The Maroons are coming off a strong performance over spring break in which they went 3–1, narrowly losing to No. 4 Pomona-Pitzner 5–4, but defeating their three other opponents by a total of 24–3. These wins were against Glendale, Whittier, and No. 24 Cal Lutheran.
This weekend, they will take on a slew of ranked opponents, No. 3 Wash U, No. 20 Texas–Tyler, and No. 27 UW–Whitewater. While this may seem like a daunting task to some, Chicago is familiar with playing top teams. In particular, seven of its last 14 opponents have been ranked, not including the D1 UIC team it defeated 6–1 back in February.
Of these seven contests against ranked opponents, the South Siders only suffered two hotly contested losses.
“We are battle tested and know that we will be ready for any challenge that we will face. We’ve come away with some wins and losses against good teams but we have been extremely close in every match,” said first-year David Liu.
Fourth-year Deepak Sabada echoed this sentiment. “We’ve beaten a lot of ranked teams convincingly and our two losses have been to top-10 teams with a 5–4 overall score so we have the confidence that we can play with anyone regardless of what they are ranked.”
Only one team that the Maroons will play this weekend has played more games against ranked opponents, and that is conference rival Wash U. Wash U has played nine ranked opponents in its last 11 games, losing three of those games to No. 2 Claremont–M–S, No. 6 Trinity (Texas), and No. 5 Amherst.
When asked about which team he is most looking forward to playing this weekend, Liu said, “We’ve been looking forward to our match against our rival No. 3 Wash U all year. We know their team and they know ours so it will be a great match.”
This game, while a great one to win due to the rivalry that every Chicago athlete understands, also comes in the context of an even larger frame.
“It’s also very important for seeing in the UAA tournament” Liu said.
Yet another point to note entering into the weekend is that the Maroons are the youngest squad, boasting the fewest upperclassmen of any of the teams this weekend. While one could say that this relative inexperience could be a bad thing, Chicago is obviously proving people wrong.
On the subject of youth, Liu said, “We rely on the leadership of our seniors. They’ve been great to help us develop and compete.”
Sabada added, “All the upperclassmen try to give the younger players an idea of what to expect in matches and environments that we have been in before.”
These games are the last of the regular season before entering UAA tournament play, which is important for future seeding in NCAA Regional, Individual Championship, and Team Championship play.
“As a team, we are looking to perform as well as we can in these last regular season matches and go in at our peak for the UAA tournament,” Sabada said.
The Maroons start off the weekend against No. 3 Wash U on Saturday, April 11 at 9 a.m., which will be one to watch not only for its implications for Chicago’s future seeding but also due to the rivalry between the two seeds. Chicago will then play No. 20 Texas–Tyler later in the day at 2 p.m. On Sunday, April 12 the South Siders take on No. 27 Wisconsin–Whitewater at 9 a.m. All of the games will take place at Wash U.