Last weekend’s Midwest Invitational provided an important test for women’s tennis heading into the final stretch of the season.
The two-day tournament played host to some of DIII’s elite women’s tennis powers, yet at Saturday’s end, Chicago stood head and shoulders above the competition by capturing the tournament title.
Playing in Madison, WI, after a challenging but very successful spring break trip, the Maroons were able to rebound from the trip’s disappointing ending at the hands of UAA rival fourth-ranked Emory. In that match the Maroons’ bid to secure a perfect spring break record was halted when they fell 5–4 to the Eagles.
Chicago (12–3) started off hot in the quarterfinals against 22nd-ranked Coe College (17–6). The match followed the teams’ disparity in ranking, with the Maroons pummeling the Kohawks 9–0.
In the semifinal round, Chicago faced DePauw (9–8) for the second time in as many weeks. Their earlier meeting during spring break ended with a 6–3 victory in favor of the Maroons.
Their Midwest Invitational bout was no different in tone as Chicago quickly dispatched the Tigers 5–1. The Maroons’ dominant singles play proved to be the difference, as their five victories were enough to clinch the match without playing doubles.
Chicago did not let up in Saturday’s tournament finale against 9th-ranked Denison (7–6), winning the match, and with it the Invitational, 5–2.
A testament to Chicago’s dominant play in the tourney, it is important to note that three Maroon women went undefeated in singles play.
First-year Kendra Higgins, who recently took home UAA Athlete of the Week honors, continued her consistent play at the number one slot. She owns a blistering 18–5 record in singles play and over the weekend extended her team-high 10-match winning streak.
Fellow first-year Jennifer Kung used the Invitational’s platform to snap out of a recent, and highly uncharacteristic, 4–11 funk in singles and doubles. She too went undefeated in the competition at the second slot, and is now tied for the team lead in wins with an impressive 19–8 singles record.
Fourth-year veteran Vindya Dayananda joined Higgins and Kung as the third to have an unblemished tournament record and currently boasts an 11–3 on the season.
While things were overwhelmingly positive on the Maroon end, first-year Carmen VacaGuzman saw her astonishing 11-match winning streak come to a halt versus Denison at the third spot in singles competition. The 6–3, 2–6, 1–0 (10–5) loss was her first in nearly two and a half months of play and her only loss of the Invitational, dropping her season mark to a remarkable 19–3.
In a dangerous match that the Maroons hope doesn’t lead to a late-season letdown, the South Siders will travel to 21st-ranked Wheaton on Tuesday, April 14. While Wheaton has a respectable 14–3 record for the year, they are 0–2 versus nationally ranked opponents.
The Maroons are certainly focused on the rapidly approaching UAA Championships near the end of April, but they must be wary of any complacency or relaxation with two matches left on the schedule, starting with Wheaton.