Three days. Three matches. Three teams all ranked in the top 30 in the nation.
This is what the No. 17 Maroons have in store this weekend as they face off against No. 26 Denison, No. 8 Case Western, and No. 12 Kenyon.
The importance of this weekend is not lost on Chicago, even among the rookies in the lineup.
“This is a very important weekend for our season because these matches not only impact our team ranking, which is crucial for making the NCAA tournament, but they are also our opportunity to show everyone that we are a completely different team this year,” said first-year Luke Tsai.
Chicago is off to a 1–1 start to begin the season. After dropping its first match to DI DePaul, Chicago bounced back to sweep No. 35 Coe 9–0, with fourth-year Deepak Sabada and four first-years, Nicolas Chua, Peter Leung, David Liu, and Tsai, all tallying wins in both doubles and singles play.
Denison, on the other hand, is opening its winter season against Chicago. Case Western and Kenyon play each other today to open their season. The game will be an indicator of the improvements both teams have made in the offseason.
The Maroons know they have no time to rest on their laurels.
“After beating Coe last weekend, it showed that we definitely have talent and depth on our team, but everyone had something they could improve on,” Tsai said. “More specifically, I think we just tried to work on our fundamentals this week like hitting with more depth and not being afraid to move forward.”
The Maroons boast the No. 1–ranked singles player in the nation in Chua. The rookie won in three sets last weekend to begin his DIII career with a statement. The squad is also host to the No. 4–ranked doubles team in Sabada and Liu. The duo earned a victory last weekend against Coe.
With such a young team, the Maroons will be relying on the talent of the younger players in conjunction with the guidance of the veterans to get them through the tough weekend. Second-year Sven Kranz commented on his transition into becoming an older member of the squad.
“I definitely had to step up to become more of a leader this year. We are a very young team, and I think experience plays a huge role in being successful at the end of the year,” Kranz said. “However, we have fantastic senior leaders on this team that definitely help guide not only the freshmen but also all other players. I personally just do what I can to make a positive impact on this team.”
This weekend could prove to be one of the toughest of the season for the squad; however, the team feels they have adequately prepared.
“We have all put in the hours, so this weekend is the time to show what we have,” Tsai said.
The match against Denison begins today at 5 p.m. in Westlake, OH. The squad will then travel to Cleveland on Saturday to play Case Western at 5:30 p.m. and Kenyon on Sunday at 9 a.m.