April 23, 2002

Tennis ends year with matches in Cleveland

The 2002 University of Chicago tennis season ended Saturday as the women's and men's teams finished seventh and eighth respectively at the University Athletic Association championship. The men's team posted a 2-10 final record and the women finished 2-12 for the season. The UAAs were hosted by Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) in Cleveland. Assistant coach Karen Lui's speech after the competition stated it best, according to second-year Nina Prasad: "The records, final standings, and scores don't come close to showing how well you played and how much heart you gave, especially since spring break."

First-round play began for both teams against Emory University on Friday, while consolation rounds and final rounds were held Saturday. The teams hoped to improve on last year's performance, where the women finished fourth and the men finished eighth.

"Competition at UAAs is always strong. There are no bad teams anymore or teams that you can underestimate. The strongest team in both the men's and women's draws was Emory, as it has been the last 12 years. Right now they are head and shoulders above everyone else in the conference," coach Natalie Butler explained.

As the seventh and eighth seeds, respectively, entering UAAs, Chicago's men and women were each scheduled to play the number-one seed in the tournament. In the opening round, Chicago fell to Emory 9-0 in women's play and 7-0 on the men's side. "Emory by far was the most experienced and had the most depth throughout the lineup," said third-year Vivek Taparia.

Both teams then advanced to the consolation semifinal round. Prasad said, "The teams showed a lot of heart, and were not easily discouraged despite the poor performances. The supportive nature of the teams was really the big difference this year."

The men faced fifth-seed CWRU and proceeded to drop four matches in singles play. Moving to the seventh-place round, the Maroons lost 7-0 to Brandeis University.

The women's side battled Carnegie Mellon in the semifinal round, but came up short with a 5-2 loss. Fourth-year Sarah See destroyed her competitor in straight sets 6-1, 6-0. Third-years Lisa Kahn and May Tan also won their doubles set 8-4. The Maroons took the seventh-place round against CWRU in both singles and doubles play. Kahn and fourth-year Sharbani Roy notched wins in the singles competition, while the three Chicago pairs of Prasad and Roy, Kahn and Tan, and first-year Anna Lyman and See all defeated their opponents.

Wrist injuries and potential stress fractures, among other things, were a major obstacle to the Maroons at UAAs. Asked what the main factors that hampered Chicago in the tournament, Butler replied, "Probably not having a full team in relation to the men. We lost people to injury and other commitments, which certainly hurt us. The same could be said of the women. Injuries didn't help us." Taparia also cited a lineup shuffle on Saturday as an influence the results; one of the top players sat out a match for religious reasons.

Even if no one anticipated these results when the season began, this past year has produced some benefits. "This was a building year for the women's team, and all the new members of the team really stepped up and all show a lot of progress," Prasad stated. Butler is looking forward to strong leadership, experienced returners, skilled first-years, and fewer injuries next season