May 22, 2009

Trio of Maroons ready for individual tournament

For the first time in the program’s history, women’s tennis will send three of its members—first-years Kendra Higgins and Jennifer Kung and second-year Chrissy Hu—to compete in the NCAA Individual Championships in Lawrenceville, GA, this weekend.DoublesHiggins and Hu, who made the All-UAA first team at one doubles and have been playing together throughout the season, will compete together Friday.“We’re a really good team,” Higgins said of Hu and herself. “We face formidable opponents with a lot of confidence and talent and try our best. We’re very aggressive—we go for every point—and that makes us a tough opponent, since we never give up.”That aggressiveness has helped the pair rack up wins since they began playing doubles together during winter quarter, and it made them one of the top doubles duos at this week’s NCAA Team Championships. “We have won [nearly] all our matches this week against top opponents,” Higgins said. “One of [the] Amherst players we beat actually won individual doubles finals in the past two years, which gave us a lot of confidence going into later matches.”SinglesAlong with Kung, Higgins will also compete in singles competition this weekend.Kung has been strong this year, from her win at the ITA Small College Championship in October to earning a spot on the All-UAA second team at two doubles last month. Now, she has a chance to stretch her successful first-year out a few days further.“I’m not going to try to do anything differently; I’m going to play how I’ve been playing all year,” Kung said, when asked if she had a special good-luck routine planned for the competition.“I really hope that Kendra and I both make it to the finals,” she added, “and I just hope to play well.”As for Higgins, she hasn’t lost a singles match since the day before Valentine’s Day, even as she faced some of the very best players in the country during the UAA and NCAA Team tournaments. Even with that success, Higgins said that making the NCAA Individual Championship was not specifically a goal of hers. Still, she acknowledged she’s thrilled to have the opportunity to compete at it.“Our main goal was going [to Nationals] with the team, which hasn’t been able to experience a team championship before,” Higgins said. “While playing well for the team, I was able to qualify for both singles and doubles—it just came as a gift.”“It’s been a really long season, and I obviously don’t want it to end,” she continued. “Being with the tennis team has been a big part of my life my first year at [the University of] Chicago, and I’m going to make the best of [these last few matches].”While Higgins, Hu, and Kung are excited for their upcoming matches, the beginning of individual play means their teammates—and the support they provide—won’t be around any longer. Those not competing in the individual round returned to Chicago yesterday.“I will miss having the rest of my team here to support us,” Kung said, “although I understand that they need to get back.”And though they’re competing on their own now, Higgins said she and her two teammates won’t be competing solely for themselves.“Jen, Chrissy, and I have to concentrate to represent our school in the individual round,” she said.Single-elimination play begins today for all three players, and could continue through Sunday if they reach the final rounds.