As men's tennis learned, much to its chagrin, all good things must come to an end.
The team's hot start hit a mild cold spot, as the Maroons (10-4) dropped a pair of 6-1 decisions to 16th-ranked Kalamazoo and 16th-ranked Div. II Aquinas Saturday. The team had not lost back-to-back meets this year, and had gone 8-1 since the beginning of the spring season began February 5.
While disappointing, the losses were not unexpected. Powerhouse Kalamazoo is ranked fourth in the Central region, and Aquinas is projected to qualify for the NAIA national tournament. The Maroons are currently ranked 10th in the Central region and have already claimed victory over the Midwest's eighth-ranked team Coe.
"Every loss is tough, but as a team, we played hard," said first-year Joseph Tchan, who dropped a pair of singles matches on the weekend. "And that's what counts."
Third-year Ward Bortz, ranked third regionally and 14th nationally in singles, did some damage despite the team's struggles. Bortz won both of his individual showdowns, winning the tiebreaker against Kalamazoo fourth-year Michael Malvitz (ranked seventh regionally and 28th nationally) 6-3, 3-6, 1-0, and putting down Aquinas fourth-year Matt Garner 6-0, 6-3.
Bortz also combined with first-year Sasha Deriy to split a pair of doubles matches, beating Aquinas fourth-years Jared Flick and Justin Karasinski 8-5 and dropping an 8-4 decision to the region's best, Malvitz and third-year Julian Seelan.
First-year standout Bharath Sithian had a tough day, losing both of his singles matches on tiebreakers to drop his record to 10-4. He has now had three straight losses. He and partner second-year Vivek Venkataraman also dropped both of their showdowns at second doubles, including an 8-4 loss to the regionally fourth-ranked pair of fourth-year Matt Harding and first-year Tim Hubbard from Kalamazoo.
The Maroons face Illinois Wesleyan in Chicago tomorrow, in what should be a return to their winning ways.
"We are definitely the favorites to win this weekend, but Illinois Wesleyan is a good team and we can't overlook them," Tchan said.
In the coming weeks, the team will also face a strong Carthage team and will play five matches in five days in Texas during their annual spring road trip over break.
"I think the most important thing for the spring trip is that we use everything Coach Perry has taught us in the first half of the season and go out and execute," Tchan said.