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April 28, 2009

Chicago settles for third at UAAs after loss to Emory

As the dust settles on a classic battle of women’s tennis powerhouses at this weekend’s UAA Championships, one result overshadows all the rest: Emory has now won 22 straight conference titles.The Eagles met the Maroons in a semifinal clash that came down to the final match. The Eagles came back from a 2–1 deficit after doubles and a 4–3 deficit late in singles play to advance to the championship match, eventually winning its 22nd consecutive UAA title and leaving Chicago wondering what more it could have done to break the two-decade streak. The Maroons went on to win the consolation match and finished third in the tournament.“After the Emory match, there’s no denying how upset everybody was,” said fourth-year Vindya Dayananda. “It was a terrible feeling knowing how close we were, but we just couldn’t close it off.”The second seed in the tournament, fourth-ranked Emory (18–4) entered this year’s UAA Championships with its streak in doubt, as both third-ranked Carnegie (19–2) and fifth-ranked Chicago (14–4) had their sights set on becoming the only team other than Emory ever to win the UAA title.As expected, the Maroons dominated their first-round match, setting up a semifinal meeting with the Eagles that had been cooking since the Eagles defeated Chicago 5–4 at the end of March.In their first meeting, Emory took a 2–1 advantage after doubles and split singles to take the victory. This time, Chicago was able to jump out to an early lead by winning two of three doubles matches.First-year Kendra Higgins teamed with second-year Chrissy Hu to win first doubles 9–7, and the pairing of first-years Carmen VacaGuzman and Tiffany Nguyen scored an 8–3 win at three. Chicago had the chance to sweep doubles, as Dayananda and first-year Jennifer Kung were a point away from victory, but Emory’s Zahra Dawson and Lorne McManigle came from behind to take it in a tiebreaker, 9–8 (10–8).The Maroons were able to maintain their lead in singles with wins by Higgins and Dayananda. At four, Hu was able to win the first set 7–6 but dropped the second 7–5 and couldn’t recover, losing the final set 6–2.With the score tied 4–4, then, a spot in the championship match came down to the third spot, where VacaGuzman dueled Emory’s Tshema Nash. After splitting the first two sets, VacaGuzman jumped out to a 4–1 lead in the final set. Nash, however, battled back from another match point and stole the final set 7–5 to give the Eagles the victory.“Both teams wanted it really badly…. It’s just that we were much closer this time. The match could’ve gone either way,” Dayananda said. “In terms of talent and skill, the two teams are so equal it’s ridiculous, it could just go either way.”In Chicago’s earlier 5–4 loss to Emory, they had match point in one of the match-ups they ended up losing; this time, the Maroons dropped two after getting match points.“We definitely have what it takes to beat them,” Kung said. “We just have to capitalize more on the opportunities that we missed this time.”With the UAA Championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament out of the question, the Maroons knew that their trip to Nationals could be contingent on beating 14th-ranked Wash U (14–6) on Sunday, and they delivered.“We realized that if we go out the next day not wanting it enough, we could lose to Wash U,” Dayananda said. “We knew that if we didn’t get stuff together, we could go home with even worse news.”On the heels of just their second loss in D-III play (both have come against Emory), the Maroons came out swinging, winning two of three doubles matches and sweeping singles.The win solidifies Chicago’s credentials for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, and while the loss to Emory stings now, the Maroons are trying to look on the bright side as Nationals approaches.“It’s good to lose because it keeps us wanting more,” Dayananda said. “Had we won the entire UAA conference, we would have been number one in the country, and it’s never a good situation going so far that there’s no way up.”The squad’s next hurdle comes at the Regional tournament, which starts May 8, and Chicago is looking to stay hungry on a road that could lead to a final rematch with Emory in the NCAA tournament.“We know that because we were so close with Emory, we can beat all these other teams out there if we play our best,” Kung said.