February 22, 2013

Chicago returns home to take on Big Red

The Maroons hope for a successful return to DIII this Saturday after facing two DI opponents to open their season.

The South Siders will take on Denison, who lost 9–0 to California (PA) in its first match of the year. The Maroons, on the other hand, had a strong showing last weekend, beating DI UW–Green Bay 6–1.

The Maroons will look to capitalize on the weaknesses of their DIII opponent.

“I’m expecting the team to come out ready to compete and show improvement from our previous matches,” head coach Jay Tee said. ”We’ve been playing well in practice and I’m ready to see how it translates against a tough, regional opponent like Denison.”

This match marks the real beginning of Chicago’s season, and the importance of a good start has not been lost on the players.

“The mentality going in will definitely be different since it is the first match that counts toward our record,” second-year Kelsey McGillis said.

Though it’s early in the season, the South Siders have already zoned in on a few areas of their overall game that they’d like to improve.

“As a team, we are still working on aggressive doubles play. That has been our focus at practice, and our hard work should pay off this weekend,” second-year Megan Tang said.

Fourth-year Linden Li also spoke to the importance of that aggression.

“The moment we strike the first few balls in the doubles match, the morale of the team is boosted up, and the firepower begins,” she said.

Aggression has been something of a watchword for Tee this season, who has high expectations of the squad that finished second in the NCAA Championship last year. However, that aggression needs to be mental as much as it is physical or tactical.

“We want the reputation of our team to be that of the toughest, most focused team in the NCAA, and I think we’re on our way there,” he said.

The meet against Denison, although not on campus, will count as a home match, one of only three for the Maroons this season. The South Siders, then, must cherish this rare opportunity.

“We’re very excited to play in front of our home crowd. We’re expecting a lot of fans to come out and support us this weekend because it also happens to be our alumni, family, and friends weekend,” Tee said. “It is our goal to set an attendance record on Saturday night. We’re optimistic that we will crack the 200-fan mark, which would be outstanding.”

Despite having only had two matches, the season is already in full swing. The Maroons will compete almost every weekend for the next two months. Tee and his players are relishing the challenge.

“This is my favorite time of year,” Tee said. “This is why I love to coach, and this is why the players commit the all the hours to practice…. I think the teams were sick of battling each other every day in practice, and I know I was getting tired of spending so many hours in my office, counting down the days until we got to compete again. We’re ready to get the season going and prove to the other teams that Chicago is for real this year.”

The Maroons take the court at 6 p.m. on Saturday at Five Seasons in Burr Ridge, IL.