While most of the student body at UChicago was in the throes of midterms and sixth week, the hard-hitting Maroons were in Whitewater, Wisconsin, making history by advancing to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Division III National Championships. It is the first time that the Maroons have ever made it to the quarterfinal round. Having come off a 5–2 drubbing of Gustavus Adolphus to make it to the Elite Eight, the Maroons hope they can ride their established momentum into the next round.
The South Siders will take on No. 2 Amherst on Monday. While one would assume that it would be intimidating to take on the No. 2 team in the nation, anyone that has been following Chicago this season knows this team is familiar with top ranked teams. In fact, of the seven teams left in the tournament (outside themselves), the Maroons have taken on two of them, which certainly puts them far ahead of their opponent in terms of high–level experience.
When asked how this experience against top team helps the South Siders, first–year Peter Leung said, “It has given us the knowledge that we can take on any team in the whole nation. We can contend and beat every team in the top five, and there isn’t much that can stop us.”
Fourth–year Deepak Sabada echoed this sentiment and said “We’ve learned multiple times this year that we can beat anyone in the country and we are excited to show that against Amherst.”
However, the Lord Jeffs of Amherst have Chicago beat in that category, as they have played three of the seven opponents left in the tournament. Something that Amherst doesn’t have on the Maroons? Youth. Amherst has a team full of upperclassmen, and while one would think that this give the Lord Jeffs an edge, the South Siders wholeheartedly disagree.
“Every one of the freshman has competed at the highest national level with the biggest stakes for many years so we know how to play big matches,” first–year Nicholas Chua said. “If anything, I think we bring a large amount of experience to the table.”
Leung said, “I don’t really know anything about Amherst’s team, but I know that incoming freshmen tend to revitalize any team,” which displays the confidence that the Maroons rightly deserve.
As mentioned previously, the team as a whole lacks experience in this round of the tournament: it is the first time Chicago has made it to the Elite Eight. Instead of letting this rattle them, the Maroons are using it to fuel their competitive drive.
“It feels good to be a part of this especially since this is the first time the team has made the tournament in my four years here,” said Sabada. “Obviously, we have never been to the Elite Eight before while Amherst is the defending national champ, but we have played top competition throughout the year and we feel confident in our abilities to knock them off.”
Chua said, “I think what a lot of people don’t realize is that for us freshmen it could very well be the tenth or fifteenth time in the quarterfinals and it wouldn’t make a difference because this is our first year on the team and anything is a new situation.”
The team has already made history, but there’s no way that this Chicago squad is in any way satisfied. Regardless of ranking, previous opponents, or overall team experience, Chicago and Amherst will play at 1:00 p.m. on Monday, May 18 in Mason, Ohio. That matchup will ultimately determine who gets the chance to play in the semifinals against either Middlebury or Trinity on Tuesday.