The Claremont-Mudd-Scripps men’s tennis team (11-0 SCIAC) won its seventh Stag-Hen Invitational title in dramatic fashion last Wednesday, eking out a 5-4 victory over Bowdoin College after facing a 4-0 deficit.
Pomona-Pitzer finished fourth at the prestigious tournament, which was co-hosted by the two Claremont schools. The Sagehens fell 5-4 to Washington University in St. Louis, dropping to 11-6 on the season.
The Stags lost all three doubles matches to begin their title bout against Bowdoin, and the situation looked bleak.
Though he’d seen his team make clutch comebacks before — they did it just the previous day, beating Washington after falling behind 3-0 — CMS head coach Paul Settles harbored some doubts.
“You think, ‘This is a really tall mountain to climb,’” he said. The mountain only got higher when Daniel Morkovine CM '17 lost his singles match 6-4, 6-1.
But the remaining five Stags — Nikolai Parodi CM ‘20, Glenn Hull CM '17, Patrick Wildman CM '18, Daniel Park CM '20, and Max Macey CM '17 — rattled off a series of victories to clinch the win for CMS.
“I was blown away at their grit and their toughness and their self-belief,” said Settles, who thought his athletes were able to “put on their blinders” and focus on individual match-ups rather than the team’s chances as a whole.
Settles attributed his players’ tenacity to the storied history of the program; the Stags won the 2015 NCAA championship and are on the hunt for their 12th consecutive SCIAC title. Settles said that a “culture of excellence” and pressure to continue the team’s legacy drives current tennis players.
“They’re part of creating a history, creating a narrative of excellence,” he said. “I think they come here with great expectations, knowing what their predecessors have done, and I think they feel sort of an extra burden of, ‘Alright, I don’t want to be the guy to break the legacy.’”
The Sagehens, also a formidable national competitor, got wins from doubles team Graham Maassen PZ '17 and Jake Yasgoor PZ '17, as well as singles players Antony Bello PO '17, Marko Mandic PO '18, and Yasgoor, but it wasn’t enough to topple Washington.
After three straight runner-up finishes in the SCIAC championship game, as well as multiple NCAA defeats at the hands of their Sixth Street rivals, the Sagehens are aiming for a SCIAC title this year.