underclassmen.
Iranpour and Chua both competed in the singles draw, while Liu and Chua also participated in the doubles tournament. Expectations were high for the South Siders; the tandem of Liu and Chua came in seeded at No. 4, and both Iranpour and Chua were seeded at No. 2 in their respective divisions.
The matches commenced on Thursday. Chua led the way with an 8:30 a.m. match. The pressure was high for the second-year: Although he is young, he is the defending champion of the singles draw. Unfortunately, this ranking didn’t help him capitalize on his talent. Despite being unranked, his opponent, fellow second-year Noah Farrell from Middlebury, ended up dispatching Chua in two sets (6–2, 6–2).
The Maroons were able to bounce back, however, as Liu and Chua took on a team from UC-Santa Cruz and were able to defeat them in two sets (6–4, 6–2). Iranpour was also successful on the women’s side, beating her opponent from William Paterson in a hard-fought game that went to three sets (7–5, 2–6, 7–5).
Chua was able to win his Friday match against the No. 3 seeded player from Carnegie (6–4, 1–6, 6–1) to advance to the fifth-place singles match on Saturday. The doubles tandem, however, was unable to continue their 9–0 fall streak on Saturday, and fell in three hotly-contested sets to a team from Trinity that eventually went on to win the doubles championship.
Even though Chua and Liu were not crowned doubles champions, they were still able to come back from the loss to win the third-place match later on Friday. They defeated the Skidmore doubles combo of Leung and Tong in two sets (6–1, 7–6) to wrap up the ITA doubles competition for the Maroons.
On the women’s side, Iranpour faced the No. 3 seed from Hopkins on Friday and lost in two sets (6–4, 6–1), bumping her to the third place game on Saturday. Unfortunately, neither Chua nor Iranpour was able to close the deal in their respective games. Kai Yuen Leung from Skidmore was able to exact his revenge against Chua in two sets (6–4, 6–3), and Iranpour fell in three sets to UAA foe Taylor Cosme from Emory.
Although the results may not be what Chicago was aiming for, the players are still positive with their hopes for spring season and the NCAA tournament. “I’m excited for the spring season and the matches to come,” Iranpour said. “We have a great team dynamic this year and I can’t wait to see how we thrive.”