Last weekend at the University of Redlands, the Stag tennis program competed in the annual SCIAC conference tournament. As regular season winners of the SCIAC title, CMS needed the title to solidify their place above their familiar Southern California foes.
The championships, hosted by the University of La Verne’s tennis program, which is in its final year, were held by Redlands due to La Verne’s lack of home tennis courts. The fast red and light-gray surface, familiar to many of the Stags, hosted the first two rounds, while the final championship round against Redlands was held at the nearby East Redlands Valley High School.
First in action against the top-seeded CMS team were the hungry Caltech Beavers, led by freshman phenomenon Sam Barnett and senior co-captain Rico Chiu at the No. 1 and 2 singles spots. In doubles play, the Stags started aggressively on all three courts. Though the No. 2 and 3 doubles matches continued in this fashion, the No. 1 doubles turned out differently.
After grabbing an easy hold and service break, Spencer MacColl CM ’10 and Brandon Wei HM ’12 stalled and the on-fire Beavers brought the match even for the rest of the pro-set, showing immense heart and ingenuity in every point. Luckily, the CMS duo was able to win after being pushed the distance, winning 9-7 after faltering with their 3-0 lead. Chiu’s impressive performance, in his last match against the Stags, was not forgotten as he clinched the Beaver’s first regular-season SCIAC win of the year over the University of La Verne the following day. This, as a first-round match, was played only to the completion of the five points to win, and the Stags, conscious of their near loss in doubles, played their matches tight across the board and were able to quickly wrap up, not losing more than six total games in the process.
As the Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens drew even with the Whittier Poets to seize the semifinal berth in the tournament, a group of Stag reinforcements arrived to meet the Hens for the second week in a row.
Lining up, the Stags wanted to win quick pro-sets at the No. 1 and 2 doubles spots, just as they did the week before, and they were hungry to keep the third doubles match cleaner than the previous week. Not more than four games were lost as CMS began singles with a running start, eager to avenge the losses at No. 2 and 4 singles from the previous matchup.
Captain Larry Wang CM ’09 and Mikey Lim CM ’10 were able to take care of business at their respective first and third singles matches, both taking advantage of the fast courts and some great aim to have a comfortable win over their Sagehen opponents.
Robbie Erani CM ’12 battled Tommy Meyer PO ’12 and, after denying a set point during the first, was able to win 7-5. During the second set, Erani exhausted his supply of fresh strings, breaking both in the only two racquets he brought to the courts. Unfazed, he made use of a teammate’s racquet and never broke stride, rolling to a 6-3 second set victory.
Routine wins at the fifth and sixth singles positions, another inspired performance by Uday Singh PO ’12, and a hiccup by Eric MacColl CM ’10 at the fourth singles position, ended the match with an 8-1 Stags victory, and CMS headed toward the final versus the University of Redlands.
Midday Saturday, the Stags and the Redlands Bulldogs met at local East Redlands Valley High. As doubles began, the Bulldogs brought a familiar fighting spirit, but CMS was able to bring the points home at the top two spots, with a hot Redlands duo at third doubles denying a sweep going into singles.
In singles action, all matches except for No. 2 singles became routine straight-set wins. In the second spot, Erani and Mike Reading split sets before Erani was able to capitalize in the deciding ten-point tie-break to clinch the 6-0 sweep of singles action. With this win, clinched by MacColl, the Stags solidified their place as SCIAC champions and were able to enjoy a few days of rest before bouncing back to practice in anticipation of the Ojai Valley Invitational Tournament.
This tournament win gave the Stags their third consecutive SCIAC crown and, individually, found Wang and Erani in the first team all-conference. Lim and Ron Wu CM ’11 filled out the standings with second-team awards. Wang pulled off a three-peat, being awarded the SCIAC player of the year for the third year in a row for the first time in SCIAC history. These matches were very important for the individual standings of the CMS players. Erani’s ability to avenge his previous loss to Meyer solidified his eighth-place rank in the West Region, while Larry Wang retained a strong hold of the top spot in the region with his victories in the tournament.
During the upcoming individual tournament at Ojai, the Stags will be tested without the boisterous support of their fans, but will look to return with strong results and, according to coach Paul Settles, “not have to return to Claremont until Sunday,” as he voiced his goal of seeing his players in the final rounds of the competition.
As the CMS men’s tennis team continues their consistent winning streak, their dual match confidence builds. They hope it will carry over into the matchup against fourth-ranked UC Santa Cruz in two weeks.