The University of Chicago women’s tennis team breezed its way to two easy victories in the second and third rounds of the NCAA DIII Championship tournament. The Maroons started the postseason off with a bang, quickly dispatching both opponents without dropping a match on their way to secure a spot in the NCAA DIII quarterfinals for the eighth time in school history.
After a bye in the first round, the Maroons took on the unranked Pioneers from Grinnell College. The women dominated doubles, sweeping all three matches for the eighth time this season. First-year Claire Handa and second-year Marjorie Antohi made quick work of their competition, dropping only one game en route to an 8–1 victory in number one doubles. The first-year combo of Catherine Xu and Daryn Ellison continued the Maroon domination, easily taking their match 8–2. Second-years Estefania Navarro and Alyssa Rudin brought the team score to 3–0 with a swift 8–1 win in number three doubles.
UChicago continued to control the competition, winning two singles to bring the score to 5–0 and end the match. Antohi did not drop a single game in her number two singles match, crushing her opponent 6–0, 6–0. Navarro then clinched the match with the final team point, defeating Grinnell’s number four singles player 6–1, 6–0. At the decision, a quick 90 minutes into the match, the Maroons were winning on the other four courts, putting on a stellar display that showcased their talent.
Following the second round, the Maroons brought their energy and their A-game to demolish the host school UW–Whitewater. Doubles started the day off with another sweep to bring the total to nine on the season, with Handa and Antohi winning 8–4, Xu and Ellison winning 8–4, and Navarro and Rudin winning 8–3. The Maroons showed their dominance in doubles, setting the team up 3–0 going into singles. Rudin took care of her competition with a strong 6–2, 6–2 victory, followed by Handa with the clutch win of 6–3, 6–3 to send her team on to the next round.
Looking back on the team’s two big victories, Handa said, “I think the key this weekend for us was our energy. We were able to come in with high energy from the start, and we’re playing great tennis from the first point. Our tennis thus far had been a great combination of aggression and patience in big points. I think we have a great mindset going into the Elite Eight.”
Up next for the Maroons is a rematch of the 2018 UAA Championship against Emory University. The No. 1 Eagles dispatched Sewanee in a 5–0 sweep of their own to advance to the Elite Eight. In the UAA Championship, the overall No. 10 Maroons fell to Emory 7–2, with the two wins coming from the number three doubles duo of Rudin and Navarro and number two singles Marjorie Antohi. Rudin and Navarro defeated their competition 8–6, followed by Antohi taking care of her opponent 6–4, 6–3.
Reflecting on her victory against Emory in the UAA Championships, Navarro says, “I think what made me and my doubles partner successful is that we really never lost focus after a slow start. Usually in some matches you can drift off and lose some points, but after we were down 0–3 we told ourselves to just take it one point at a time, and we managed to win eight of the next 11 games. We really focused on being aggressive and just playing our game without worrying about the result.”
In order to defeat Emory and bring home a team win this time, Navarro believes that “the team has to go into the match with the mentality that we have the ability and the talent to really put up a fight against Emory. I think we lost some belief in our last match, and by the time we tried to get it back it was too late. We also have to make sure we maintain high energy throughout the match, because that’s when we all play our best, knowing every single member of the team is there for each other.”
On Monday, May 21, the No. 10 Maroons will look to keep their hot streak alive as they take on the No. 1 Eagles in the NCAA quarterfinals at Claremont, California.