Riding 13-Year Conference Win Streak, Stag Tennis Team Prepares To Host NCAAs

Robert Liu CM ’21 smashes a serve in a match against Hope International University April 14. (Ian Poveda • The Student Life)

After steamrolling conference competition match after match, the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps men’s tennis team (24-3, 6-0 SCIAC) has found itself at the top of the SCIAC standings once again — something that is becoming habit for the Stags, who are ranked sixth in the nation.

Veteran coach Paul Settles is glad his high expectations for the team continue to produce results.

The “SCIAC is one of the three best tennis conferences in the country, so to be on top heading into the final weekend of play is a great accomplishment,” Settles said. “April 15, 2005 was our last SCIAC loss, so we’re savoring a good run.”

Last Saturday, the Stags clinched a spot in the SCIAC tournament, routing Cal Lutheran University (4-11, 2-3 SCIAC) with a 9-0 sweep. This victory came only a few days after out-matching No. 12 Pomona-Pitzer (14-8, 5-1 SCIAC) with another 9-0 win.

“Our formula for success this season has been great doubles and singles toughness,” Settles said. “We’ve won all three doubles points in more than half of our dual matches this spring and only trailed in two matches after the doubles.”

Settles said young players have been key to the Stags’ recent success.

“After graduating four seniors from our starting lineup a year ago, we’ve been dependent on lots of new faces this season,” he said. “Jack Katzman CM ’21 at No. 2 singles and No. 2 doubles, and Robert Liu at No. 6 singles and No. 3 doubles have been really consistent as all-court players.”

Liu, who won his most recent doubles match alongside partner Jake Berber CM ’20 against Cal Lutheran 8-1, thinks the Stags are in a good spot.

“I am extremely confident and proud of the team’s success this season,” Liu wrote in a message to TSL. “[Settles] is really strict with us and instills really strong work ethic in each of us. We put so much effort into our team and I am certain that it greatly contributes to how well we’ve done thus far.”

As the regular season wraps up, the Stags have eyes on the NCAA Tournament, which they feel they have a chance to win.

“[We are] hosting the final rounds this year, so it’s going to be really cool to be playing on our home courts,” Liu said. “We also always contend for the title so knowing that we have the potential to win it is incredibly motivating.”

Captain Julian Gordy CM ’19 agreed with Liu.

“We are just focused on practicing well everyday and making sure that we are as fit as possible at the end of the season,” he said. “Everyone on our team believes we are capable of winning the title this year, and we are very pleased with the level we’ve been playing at.”

CMS will likely have the chance to face top teams No. 1 Emory University, No. 2 Bowdoin College, and No. 3 Middlebury College in the tournament.

The Stags have faced all three of the top teams this season, and have shown they can compete with the best. Though they fell 7-2 to Bowdoin, they defeated Middlebury 8-1, and only lost to Emory 5-4.

Settles is sure the Stags can make a title run, but recognizes there will be steep competition.

“If we can win our last three SCIAC matches, we’ll enter the NCAA tournament as no worse than a No. 3 seed overall,” Settles said. “With a chance to play every NCAA tournament match on our home courts, we know we can beat the best. However, this is an unprecedented era of parity in D-III tennis, so nearly every team from the round of 16 on will have a real chance to vie for the title.”

The Stags hope to continue their years-long conference winning streak this Saturday in the SCIAC regular season finale against Caltech (10-5, 4-1 SCIAC).

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