From University of Chicago Athletics
Championship week in southern California promised to feature an idyllic setting for the NCAA Division III Tennis Championships – sunny, dry and temperatures in the 70s.
However, once the University of Chicago men's tennis players stepped onto the courts Monday morning, they brought Chicagoland springtime weather with them. Temperatures plunged into the 50s, and a multi-hour rain delay commenced.
The visitors took it in stride and jumped all over the hosts Claremont-Mudd-Scripps to seize a commanding 3-0 lead after doubles play. The Maroons held on from there to win 5-2 and secure a spot in the NCAA Final Four.
UChicago's senior class authored a third trip to the NCAA semifinals in their four years. The No. 7-ranked Maroons (19-4 record) will next meet No. 3-ranked Bowdoin College on Tuesday. The No. 5-ranked Stags ended their season with a 30-4 record.
UChicago and CMS faced off once previously in the postseason. In the 2016 NCAA quarterfinals, the Maroons triumphed by a 5-2 margin.
This time around, CMS held the distinct advantage of home court. But once play resumed on Monday, it was the Maroons who were the most comfortable. They came out firing in doubles play, sweeping all three matches with an inspired effort.
The No. 2 doubles tandem of sophomore Tyler Raclin and first-year Jeremy Yuan blazed through their match with a dominating 8-1 score line. Then the No. 1 pairing of sophomores Erik Kerrigan and Ninan Kumar followed up with a comfortable 8-4 victory. Seniors David Liu and Nicolas Chua capped doubles at No. 3 by rallying from a 7-6 deficit to win 9-7, thanks to two breaks of serve.
The Stags righted the ship in singles to turn the matchup into a close affair. UChicago received first sets from senior Luke Tsai, Yuan and Liu at third, fourth and fifth singles, respectively. CMS eventually pulled to within 3-2 thanks to wins at the top two spots.
Tsai then delivered his 27th singles win of the season, cruising through 6-2, 6-2 to put his squad on the brink. With fifth and sixth singles headed to deciding third sets, the drama was ended by Yuan. The UChicago rookie – who previously provided the clincher in the University Athletic Association (UAA) Championship final – continued his run of clutch play with a 6-3, 6-3 victory to account for the 5-2 final score.
"We knew it was going to be tough to play CMS on their own court, so it was essential that we came out with a ton of energy and landed the first punch," said Head Coach Jay Tee. "We really wanted a 2-1 lead because CMS is so strong in singles, so a 3-0 lead was a bonus. Luke and Dave getting us two quick first sets helped everyone relax a little bit and find their games. Luke did Lukey things once again and then we all felt pretty good with Jeremy in position to clinch because he's handled that pressure so well all year. We are going to enjoy this win during lunch and then turn our full attention to a darn good Bowdoin team tomorrow."