March Madness for CMS Men’s Tennis

There's never a dull moment for the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps men’s tennis team (12-2, 1-0 SCIAC). Between Mar. 11 and Mar. 20, the Stags played in seven matches, finishing the nine-day stretch with an impressive 5-2 record. Although they were handed their first two losses of the season (to Emory University and Bowdoin College, 7-2 in both matches), the team has proven time and time again that its players have the composure and poise necessary to achieve greatness.

CMS had its first match on Friday, Mar. 11, with a decisive 7-2 win over University of Texas-Tyler in the Stag-Hen Invitational Quarterfinals. Lester Yeh CM ’16 set the tone for the match in straight sets in the No. 5 singles over Jose McIntyre (6-1, 6-0). CMS also faced intense competition against Trinity University (10-8, 0-0 Conf.), but ultimately took down the Tigers 6-3 on Saturday, Mar. 12. That same day, the Stags faced Emory (12-2, 0-0 Conf.) in a rematch of the 2015 NCAA finals. The double-header proved too much for the Stags, as Emory handed CMS its first loss of the season 7-2. 

Though the Stags couldn’t close out the win, they view the match as a learning opportunity and a chance to improve for their next encounter with Emory later this season. “We ended up losing [to Emory], but it ended up kind of being a good thing: We learned what we needed to do to get better,” team captain Skyler Butts CM ’16 said about the match. 

Although the loss came as a disappointment for CMS, both Yeh and Avinash Vemuri CM '19 had thrilling wins in the No. 5 and No. 6 singles (6-3, 6-7, 10-6 and 1-6, 7-5, 10-4 respectively). Over the seven-match span, Vemuri had an impressive 5-2 record.

“In [Vemuri’s] first six matches playing for us, he went on a tear. I attribute that to him being a very hard worker,” Butts said about his teammate.  

CMS answered the loss to Emory with three straight wins: The Stags triumphed 6-1 over Universtiy of Connecticut on Thursday, Mar. 17 (2-18, 0-3 Conf.), defeated Whitman College 7-2 later that day (9-6, 6-0 Conf.), and narrowly conquered Amherst College 5-4 in a nail-biting match on Saturday, Mar. 19 (8-2, 0-0 Conf.). 

Amherst particularly stood out to Butts as one of the most exciting matches of the season. The day started strong, as No. 3 doubles pair Glenn Hull CM ’17 and Yeh took an 8-6 win over Zach Bessette and Ben Fife. No. 1 pair Butts and Daniel Morkovine also defeated their opponents 9-8 to give the Stags two of the three doubles wins. 

“At one point, even though we took a double’s lead, I thought we were going to lose because other than the top two courts, everyone had lost up to that point," Butts recalled. "It got a little stressful, but [Macey] came through in singles. It was nice to get the win over Amherst; it’s fun to beat the good schools.” 

CMS’ jam-packed schedule continues, as the Stags host University of Chicago (12-1, 0-0 Conf.) and Chapman University (1-9, 0-0 SCIAC) Friday, Mar. 25.

 “Chicago is a really exciting team for us—we haven’t played them at least since I’ve been here,” Butts said. “We’re excited because they’re one of the contenders for the national championship this year and the next few years. We’d like to see how we stack up to them and maybe use that experience to our advantage.” The team also plays Williams College (4-0, 0-0 Conf.) Wednesday, Mar. 30, before taking on arch rival Pomona-Pitzer (8-6, 1-0 SCIAC) on Friday, Apr. 1. As two of the best teams in SCIAC (CMS holds the No. 1 rank, while P-P is No. 3), Claremont should expect some good tennis from the Stags.