February 5, 2008

Men’s tennis bashes in Hope

In their opening dual competitions, men’s tennis faced off against two potent opponents in D-I Northwestern and Chicago State. These contests in higher divisions prepared the team well, evidenced by its lopsided, 8–1 defeat of Hope College Saturday at Homewood-Flossmoor Tennis Courts to start Chicago’s 2007–2008 campaign versus D-III opponents.

“I think the reason we were so successful this weekend is because we were better than the other team,” second-year Garrett Brinker said. “To make an analogy, we were Obama, and they were Mike Gravel. Also, our assistant coach Jeff White really pulled us through. He’s probably the best assistant coach in the country.”

Dominating the singles matches, the Maroons were triumphant in five of the six bouts. First-year Tim Walsh was exceptional at fourth singles, losing only one game to his competitor, 6–0, 6–1. His outing is a stark turnaround to his 6–0, 6–0 loss to Northwestern.

“After playing possibly the toughest match of the year first, against Northwestern, I have been determined to prove myself as a first-year in the following matches,” Walsh said. “Had we started out playing against D-III teams right off the bat, I might have been a little bit complacent, but having the opportunity to get beat by a Big Ten team definitely gave me a better sense of where I stand and motivated me to take advantage of the D-I matches by winning as convincingly as possible.”

First-year Mark Bonner also decisively defeated his counterpart, 6–0, 6–1. With the sixth singles match the first in his college career, his remarkable play stood out on the day.

Suffering the only loss in the singles bracket was first-year Will Zhang, who began the night by winning the first set against third-year John Pelton. However, Pelton’s experience paid off as he was able to make adjustments leading to a 3–6, 6–4, 1–0 (10–8) win, the first loss for Zhang this season. Zhang took the court as the third Maroon to play first singles in as many matches, a testament to the depth of a squad that has yet to nail down a starting lineup.

In the doubles matches, play was more competitive, but Chicago hung on to win all three battles. The Maroon’s first pair, second-years Lado Bakhutashvili and Steve Saltarelli, won with a score of 8–6. In second and third doubles action, the respective pairs of Brinker and Joseph Tchan, along with Bonner and fourth-year Bharath Sithian, defeated Hope by identical 8–6 scores, capping off a clean sweep of doubles.

Brinker, Bonner, and Sithian were the Maroons’ double-threat competitors, posting victories in both disciplines.

The crushing of Hope is the second win by wide margins in as many weeks and a confidence booster for the tennis team.

“The team feels great,” Brinker said. “To able to beat a team as good as Hope is awesome, and to do it at home is even better. It’s just a really great feeling.”

Next on the schedule for the team is a Sunday road matinee against UW–Whitewater to begin the first of four consecutive matches on the road.

“We are all really looking forward to playing Whitewater this coming weekend, as they are ranked above us and it presents us with a charge to demonstrate the strength and depth of our team,” Bonner said.