February 10, 2014

South Siders edge Denison, fall to Kenyon in season openers

When a team consists of numerous underclassmen, the beginning of the season inevitably includes trial and error.

This is the situation the No. 30 Maroons find themselves in right now, as they continue to search for their optimal lineup. After defeating Denison 5–4 on Saturday, the Maroons, through head coach Jay Tee, switched the bottom of the lineup for Sunday’s match against No. 5 Kenyon. Chicago lost to the Lords 8–1.

“We are a deep team, and I wanted to give a couple of other guys a chance,” Tee said. “Our lineup is far from decided so we will continue to rotate players in and out until some guys step up and take a spot.”

Tee used the lineup he articulated last week for Saturday’s win. In doubles, the top tandem of third-year Deepak Sabada and first-year Sven Kranz won 8–4, and the No. 3 team of third-year Ankur Bhargava and first-year Brian Sun blasted past the Big Red 8–3.

Chicago’s lone loss in doubles came at No. 2, as fourth-year Zsolt Szabo and first-year Max Hawkins were edged out 8–4.

While the Maroons lost at the No. 1, 5, and 6 positions in singles, wins by Kranz at No. 2 (6–4, 5–7, 6–4), Sun at No. 3 (6–4, 7–6), and Bhargava at No. 4 (6–4, 7–6) gave the Maroons a 5–4 victory.

“It was a good team win, but I thought it didn’t need to be that close,” Tee said. “We lost at a couple spots where I thought we could have competed better.”

On Sunday, with Chicago slated to play Kenyon, Tee moved No. 5 and No. 6 singles players, second-year Gordon Zhang and Szabo, respectively, out of the singles lineup. Hawkins was placed at No. 5 and first-year Peter Muncey competed at No. 6.

In doubles, Bhargava and Sun laddered up to the No. 2 position, and Hawkins and Zhang played No. 3.

Chicago gave Kenyon a fight in doubles, yet each Maroon tandem lost by two games or less. Kenyon was up 3–0 after doubles.

“Those losses certainly hurt us, but they weren’t as crushing as you might think,” Tee said. “We knew that if we played that close in doubles and had that many opportunities that we would have more in singles, too. Going down 3–0 hurts because your margin for error is razor thin.”

Losses at No. 3 and 4 singles clinched the victory for Kenyon. Still, the teams finished off the dual. Chicago took its lone victory at No. 2, as Kranz defeated ITA Central Region Tournament champion second-year Sam Geier 6–2, 5–7, 6–4.

As the season goes on, Tee looks for contributions from both veterans and rookies in order to ensure success.

“We will continue to get guys match experience throughout the year with the thought being that we need everyone to contribute in some way if we are going to be successful,” he said.

Chicago takes on Augustana this Saturday at 3 p.m. in Rock Island, IL.