SPORTS

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April 25, 2006

Men’s tennis fifth at UAAs after Carnegie upset

It was a fitting end to an unpredictable spring. After a regular season that could only be described as inconsistent, men’s tennis may have experienced its latest pendulum swing.

With their slim NCAA chances hanging in the balance, the 29th-ranked Maroons (12–10) suffered a first-round upset at the UAA championships en route to a fifth-place finish. The third-seeeded South Siders dropped the first match 5–2 to sixth-seed Carnegie Mellon (3–11) Friday to fall into the relegation bracket. Chicago did manage to bounce back Saturday to sweep a pair of showdowns, defeating seventh-seed Brandeis (8–9) 4–1 in the consolation semifinals before snagging a 4–3 decision against Rochester (13–5) to capture the fifth standing. The killer combo of fourth-year Ward Bortz and third-year Vivek Venkatarman (9–3) were unstoppable, going 2–0 on the weekend.

After showing signs of a turnaround over spring break with a four-game winning streak, the Maroons couldn’t keep it up over the final few weeks. Their tourney opener epitomized some of their recent struggles.

“We were expecting to come out third because we should have beaten our first team, who we had beaten earlier this season,” Venkataraman said.

It started off well enough. Chicago grabbed two of three doubles matches against Carnegie to take the pairs point and the early lead. Bortz and Venkataraman squashed third-year Jordan Koslosky and first-year Yiran Liu (5–5) 8–4 at first while second-year Sasha Deriy teamed up with first-year Alex Winney (5–6) at third to defeat third-year Dan Munoz and fourth-year Carl Yang (0–1) 8–4. It looked like the team was on the way to tagging the Tartans with the loss for the second time in 2006 after a 4–2 victory against Carnegie February 11. Heading into singles play, the Maroons may have felt a little too close to breaking out the broomsticks.

“People might have been a little too confident against Carnegie because we’d beaten them pretty well the last time we faced them,” Venkataraman said. “I also think they were a little hungry for revenge. All of our losses have been tough this season. They were matches that we shouldn’t have dropped.”

Things fell apart in a hurry for Chicago, as only Tchan (16–11) managed to put up a W. The second year had a 6–2, 6–3 victory against Yang (4–11) at fourth, while only one of his teammates could even push their opponent to a third set. Tchan ended up going 3–0 on the weekend, an undefeated mark only matched in singles by Winney (7–8), who went 2–0 at sixth.

Eliminated from top-four contention, Chicago needed a quick turnaround in Saturday. With rainy weather limiting the opening match to singles play to get a quick decision, the bottom half of the squad took care of business for the Maroons in the showdown against the Judges.

Blowing out opponents in straight sets, Tchan and Winney capped off their perfect showings. The second-year destroyed third-year Cliff Silverman (6–7) 6–3, 6–0 at fourth, while the rookie wiped out first-year Derek Tesser (0–7) 6–3, 6–0 at sixth. Converting his only win on the tourney, second-year Sithian Bharath (12–13) crushed fourth-year Hart Daniels-Corness (4–8) 6–1, 6–4 at fifth. Deriy (16–10) struck the final blow to Brandeis with a 6–0, 4–6, 6–3 win against third-year Jordan Bieber (8–5) at second.

With weather permitting the doubles partners back on the court for the Rochester match, the dynamic Bortz/Venkataraman and Deriy/Winney duos got it done once again for the Maroons. Bortz and Venkatarman pounded second-year Eric Prince and first-year Jeffery Titcombe (3–1) 8–3 at first while Deriy and Winney snuck by 8–6 against fourth-year Josh Bruce-Black and third-year Michael Burger (3–0).

With the 1–0 lead in hand, the Maroons hung on to split the singles matches and pull out the win. The 21st-ranked Bortz (16–9) found his form at first to take down second-year Eric Hansen (12–6) 6–4, 3–6, 6–3. Putting up battles at fourth and sixth, Tchan came out on top 6–4, 5–7, 6–2 against Bruce-Black (14–6) while Winney defeated Titcombe (8–4) at sixth 6–3, 4–6, 6–4. It may have been too little, too late, as the squad’s ninth ranking in the Central will likely leave them on the outside looking in with the NCAA tournament committee. Bortz has a reasonable shot at a berth in the national singles competition.

think we kind of salvaged the tournament after the disappointing start,” Venkatarman said. “This is probably the end of our season though. We’re probably not going to go to NCAAs this year, and it would be a surprise if we did.”