After a pair of decisive 9–0 wins on its home courts against Oberlin and Wheaton, Chicago will look to continue to defend its stomping grounds this weekend when it hosts University of Illinois-Chicago and Carroll.
The No. 17 Maroons boast a 5–2 record, having fallen only to No. 8 Case Western and DI DePaul. The squad has thus far knocked off a pair of ranked teams in No. 12 Kenyon and No. 26 Denison.
Weekend play begins Saturday against UIC. The Flames are struggling in the early part of their season. They’ve dropped seven games and won just two. Chicago’s loss to DI DePaul earlier in the season was only by a slim margin, and the players will now look to prove that they can hang with the top collegiate level.
“As the team continue[s] to improve it is important that we find quality teams that will challenge us regardless of what division they are. Our mindset when playing these teams isn’t to just keep the score close or to work on improving but to win as a team,” head coach Jay Tee said.
Competing against a highly competitive DI school should prepare the team for the tough road ahead of them. However, it did not change how they prepared for the match.
“We’ve been going about practice as normally, but we are focusing on working on skills that we know we need to work on from the last few dual matches,” first-year Nicolas Chua said. “With only a few weeks before very important matches in SoCal and UAAs, now is our time to solidify our games.”
Following Saturday’s match against UIC, Chicago will take on another nonconference opponent, Carroll. The Pioneers are 2–4 on the season and have yet to get a victory on the road. The two squads have yet to play a common opponent. The Pioneers have only faced one ranked opponent in No. 25 UW-Whitewater. They lost the match 9–0.
“This weekend is a great chance for us to try to bring out what we practiced in match situations,” Chua said. “Obviously we want to pull out the win, but it’s also important to realize that it’s our next few matches that are really important.”
The match against Carroll is the last time the Maroons will take on an unranked team. It will be an opportunity to fine tune the technical aspects of the game. No. 24 DePauw is next up on Chicago’s schedule followed closely by a series of matches in California. A match against DI powerhouse UCLA kicks off the trip to the West Coast.
“We just added one of the best teams in the country to our schedule in UCLA and our goal going in to that match is the same as [our goal in a match against] a Division III opponent: show up ready to compete, believe we can win, and fight as hard as we can for as long as it takes,” Tee said.
This fierce matchup will be followed by a series of competitions against No. 20 Cal Lutheran, No. 19 Whittier, and No. 11 Pomona-Pitzer. However, no matter the competitor, Tee claims the goal is always the same.
“The goal now is to start seeing ourselves as one of the top teams in the country and to go out and show it each time we step on the court,” Tee said.
Saturday’s match against UIC kicks off at 6 p.m. at XS Tennis. Sunday’s match will be held in the same location at 11 a.m.