Senior Stag tennis players have enjoyed a lot of winning over their four years at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. But they haven’t claimed the country’s biggest prize — yet.
Head coach Paul Settles thinks this could be the year for his crew, which last won an NCAA title in 2015 despite making the championship match in five of the last seven seasons.
“It’s been a fantastic run,” Settles said. “Almost everyone would say we’re kind of the best program over the last decade nationally. We’re certainly proud of that, but we’re striving for just a little more.”
The 2020 season is off to an auspicious start, and Settles has a good feeling about these Stags (7-0, 0-0 SCIAC).
“When we won in 2015, we had I think three seniors starting for us who took an attitude like ‘Nobody’s taking this away from us,’” he recalled. “And I think we’ve got a similar makeup to this year’s team, so I feel like some of the ingredients are in place.”
Winning just one national championship is no small feat, but Settles has claimed 23 U.S. Tennis Association national titles as a player himself.
“I think for the guys on our team, they look at that, and they say, ‘Wow, maybe I can do that when I am an old man like Coach Settles,’” he said.
Back to lead the Stags this year is the one-two punch of Nikolai Parodi CM ’20 and Jack Katzman CM ’21, who placed at No. 3 and No. 4 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s Division III national individual rankings last fall. Parodi is a three-time SCIAC Athlete of the Year, while Katzman has made First-Team All-SCIAC both of his seasons.
“The top of our lineup is I think as strong as any in the country … in terms of what they’ve achieved,” Settles said. “I think we all feel very comfortable with having this incredible anchor at the top of our lineup.”
Settles said the team will focus on doubles play this season, as that’s the part of college tennis matches that is conducive to upsets and surprises, and has been a vulnerable area for the Stags in prior years.
Also new this year is an emphasis on avoiding the tendency “to circle dates on the calendar” in preparation for future matches against highly ranked foes at the expense of more immediate competitions.
For instance, with the Stags preparing to jet off to the ITA Team Indoor Championship in St. Peter, Minnesota, Settles said the team has been “very focused on not thinking about that tournament before it was appropriate to do so.”
CMS has won a staggering 14 straight SCIAC championships, including all 13 tournaments since postseason conference play began in 2007.
Still, Settles said his team always looks forward to matching up with its Sixth Street opponents.
“The rivalry with Pomona-Pitzer has been a fantastic one because their level is very high as well,” he said.
One of the most anticipated moments of the season will occur on April 17, when the two Claremont teams will meet at CMS’ Biszantz Family Tennis Center for an evening showdown.
“It’s a real festival,” Settles said. “We tend to get a ton of fans. They tend to get a little raucous and rowdy, but in a positive way.”