With the home stretch at hand, Chicago tennis hoped that success had followed both teams home from Texas. Unfortunately, only the women had that hope realized.
The women (9-6) won a critical road meet Saturday, stealing a close victory over Wisconsin-Whitewater 5-4 and easily disposing of Div. II Winona State 8-1, while the men (15-7) suffered a setback in St. Louis, dropping a 5-2 decision to 13th-ranked Washington .
The women have now won five straight, while the men broke a two-game winning streak.
The Maroons relied on strong singles plays to pull off a hard-fought victory against Wisconsin-Whitewater, now ranked 11th in the Central region. Led by second-year Ade Omodele-Lucien, Chicago grabbed four wins in six matches to overcome a 2-1 advantage for Whitewater in doubles.
"We knew they were going to be a tough team going in, but the win wasn't unexpected," said fourth-year Christine Kim. "We figured it was going to be close, but we pulled out a bunch of big matches."
Second-year Ade Omodele-Lucien was the winner in both of her matchups at first singles. Third-years Annie Miller and Liz Saydah also contributed a pair of singles victories apiece.
"Liz won the clinching point for us, which she's done in three straight meets. She's been doing really well, pulling out tough sets at the end," Kim said.
Against Winona State, Chicago got ahead early and never looked back, taking five of six singles matches and sweeping the doubles.
The meet was the last of seven straight road contests for the Maroons. The women open their final home stand of the season this afternoon against Wheaton at the Stagg Field Courts.
"Wheaton is the biggest of the matches we have left. They're a ranked team, and we might earn a spot at the NCAA tournament with a win," Kim said. "We're just taking things one match at a time right now. Nobody's really thinking about the UAAs yet. We want a top four seed, but we need to win these matches to get it."
First-year Sasha Deriy led the way for the men, now ranked 10th in the Central region, against Washington, scoring the team's only singles victory over Bears third-year Zack Fayne 6-4, 1-6, 6-2. Deriy later teamed up with third-year Ward Bortz for an 8-2 doubles victory over Washington third-year Ari Rosenthal and first-year Charlie Howard. The win lifted the pair to an impressive 15-4 record.
The meet was closer than the final score indicated. The Maroons took a point for winning two of three doubles showdowns, and were competitive in all six singles matches.
"I think they were a little surprised at how well we performed. We were very competitive," said fourth-year Jake Reckess. "Obviously, we're never satisfied with losing, but hopefully we put ourselves in a good position to try to beat them at UAAs."
Deriy, Bortz and their teammates will have just two more shots to recover their spring momentum before heading to Boston for the UAA championship tournament April 15-7. They face Wheaton at the Stagg Field Courts this afternoon and finish off the regular season at home against Olivet Nazarene.
"Every competition and every game is tough for us," Reckess said. "We need to bring our best game whoever we're against. These will be our first outdoor home matches of the year, so they're pretty important."