After a successful weekend against a slew of ranked opponents, the South Siders will play their last regular season match of the year against No. 16 Gustavus Adolphus this Sunday. The team enters the match with a No. 13 national ranking, and a record of 13–4.
The Maroons so far have had an excellent regular season, with three of their four losses coming to No. 8 Case Western, No. 4 Pomona-Pitzer, and No. 5 Wash U. All three of these losses were close, with the Maroons falling 5–4 in each of the contests.
The parallels between the Maroons and their opponents are striking. Gustavus Adolphus enters the match with a record of 29–6, and interestingly, two of those losses have come at the hands of No. 8 Case Western and No. 4 Pomona-Pitzer. The scores? 5–4.
Fourth-year Ankur Bhargava said, “Even though we came up just short against Wash U, we did a great job rebounding and beating Texas–Tyler and UW–Whitewater [and] I believe these matches will help give us confidence and help us realize that we can compete with anybody in the country.”
Last season, Chicago and Gustavus Adolphus met in March with the end result being a 7–2 loss for the South Siders. But the Chicago squad is completely different this year, boasting nine underclassmen of the 14 members of the team. One of these underclassmen, a first-year no less, earned UAA Athlete of the Week honors for the fifth week this year.
This standout first-year, Nicholas Chua, said, “Hopefully we can take that mindset into this coming weekend and play them with the same energy and fight as if they were a top 10 or top five team.”
Bhargava echoed this sentiment. “Hopefully, we can come out firing and grab a solid win this weekend [so that we can] use this match as confidence and another learning experience.”
The game against Gustavus Adolphus is also the last regular season match for two fourth-years who have been with this program through its development into one of the top teams in the nation. They entered the game with a four-year record of 49–27, hoping to add a 50th win to that mark. In UAA play the past three years, the Maroons have gone 2–1, taking fifth place against some of the best competition in the country.
This year though, the South Siders have one of their best records yet, and the two fourth-years are leading a team that is stacked with young talent. “Leading a young team could/can be difficult, but the group of first and second years have matured greatly from the beginning of the season to the end,” Bhargava said.
With its No. 13 ranking, it appears that Chicago will continue on to the highest levels of the postseason. But this match is the last chance to honor the two fourth-years who have dedicated much of their time to this program: Deepak Sabada and Bhargava.
“It’s been an awesome experience. Being my last regular season match, I’m hoping the team can continue to grow and develop together as we have been doing all season,” said Bhargava.
The match is on Sunday, April 16, at Gustavus Adolphus at 11 a.m.