After an extremely impressive showing at the UAA championships two weeks ago, the No. 8-ranked Maroons have been selected to play in the NCAA DIII Championships this weekend. The squad enters as the No. 1 seed and has a bye for the first round. Chicago will face off against the winner of the Coe vs. Grinnell match in the second round.
Regardless of the outcome of the match, this year can only be viewed as a success for the South Siders. The team finished the regular season with a 14–4 record, enough to secure a spot in the UAA championships. There, the Maroons bested No. 12 Case Western, and after narrowly falling to No. 2 Emory, beat No. 10 Carnegie Mellon handily to secure third place and raise their overall record to 16–5 for the year. The performance earned them a selection to the NCAA tournament. That, however, isn’t changing the way the team approaches these upcoming matches.
“We are coming into the NCAA tournament with a lot of confidence coming off our third-place finish, where we beat two top-12 teams in the country,” said third-year Gordon Zhang. “We are going with our same routine in practice and making sure we are in the best shape possible for this weekend.”
Since this has been the best year that the men’s tennis team has had in recent memory, there is a lot of anticipation going into the tournament. Bolstered by younger players’ terrific seasons, the team earned three All-UAA First Team selections, and first-year Nicolas Chua was voted as the UAA Rookie of the Year. The future looks very bright for this young Chicago team.
The tournament will be a first for the team, as none of its members have made it there in the past. However, they are not letting that distract them from their goal. While the competition will undoubtedly be fierce, the Maroons are looking at a slew of familiar faces on the other side of the net.
“This weekend we are most likely going to play familiar opponents, which include Coe in the second round and either Gustavus [Adolphus] or Whitewater in the third round,” Zhang said. “We have beaten all three teams this season already so I do not think the mentality will change. We feel confident but at the same time, we have to prepare for a battle every single match because every team is very good.”
This confidence and experience bodes well for the team, whose members will be venturing into uncharted territory and looking to make a name for themselves.
Zhang said, “We are all extremely excited for the opportunity and we know as a team we can do a lot of damage.”
The Maroons’ second round match will be at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday at the University of Wisconsin–Whitewater. If they win, the third round match will be held on Sunday at noon.