Stags Face Familiar Competition at Ojai Tournament

The 114th Ojai Valley
Tournament took place April 25-27, and the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps men’s tennis team was present in dominating fashion. Five Stags
reached the finals, with Warren Wood CM ’15 taking the Division III singles
title and the team of Skyler Butts CM ’16 and Neel Kotrappa CM ’14 taking the
title for the doubles championship. Rohan Shankar HM ’17, who was able to
enter as an alternate in the independent college singles event, made the most
of his opportunity and stunned many to make it to the finals.

Wood, the Stags’ No. 1 in singles and
the top seed in the tournament, found himself facing off against familiar faces on
Sunday. His first opponent in the semifinals was teammate Butts. Wood
took a commanding lead and swept the first set 6-0, but Butts showed
resiliency and kept close the entire second set, eventually pulling
ahead and evening the match one set apiece. Wood then kicked it into
overdrive and won the third set in dominating fashion 6-2 for the
match.

Expecting to face off against one
of the top-ranked players from another SCIAC school, Wood was surprised to find
teammate Nik Marino CM ’15 as his opponent. Marino
upset No. 2 Moises Cardenas from California Lutheran University and No. 3 David Konstantinov from Whittier College to advance to the
finals as No. 7 seed in the tournament. The finals match played out similarly to the semifinals match. Wood took the first set 6-4 before
Marino struck back for the second set 7-5. Wood then dominated in the final
set 6-2 to take the match and the tournament victory. After his tournament
victory, Wood was also awarded SCIAC Player of the Week.

“We went into the tournament hoping we’d get
the best collective performances from our guys, and we met that goal,” coach Paul Settles said. “On an individual level, Warren [Wood], Nik [Marino], and Skyler [Butts] had exceptional tournaments. Warren beat two of his teammates that give him
trouble in practice to win the singles.”

In the doubles event, Butts and Kotrappa had an
arduous trek in their four-match title run. In the quarterfinals against Cal
Lutheran’s top pair, Butts and Kotrappa found themselves down a match point. It
would take a topspin lob from Butts to fend off the match point, then three
straight games to win the set. The pair then went on to face Konstantinov
and Chris Schommer from Whittier, who already had defeated two CMS doubles teams in the tournament, in the finals.

Down 5-4 in the first set, Butts and Kotrappa broke
their opponents to stay in the set and eventually held on to win it.
Again in the second set, the pair found themselves trailing 3-1, but then won
five straight games to take the title.

A final highlight from the tournament was Shankar, who made it into the tournament as an alternate but won upset matches
to make it to the finals. In the finals, Shankar fell just short, but still
shocked players and coaches alike in Ojai.

“I was also very proud of Neel and Skyler for
winning the doubles and proving that they are one of the best teams in the
country,” Settles said. “Also, the way they did it—saving a match point in the quarters, and
then coming back to win both sets in the final. Finally,
I was thrilled with Rohan Shankar, a Mudder who plays lower in our lineup, who
got in the independent college event as an alternate and won four matches to
get to the championship match.”

CMS now heads to the
SCIAC tournament, where it looks to defend the title and keep its positions
as No. 1 in the league. After that, regionals and nationals await the team.

“This
year, everyone came together as a team, and we’re really supporting each other
and really clicking in doubles and singles, and our results have shown
that,” Zhenya Pereverzin CM ’14 said. “I’m happy with how everything
is going, and I’m confident we can continue this into the postseason.”

Settles also has faith in his
team to continue strong the rest of the way.

“It’s exciting to be the top team in the country with everyone
gunning for us,” he said. “I think we’re a lot more at peace with it
this year than last. Now it’s a matter of continuing to strengthen
our doubles and staying poised in the big moments we’re likely to face in the
next few weeks.”

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