SPORTS

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May 20, 2008

A closer look at All-Maroons MVP candidates

Ellie Elgamal

No matter the strength of the competition, women's swimming could count on a strong showing in a couple races, the 100- and 200-yard butterfly―first-year Ellie Elgamal's signature events. Elgamal took on the role of team leader in her first meet for Chicago, when she won the 200 fly and chopped more than four seconds off the school record.

That was just the beginning for Elgamal, who maintained her record-breaking pace all season. She again reset the standard for the 200 butterfly while breaking her own mark in the 100 fly three times. Her breakthrough year landed her a spot at Nationals, where she took home All-American honorable mention for her 15th-place effort in the 100 fly.

Elgamal's individual accomplishments should not overshadow her contributions to the team. Her achievements have attracted new recruits and helped the team to a fifth place finish at the conference meet, the best in program history.

Appie Hirve

Last season as a third-year, Appie Hirve, along with the rest of the Maroons, followed the lead of a core of fourth-years. This year, on a squad that won the UAA title for the indoor season and has seven members headed for outdoor nationals, Hirve, a Maroon staffer, was someone to watch out for.

During the winter, Hirve started hitting the provisional qualifying standard for the triple jump in mid-February, leaving her with a month to improve her distance and make the final cut for Nationals. A week after her second-place showing in the triple jump and bronze effort in the long jump helped the team win the Association crown, Hirve was the only Maroon to compete at NCAAs.

At the national championship, her distance of 11.45 meters in the triple jump took fourth in a field of 16, good for All-American honors. Hirve is headed to outdoor Nationals for the triple jump this weekend, this time with six of her teammates in tow. Beside defending her previous All-American title, she'll be trying to help her team win national recognition.

Will Zhang

With a 14-8 mark in singles play, first-year Will Zhang recieved the UAA's Rookie of the Year award and was named an NCAA alternate. But there's more to Zhang's achievements this year than can be seen in the statistics.

Zhang got his first taste of collegiate tennis against D-I Northwestern, where he posted the Maroons' only win of the match. A few weeks later, Zhang faced the son of five-time Wimbledon champion Bjorn Borg, UW-Whitewater second-year Robin Borg. Zhang dispatched Borg in straight sets, pushing a fast-paced game against his bigger opponent to win 6-4, 6-4 at first singles.

While the victories at Northwestern and UW-Whitewater gave Zhang a boost for the season, the best was yet to come for the rookie. In early March, Zhang got to take on Wash U second-year John Watts, then the nation's top-ranked D-III player. With a 6-4, 6-4 win, Zhang downed Watts as the Maroons split solos play.

Nate Hainje

Noted rapper-philosopher Snoop Dogg once said, "Drop it like it's hot." Fourth-year forward Nate Hainje must have taken those words to heart, as his clutch shooting and versatile play carried the Maroons to a second-straight UAA title and NCAA tournament berth.

After the Maroons started the season 3-4 and then found themselves the middle of the UAA pack with a 5-3 conference record, Hainje shouldered much of the burden down the stretch. He recorded double-doubles in five of the Maroons' final seven games, helping the South Siders to a six-game winning streak to close out conference play and guarantee another conference title win.

Hainje's senior season came to close with a full stat sheet, as the UAA Player of the Year was the only player in the conference to finish in the top ten in scoring (fourth, 16 points per game), rebounding (fourth, 7.5), and assists (ninth, 3.4). He also shot 50 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from three-point territory.

Leading the Maroons in rebounding nineteen times this season, the 6-foot-5 Indiana native also paced the Maroons in scoring nine times this year, eight of those performances coming during conference play.

Ryan McCarl

During a down year for men's cross country, fourth-year Ryan McCarl went way up. McCarl, who has also competed in track and field, highlighted this fall's cross-country squad, turning in the best time for the Maroons in every meet in which he participated and eventually qualifying for the D-III National Championships.

Showing his talent early on, McCarl was the runner-up at the season-opening Earlybird Invitational at Elmhurst College, where he finished just three seconds behind the top runner.

The impressive results continued all season for McCarl, with perhaps his best day coming at the Midwest Regional Championship in November. There, he placed seventh overall with a time of 24:32, the best 8K time in Maroon history and a considerable improvement over his 56th-place showing in the same race as a third-year.

McCarl concluded his Chicago cross country career on the biggest stage of all, the D-III Championships. The lone Maroon qualifier, McCarl finished in the middle of the pack with a time of 26:03.

Marissa Lin and Vindya Dayananda

While inconsistency in the lower rankings caused women's tennis some problems this season, the Maroons' one-two punch of second-year Marisa Lin and third-year Vindya Dayananda hung tough through injuries to make Chicago competitive. Posting respective singles records of 24-4 and 17-5, the duo's abilities kept the South Siders in close matches and led the way to a fourth-place finish at UAAs, where Dayananda was named to the All-UAA first team.

Dominant from the beginning of the year to the end, the pair, who together posted a 20-8 doubles mark, opened with a fourth-place doubles showing at the ITA Small College Championships in October, with Lin taking a third in singles. They concluded their season last weekend at NCAAs, where they competed in both doubles and singles action. Across the nation, only 32 singles players and 16 doubles-duos are selected for Nationals. The players made both made it to the Sweet 16 in individual play, but were knocked in the first round of doubles action by a tandem from the University of Mary Washington.