Fresh off a successful spring training trip, women’s tennis ran into a momentum roadblock over the weekend on their journey toward the upcoming UAA tournament.
Traveling to Madison, WI, for the Midwest Invitational, 23rd-ranked Chicago (9–6) dropped a 5–3 decision to conference rival and 24th-ranked Wash U (10–2) before an injury to second-year top singles player Marissa Lin handed the Maroons a 5–4 loss to UW–Whitewater (17–6) via forfeit.
The results were unexpected for a higher-ranked squad that bested the Bears 5–4 in St. Louis fewer than two months ago and sent the Warhawks packing 6–3 over spring break. With these wins under their belt, the Maroons went into the matches with confidence and higher rankings than their opponents.
“We went in feeling like we would do really well against both teams,” first-year Elena Stratigakes said, “and when we didn’t get the results that we wanted both times, it was really tough. We had high expectations coming off of three wins during spring break, and I think we disappointed ourselves, mostly because we all felt like the team had the potential to perform better.”
Opening the weekend with two wins in doubles against the Bears, Chicago put itself in good position heading into singles action. Although the first-year tandem of Stratigakes and Cristina Simpetru suffered an 8–0 blanking, second-year Justine Kentla and first-year Chrissy Hu handed their opponents an 8–5 loss. Teaming up at the top doubles slot, Lin and third-year Vindya Dayananda easily won an 8–4 decision, but as it turned out, the victory came at a price.
Tweaking an old knee injury in the match, Lin was still able to win a narrow 2–6, 6–4, 1–0 (11–9) round in singles play later in the day. Heading into Saturday’s match, however, her status was unclear.
Meanwhile, Dayananda and Hu, whose singles wins helped propel the Maroons to their earlier triumph over the Bears, couldn’t repeat the feat. At second singles, Dayananda fell 6–4, 6–1, while Hu’s 6–4, 6–2 loss at third sealed Chicago’s fate for the day. Lin was the only South Sider to eke out a solo victory, as Kentla’s 2–6, 6–2, 4–3 match went unfinished once the Bears clinched.
“Last time we played them it was their first match of the traditional season, and they’re mainly freshman, so they were a little inexperienced,” said head coach Marty Perry of the Bears. “At [the second and third singles slots] I think they played well, and we didn’t play that well. They played a really tough match and were just better than us that way.”
Looking to rebound on Saturday, the Maroons suffered a blow when Lin’s knee tightened up after she played on it in an 8–3 doubles win with Dayananda.
“She was able to gut it out [Friday], but then it just tightened up on her on Sunday,” Perry said. “I didn’t think she wanted to play on it and risk it, so we took her out.”
As the Maroons had only traveled with six players, Lin’s injury meant an immediate loss at sixth singles for the squad as other players shifted up to fill Lin’s position. Hu and Kentla had won an 8–5 decision to give Chicago the doubles advantage, but Simpetru and Stratigakes’s 8–3 defeat meant the Warhawks were essentially tied with the South Siders before singles play began.
Replacing Lin at the first slot, Dayananda breezed to a 6–4, 6–1 decision, and Hu quickly took a 6–4, 6–2 victory at second singles. However, these would be the last wins for Chicago on the day, as Kentla dropped a tight 6–4, 3–6, 1–0 (10–6) match, while Simpetru and Stratigakes both fell in straight sets.
“It’s not a pleasant thing to put yourself in a hole like that,” Perry said of the forfeit, “but we thought we were making the best decision we could have and thought we could win 5–4; we just came up a little bit short.”
After this weekend’s upsets in an otherwise successful spring, Chicago remains focused on using its upcoming match against tough, 28th-ranked Wheaton (16–5) to prepare for the UAA tournament April 18.
“We’re trying to put Midwest Invite behind us,” Stratigakes said. “We know we have the skills to do well, so I think these next two weeks are going to be about mentally preparing ourselves for UAAs.”