After picking up its first loss of the season over spring break, the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps men’s tennis team bounced back in a big way last weekend — defeating the top two teams in the country.
On consecutive days, the No. 4 Stags (17-1, 0-0 SCIAC) took down No. 1 UChicago (11-1) 6-3, and then completed a 7-2 victory over No. 2 Middlebury (8-3), the defending national champions.
The Stags, who won the NCAA championship in 2015, have long dominated the SCIAC, securing every conference title since 2006. Because of this, early season competition against the nation’s top teams, largely from outside Southern California, is crucial to the team’s national ranking and larger goal of competing for an NCAA title.
Although it’s no stranger to stiff competition, CMS faced some adversity on its spring break road trip to chilly New England. The Stags had two nail-biter 5-4 wins against MIT and No. 8 Wesleyan, and then lost to No. 7 Amherst, falling 5-4.
“We played in conditions that we weren’t accustomed to, and we struggled,” head coach Paul Settles said of the trip. “We had a hard time.”
In the end, though, the Stags came back stronger.
“[Settles] really wanted to make sure that we got right back on track when we were home, so we had a good couple days of practice and really focused in,” team captain Julian Gordy CM ’19 said.
The Stags came into the season with well-established team chemistry and experience, Settles said, as only two first-years joined the team, and every other player from last year returned. After playing together for multiple years the team is very tight-knit, according to Gordy.
“We basically have the same team as last year,” Gordy said. “It helps a lot that we’ve been able to grow together, both on the court and off the court especially. … In most cases, we’re each other’s best friends.”
Gordy also praised the team’s depth.
“We have 14 guys that could realistically start for us, and only six or seven starting positions,” Gordy said. “It’s a lot of healthy competition; it keeps everyone working hard.”
Settles said the two first-years on the team, Nic Meister CM ’22 and Ethan Carroll HM ’22, have also contributed strong performances.
“It’s a great combination of veterans and new players who don’t really know what they don’t know, but they’re rising up and stepping up to the challenge,” Settles said.
Despite being new to collegiate tennis, Meister picked up two big victories over UChicago and Middlebury, putting the team’s depth on display.
“[Meister] hadn’t been in the starting line-up; he played at No. 6 singles and stepped up in a huge way for us,” Settles said.
The weekend’s games also held sentimental value for the team and coaches, as there were both alumni and prospective recruits watching on.
“To have CMS tennis future, present and past all in one venue was really exciting,” Settles said.
The Stags will look to build off these huge victories as they enter SCIAC play Friday, beginning the quest for a 14th consecutive conference championship.