Only Mother Nature could have stopped the recent run of success for Chicago tennis, and she won in straight sets.
Rainy weather washed out Tuesday's matches against Olivet Nazarene. The men (16-8) were able to make up the match Wednesday, falling 4-3 in a meet cut short by darkness. With the UAA tournament opening this morning, the women (12-6) were unable to reschedule, ending their regular season with their eight-match winning streak intact.
The Maroons were looking for a quality opponent after knocking off Wheaton 5-2 April 5, and they found one in the guise of the Tigers (16-1), who entered the meet ranked 18th in the NAIA. The teams split the singles matches evenly at 3-3, with Chicago picking up points at first and second singles from third-year Ward Bortz and first-year Sasha Deriy. First-year Bharath Sithian also stepped up for the Maroons, notching a 7-6, 6-2 win over Olivet third-year Luis Loyola.
With darkness falling, the fifth singles match between Chicago fourth-year Jake Reckess and ONU third-year Aaron Gregory was forced to a super tiebreaker. Gregory was the first to 10 points, clinching the meet for the Tigers.
An Olivet sweep at doubles proved to be the difference in the tightly contested showdown, the men's last regular season meet.
"It may have been the best thing for us," Reckess said. "Because the match was so tight all the way through, and everyone had a close match, it was a good tune up for the UAAs. Not enough of us won those close matches, but it's still good preparation."
Postseason play for both teams began this morning, as the first round of the UAA championship tournament got under way at Brandeis. The men grabbed the highly competitive conference's fourth seed, and have drawn Carnegie Mellon in the quarterfinals. The Tartans (10-5) are highly regarded, having held down a place in the national rankings for most of the year.
"Everyone just has to come with their game," Reckess said. "There are great teams here, and if we want to be one of them we have to bring our game. We've worked hard the whole year. If we bring it, we should do fine."
The surging women's team also received the fourth seed and put their streak on the line against Rochester (6-13). The women are determined to extend their winning streak and improve upon last year's sixth place standing.
"The seed puts us in a really good position in the first round, since we don't have to play the seeded teams," said fourth-year Christine Kim. "We want to do well in our first one and then take it from there.
"We beat Rochester 8-1 last year. They have a few new girls, but we're still pretty confident," she said. "We're aiming to get it done on doubles so that we can go into singles with a lead."
In a loaded conference, both teams would likely face semifinal matches against the perennial national-title contender Emory Eagles (M: 13-2, #3; W: 12-3, #1) in the event of a win. Both Atlanta squads have won every UAA title since 1990.
The men have languished in last place for the past six years, and will be hoping to surprise their rivals with a top-four finish.
"We're excited," Reckess said. "We set a goal at the beginning of the year to beat teams we weren't supposed to beat, and we did it. Now, our goal is to turn some heads, and show people that Chicago tennis is back, one of the better teams in the league."