Iranpour steamrolls her way to ITA Central Region gold

Iranpour, Kim each advanced to the singles quarterfinals of the ITA Central Region Championships on Saturday.

By Max Hawkins

This weekend, the No. 15 Maroons traveled to Kalamazoo, MI, looking to continue their dominant play through the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Central Regional Championships after having had a successful opening weekend performance at the Bradley Invitational in Peoria, IL the previous week. Second-year Ariana Iranpour came away with her second first place finish to the season and a bid to the National Small College Championships.

The Maroons prepped for the Central Regional Championships by facing off against Division I teams at the Bradley Invitational. Three singles players and two doubles pairs were still alive for the South Siders on the last day of the tournament. First-year Adrienne Travis won the consolation final of the C Flight 6–4, 6–0, while Iranpour defeated Chicago’s first-year Rachel Kim 0–6, 6–2, 10–4 to win the A Flight, the most difficult pool.

Third-year Tiffany Chen and fourth-year Lucy Tang teamed up in doubles play to win the consolation of Flight B, 8–1. Kim again found herself in the Flight A finals playing doubles alongside second-year Courtney Warren. The duo grinded out an 8–7 victory, 7–5 in the tiebreaker.

The Maroons walked away from their opening weekend with confidence and solid team chemistry to set the stage for a strong performance at the ITA Central Regional Championships.

“We have had a lot of success because of our support for one another. I think that is one of the biggest reasons we are all advancing in the draw,” said Iranpour.

She added, “I think the keys to a successful ITA are energy and confidence, both from yourself and your teammates. We really bonded as a team on and off court which made our practices more competitive and unified.”

The Maroons are looking to build off their results not only from the Bradley Invite but also from the previous season. Last year in the ITA Central Regional Championships, the Maroons advanced four players to the quarterfinals: second-year Jasmine Lee, Chen, and Iranpour, in addition to recent graduate Megan Tang. In doubles play, Iranpour and Tang won the tournament and earned All-American honors with Chen and Warren losing in the round of 16.

Despite the strong start to the season last year, the Maroons feel even better about their prospects this year. “I thought this year we are a lot stronger of a team, especially with the new first years’ talent. The dynamic is a lot different since we only have one third-year and one fourth-year,” said Chen.

More competitive practices along with heightened team chemistry allowed the Maroons to live up to high expectations in the ITA Central Regional Championships this past weekend.

On the first day of the tournament, the Maroons went 11–2 in singles play. Strong performances by first-years Kaela Bynoe and Kat Stevanovich, along with Iranpour, Kim, and Chen advanced five Maroons to the round of 32. Warren and Travis each earned a victory before being eliminated in the round of 64.

In doubles, the Maroons finished 7–1 on the day, with three of the four pairs concluding the morning session victorious.

The second day of play narrowed the field for the Maroons as only two singles players advanced to the quarterfinals. Tang, Bynoe, Stevanovich, and Chen all fell at the hands of the ultra competitive Central Regional Championship opponents. Iranpour and Kim proved victorious, however, both advancing to the quarterfinals on day three. Kim defeated her opponent 6–2, 6–2 to advance. Kim followed this up by teaming with Bynoe in doubles play to make it the farthest of the Maroons squads. Wash U knocked out the duo later in the quarterfinals.

On the third day of competition, Iranpour proved resilient. After dropping the first set of the quarterfinal match, Iranpour fought back, taking the last two sets 6–3, 6–3 to reach the semifinals. Kim, meanwhile was fighting her own battle against the No. 17 seed out of Denison. Two hard-fought sets resulted in a 7–6, 7–6 two-set victory for the rookie, sending her to the semifinals. However, Kim’s impressive run was put to an end at the hands of the No. 5 seed from Case Western. She dropped the semifinal match 6–4, 7–5.

Iranpour, however, was far from done as she made quick work of her opponent out of Kalamazoo to qualify for the championship game. At this point in the tournament, there seemed to be no stopping the hard-hitting powerhouse. Iranpour won the tournament by defeating a No. 5 seed from Case Western. Iranpour steamrolled her opponent, winning 6–1, 6–2.

Iranpour will continue her fall season when she heads to the ITA Small College Championships later this month. The rest of the team will get a break, however, as their short fall season comes to an end. They will resume play again in January.