Chicago rebounds from first round tourney loss to finish fifth

Maroons enter conference tournament with fifth seed, leave with fifth place

By Sam Zacher

The pizazz of sports comes from its unpredictable nature, which was on display at the UAAs this weekend.

The UAA Championships were unpredictably predictable as the No. 29 Maroons (14–5) arrived in Orlando seeded fifth and departed the Sunshine State with the same rank in the conference.

Chicago’s first competitor, the fourth-seeded No. 16 Carnegie Tartans (13–7), defeated the South Siders by a score of 7–2 on Friday.

“Carnegie came out more energetic and fired up. They wanted it more,” second-year Ankur Bhargava said. “They stepped on the court more aggressive than us and beat us from the start. Getting down 3–0 after doubles really hurt us and it was nearly impossible to come back after that.”

The Maroons’ two points came from first-year Gordon Zhang (No. 5 singles) and fourth-year Harrison Abrams (No. 6 singles).

Carnegie went on to finish the tournament in fourth place after losing to second-seeded No. 13 Case (21–6) in the third-place match.

The South Siders put their losses behind them on Saturday against Rochester (13–11). The Maroons aggressively swatted the Yellowjackets into defeat, winning 8–1.

Second-year Deepak Sabada, the usual No. 1 singles player, didn’t play on the first court because of an injury, but the South Siders continued to play at a high level. Bhargava took over for Sabada and won 6–0, 6–3. Sabada still competed on the No. 1 doubles court.

“I stepped into his spot and was able to get a victory,” Bhargava said. “The rest of the team also moved up one spot and did very well.”

Feeling confident, Chicago found itself in the fifth place match against NYU (8–6) and won 6–3. Sabada was back on his No. 1 singles court and was determined to lead his team to victory, winning 6–1, 6–2 in his singles match and 8–0 in his doubles match with third-year Krishna Ravella.

Third-year Alex Golovin, playing No. 2 singles, and third-year Neil Karandikar, playing No. 6 singles, also scored points for the Maroons. In addition, Chicago swept the doubles courts: After Sabada and Ravella came pairs of Bhargava and Karadikar along with Zhang and first-year Jake Crawford.

Although the South Siders went 2–1 in the tournament, the season finale did not exactly leave the team satisfied.

“We ended the season on somewhat of a low note in my opinion,” Bhargava said. “We did end up winning our last two matches to get fifth, but we were essentially the best of the worst. Losing to Carnegie [in the] first round pretty much ended our season, so it was just a consolation prize to get fifth place.”

The only major surprise of the UAAs came in the championship match—third-seeded No. 14 Wash U (17–5) just beat out top seed No. 3 Emory (14–6) by a score of 5–4 on Sunday.

While Chicago wishes it could have shocked the conference in an unpredictable manner, a cliché comes in handy in salvaging the team’s performance: There’s always next season.

“Going into next year, we’re returning nearly all of our starters and have a great recruiting class coming in,” Ravella said. “So we’re optimistic about what could lie ahead.”