The coveted spot atop the NCAA Division III men’s tennis rankings now belongs to the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps team, who continued to dominate their competition with three big wins over the past week. As if avenging their loss against defending champion Williams College in the 2013 National Championships wasn’t enough, the Stags—previously ranked No. 3—moved up to claim the top spot in the nation the day after the impressive win.
CMS (4-0, 18-1) faced off against No. 3 Williams (3-0, 6-5) on Thursday, March 27, recording an 8-1 win.
The dynamic duo of team captain Joe Dorn CM ’15 and Warren Wood CM ’15 started the team’s doubles sweep off with a decisive 8-0 win in the No. 1 slot. Together, the two were recently named No. 1 doubles team in the Western region. Wood leads the nation in singles, while Dorn is ranked No. 6.
“It was good to get that [win] and set the tone for the rest of the match,” Dorn said. “Doubles was a really strong point for us [as a team] this weekend.”
Following the strong opening doubles showing, the Stag’s No. 2 team of Skyler Butts CM ’16 and Neel Kotrappa CM ’14 won 8-3, and Daniel Morkovine CM ’17 and Zhenya Pereverzin CM ’14 won 8-5 in the No. 3 spot.
In singles, Wood recorded the team’s only loss—his first defeat against DIII competition this season—4-6, 4-6 on Thursday. But he rebounded well: He came back on Friday and Saturday to win big in his next two matches. Dorn, Butts, Morkovine, and Pereverzin all won their singles matches against Williams, and Lestter Yeh CM ’16 defeated his opponent while stepping up at the No. 6 spot.
With the win, the Stags were not only able to protect their home court and gain confidence in their play, but also moved up in rankings to the top spot in the nation. Despite their success so far, though, head coach Paul Settles likes to remind his players that it is still early on in the season.
“This is one of [Williams’] first matches, it’s on our courts, and it’s in March.” Settles said. “We know when it really matters is going to be May 19-21. We look at it as a dress rehearsal, but we have to be ready for next time.”
On Friday, March 28, nine Stags contributed to the 8-0 victory at Chapman University (0-2, 5-9). Dorn and Wood, and Pereverzin and Morkovine both defeated their opponents in doubles 8-3 and 8-4, respectively, and Kotrappa and Butts gave up only one game in their 8-1 triumph.
In singles, Wood, Butts, Yeh, and Kotrappa confidently won all of their matches. CMS also saw some exciting action from two first-years playing at the No. 4 and No. 5 spots: Max Macey CM ’17 and Glenn Hull CM ’17 won 6-3, 7-5 and 6-3, 6-1, respectively.
CMS saw court action from a total of 12 players this weekend as No. 3 singles player Nikolas Marino CM ’15 took time off the court to recover from an injury. Multiple players stepped up to fill positions, most notably Yeh, who had an outstanding weekend playing singles.
“As a team, we competed very hard,” Dorn said. “We had some good showing from our reserves.”
The Stags finished up their successful weekend with a 9-0 win at Redlands University (1-1, 7-9) on Saturday, March 29. This was the ninth sweep for CMS this season.
In doubles, Dorn and Wood, and Kotrappa and Butts won 8-5 and 8-3, respectively, while Pereverzin and Morkovine pushed through a tiebreaker to win 9-8. Dorn, Butts, Morkovine, Pereverzin, and Yeh all won their singles matches in straight sets.
Playing at No. 1 singles, Wood showed why he is the best player in the country. After a 2-6 loss in the first set, Wood returned to win the second in a 7-1 tiebreaker. After deciding to play a third set even though CMS had already clinched the overall win against Redlands, Wood broke another tie 7-3 to pull away with the victory.
“I think the highlight was Warren Wood’s performance against Redlands,” Settles said. “To see Warren go in against one of the best players in the West, even when our match was already clinched, was a real character-builder for him and really helped us down the line.”
While other teams may typically feel the pressure that comes with being the best, the Stags are confident in their ability to keep their composure.
“I don’t think it’s anything we haven’t felt before,” Dorn said. “We are treating this season the same as last year. Coach does a really good job of taking the pressure off us. He emphasizes getting better and improving in our games more than just winning.”
Settles said that the team is looking forward to the National Championships, which will be hosted by CMS in May.
“With most of our team returning from last year, these guys feel like they’ve been through this and they know how to handle it, but now we’re going to get it right this time,” Settles said. “There’s a sense that this year it’s our turn and we’ll be ready when the time comes.”
CMS will host California Lutheran University (2-0, 3-6) for their next match today, April 4 at 2 p.m. Tomorrow, they will take on rival No. 13 Pomona-Pitzer (2-0, 10-5) at 6 p.m. at the Biszantz Family Tennis Center.