There are times when the numbers don’t come close to telling the full story. This weekend was just such an occasion for men’s tennis.
The box score shows a 2–1 weekend for the Maroons, who defeated Ohio Wesleyan 5–0 and Wabash 7–2 Saturday before a 5–2 loss to UW–Green Bay Sunday.
But what some members of the team might refer to as the unfortunate highlight of the weekend is noted simply as “William Pelak (WAB) def. Will Zhang (UCM) 7–6 (5–0), 5–7, retired.”
With his team leading 6–2, first-year Will Zhang came down with a cramp in the third set of his first singles match against Wabash. What started out as a cramp in his quad soon developed into a full-body cramp, and Zhang needed to be transported to a hospital via ambulance.
“I had already played two doubles and a singles match,” Zhang said. “I was right at the beginning of the third set, and my legs started to cramp up, I guess because of the dehydration from all the previous matches. It got to the point where I couldn’t even move anymore, so I had to retire in the beginning of the third set.”
For Zhang’s roommate, first-year Tim Walsh, the incident was déjà vu.
“When we were 16, I played [Zhang] at Nationals, and the same thing happened,” Walsh said. “Identical situation.”
For base-line players like Zhang, cramps can be common. Unfortunately, there was little that the team could do as Zhang lay screaming on the ground.
Fortunately for the team, Zhang’s injury came only after a dominant performance against Ohio Wesleyan and host Wabash.
“Ohio Wesleyan was an interesting school to play,” Zhang said. “First, all of their players [seemed like they] were above 6-foot-5, so it was more like playing a basketball team. Second, they brought their mascot, in uniform, on the trip.”
Not even the Battling Bishops, however, could prevent the Maroons from capturing a 5–0 victory. Chicago let just three games slip away, shutting out the Battling Bishops in five of seven sets.
Wabash presented more of a challenge, first testing the Maroons at second doubles, where the pair of Zhang and Bakhutashvili narrowly emerged with a 9–8 (7–4) win.
However, the bottom four singles stepped up for Chicago, a trend that has helped Chicago build a 5–1 record against D-III opponents.
“We’re really strong down the line; we’re an even team. That’s what made the difference,” Walsh said.
Walsh continued his win streak after being shut out in the season opener against Northwestern, and none of the second through sixth singles players lost more than three games.
The next day, Chicago faced its third D-I challenger of the season. Heading into the contest, the South Siders sported a 1–1 record, but the short-handed squad could not overcome the UW–Green Bay Phoenix, who emerged with a 5–2 victory.
With Zhang unavailable and three more of Chicago’s top six resting after Saturday’s matches, Walsh and fellow first-year Paul Namkoong came away with Chicago’s two victories on the day.
“We were close,” Walsh said. “If we had pulled out some of those three-set matches, we definitely could have had a chance.”