CHICAGO – For the third time in program history, the University of Chicago men's tennis team advanced to the NCAA Quarterfinals thanks to a gutty 5-2 win over conference foe Carnegie Mellon University on Sunday afternoon.
The No. 7-ranked Maroons improved to 18-4, while the No. 9-ranked Tartans finished their season at 15-8.
UChicago previously reached the quarterfinal round in 2015 and 2016. The next opponent will No. 5-ranked Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, who is serving as host for the NCAA Division III Championships.
After a dreary weekend of rainy weather, Sunday afternoon was clear and sunny at the Stagg Courts. It also marked the third matchup of the season between the two teams – UChicago previously topped CMU 6-3 in February and 8-1 in April.
The Tartans switched up their doubles tandems and early on, the visitors were ahead at the top spots. The Maroons countered at No. 3 doubles, where seniors Nicolas Chua and David Liu displayed sharp hands at the net and rolled to a crisp 8-3 victory. CMU was firmly in control 7-2 at No. 2, which put paramount importance on the No. 1 match. Sophomores Erik Kerrigan and Ninan Kumar fell behind by a 6-4 margin. But the duo broke CMU's serve twice and roared back to win 8-6, giving the hosts a crucial 2-1 score advantage heading into singles action.
UChicago played tight in the early stages of singles and a long afternoon of close matches looked to be in the making. The hosts needed only to split the six singles bouts to achieve the necessary five team points to advance.
Despite falling in a 3-0 hole to start his match at No. 5 singles, Liu stabilized and took over from that point on. He only dropped three more games the rest of the way en route to a 6-4, 6-2 win. In his return to competition this weekend after a prolonged absence, Liu went a perfect 4-0 between singles and doubles play.
The Maroons captured four of six first sets, and Liu's win made the team score 3-1. At No. 6 singles, junior Charlie Pei shook off a rough second set and romped in an energetic third set to win 6-3, 1-6, 6-1.
Only one more victory was necessary in the remaining four matches. CMU took the No. 1 spot to narrow the deficit to 4-2. But the drama was concluded by Luke Tsai. The senior provided the clinching team point for the second day in-a-row at No. 3 singles. A grueling first set full of 20-plus ball rallies featured four services breaks in the opening four games. Tsai broke again to capture the first set 6-4, then cruised through the second set 6-1.
"Carnegie is a very tough team, and we knew coming in that it would be a battle," said Head Coach Jay Tee. "Once we shook off our nerves and got into the swing of things, we were able to play our brand of tennis. To beat a team of CMU's caliber for a third time with a quarterfinal appearance on the line was very impressive. We brought the energy at crucial moments across the lineup. I'm so thrilled for our squad, especially for our seniors who are looking to finish their outstanding careers on a high note."
UChicago 5, Carnegie Mellon 2
1. Daniel Levine (CMU) def. Erik Kerrigan (UC) 7-6 (8-6), 6-2
2. Nicolas Chua (UC) vs. Chaz Downing (CMU) 7-6 (7-5), 3-3, unfinished
3. Luke Tsai (UC) def. Ray Boppana (CMU) 6-4, 6-1
4. Jeremy Yuan (UC) vs. Robert Levin (CMU) 3-6, 6-5, unfinished
5. David Liu (UC) def. Ben Ash (CMU) 6-4, 6-2
6. Charlie Pei (UC) def. Joshua Pinckney (CMU) 6-3, 1-6, 6-1
1. Erik Kerrigan/Ninan Kumar (UC) def. Daniel Levine/Chaz Downing (CMU) 8-6
2. Nicholas Calzolano/Ray Boppana (CMU) def. Tyler Raclin/Jeremy Yuan (UC) 8-4
3. Nicolas Chua/David Liu (UC) def. Ben Ash/Robert Levin (CMU) 8-3
- Monday, May 21 – UChicago at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (NCAA Quarterfinals)