Over the past weekend, the CMS men’s tennis team extended their dominance, toppling University of Redlands, La Sierra University, and UC Davis. The Stags have found their stride in time for a match with Pomona-Pitzer and then the SCIAC championships loom in the next two weeks. Recently retaining their third national rank, the Stags were threatened by a loss to Williams College 5-4 last weekend, so they knew they would need to bring their top game to hold off the Redlands Bulldogs who have had a late-season surge to a top-ten national ranking. The Stags prepared to wear down these three teams over the course of two days on the new Bizantz Family Tennis Center courts.
Against Redlands on Saturday, CMS came out firing. During the customary doubles points to begin the match, the Stags knew how important a fast start was against this team that had posted impressive doubles results in their past five matches, only dropping one point to the fourth-ranked Middlebury College. Fresh from a light week of practice, the Stags did what they were supposed to do and executed every point with conviction, immediately taking the lead in all three doubles points. Redlands, not to be outdone, made moderate comebacks in each doubles pro-set but was held off in all three.
“Up until last week (before Williams) we didn’t think they could compete with us, but their win over Williams and our loss,” said captain Larry Wang CM ’09. “It was what we needed to be motivated.”
That motivation showed as the Stags went on to sweep the singles and post an impressive 9-0 match victory against the Bulldogs. Though the Stags did have the home-court advantage, this victory will give the team the confidence necessary for the upcoming SCIAC tournament hosted by Redlands, where they will hold the no. 1 seed and will most likely face Redlands again, this time in the finals on Redlands’ fast home courts. Convincing victories from Eric MacColl CM ’10 and Russell Brockett CM ’11 at the four and five singles positions were exactly what was needed to put the Stags in the right state of mind for SCIAC tournament.
On Sunday, the Stags truly held a dual match, hosting both La Sierra University and UC Davis at the same time, fielding two separate teams. While the top six courts hosted the doubles action, it became clear that the UC Davis matchup would be a difficult one. The Stags led in five out of the six doubles, but the story changed as the matches progressed. No. 2 and 3 doubles for La Sierra came off in quick fashion in CMS’s favor, along with a loss for the Stags at no. 3 doubles in the Davis match. The rest of the doubles teams battled on and after many break points made and saved on both sides by all teams, the Stags had a 3-0 lead heading into singles over La Sierra, while the Stags trailed the Aggies 0-3. In singles action, CMS made quick work of the La Sierra Golden Eagles with Ari Zyskind CM ’12 recording a dominant victory at three singles and Victor Chien CM ’12 and Gui Schils CM ’09 posting solid wins over the talented first and second players from La Sierra.
The UC Davis story read differently. After leading in no. 1 and 2 doubles and falling in both, the Stags shed their complacency from the win over Redlands the previous day and got hungry. A loss by MacColl at four put the Stags down 4-0. However, Wang, with a straight-sets victory at first singles, looked to give his teammates some momentum as all four remaining matches went to third sets. After the first three third-set wins came from Robbie Erani CM ’12, Mikey Lim CM ’10, and Brockett, the fate of yet another D-I matchup again fell on the shoulders of Ronald Wu CM ’11 at the six singles position. Wu showed a steely nerve and attacked the net relentlessly in the fourth third-set match of the day, shutting the door on his opponent and the match with an emphatic 6-1 third-set victory. Only able to lose one singles match if they were to win overall, the stakes were high, and the Stags pulled through, posting their second win over a D-I school this season. Coach Settles remarked that it is always a special occasion for a D-III program to be recognized for its strong performance in its own level, but also to show true strength and the capability to win against the D-III teams, especially after a close loss to UC Davis two years ago.
With these wins notched under the belts of the Stags, they will be ready to play Pomona-Pitzer under the lights at home on Saturday, and enter the SCIAC tournament ready to dominate at Redlands. Looking ahead to the most important matches left in the season versus UC Santa Cruz and in the West Regional playoffs, the strength the CMS men have shown in singles and has been very encouraging. Perhaps they will continue to perform well along with the doubles players who have shown occasional weakness mixed with moments of brilliance.