March 6, 2007

Men's tennis survives Red scare

Fueling the young squad’s momentum heading into spring action, men’s tennis earned a key upset over a top 25 program to further establish itself as a contender in the Central region.

Clinching their first victory against a nationally ranked foe, the Maroons (4–3) upset 25th-ranked Carthage (5–2) Saturday to extend their winning streak to three matches. The South Siders posted wins in four singles and two doubles matches to slay the Reds 6–3 at the Evergreen Racquet and Fitness Club.

“We played hard and with a lot of emotion and enthusiasm,” head coach Marty Perry said. “We were 0–4 over the past four years against Carthage going into Saturday’s match, and it was great to see our players step up to the challenge.”

When Carthage drew first blood on the night with an 8–6 doubles victory over first-year Steve Saltarelli and fourth-year Vivek Venkataraman, it looked as though the night was shaping up to be a repeat of the past four years.

The first-year dream team of Garrett Brinker and Noah Schneider quickly rebounded for the Maroons, however, easily topping the Reds 8–4 to improve their record to an impressive 6–1 on the year. At third doubles, second–year Alex Winney and third-year Bharath Sithian put Chicago ahead going into singles action with an 8–4 win.

The Maroons’ young talent continued to lead the squad. At first, Venkataraman fought hard to win his first set 6–3, but he  couldn’t hold out for the victory despite his efforts, falling 6–3, 6–4. Up next, Saltarelli took his first set 6–4, but difficulty serving after he pulled his back at the start of the second left him coming up short 6–0, 6–0.

With the Reds now in command of the match, Chicago called upon its first years to regain control once and for all. Coming off his coronation as UAA athlete of the week, Brinker lost his first set 5–7, but ensured that this loss would be Chicago’s last of the night, rebounding to top second-year Sergio Lopez 6–4, 6–0, evening up the match. In quick succession, Schneider won his first round and the second set tie-breaker to dispatch fourth-year Dave Sands 6–1, 7–6 (7–5) and put the South Siders in charge once again.

At the fifth and sixth singles slots, the Maroons looked to their veterans to lock up the win. Sithian chalked up another win for Chicago with a speedy 6–1, 6–4 victory, while Winney finished off the night in short order, taking down fourth-year Phil Hamood 6–1, 6–1.

“Everyone played extremely hard, but I thought Vivek and Garrett stood out,” Perry said.  “Alex Winney clinched the match for us at sixth singles, but it was a total team effort.”

The win not only breaks Chicago’s losing steak against Carthage, it marks the first time in three attempts this season that the squad has been able to best a nationally ranked opponent. Now riding a three-game winning streak, all signs point to the fact that this rookie-filled group has come together since the beginning of the season and is ready to step up to the plate as a serious competitor.

“We strive to play well in all of our matches, but it is always easier to get up for the ones against nationally ranked teams,” Perry said. “Hopefully the win will give our team added confidence and that will help us as we head into a tough spring break schedule.”

Perry’s squad has two weeks of well deserved rest before they head to Florida for spring break, where they’ll play four matches.