Aces high for the Stags as CMS men’s tennis serves Oxy defeat

Morgan Schilling CM ’25 hits a backhand during his singles match win during the Stags 8-1 victory over Oxy on March 30. Courtesy: CMS Athletics

Aces all around! The Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS) men’s tennis team controlled the court against SCIAC opponent Occidental, serving their way to victory in their second conference match of the season.

On Friday, March 30, the Stags defeated the Tigers 8-1 at home in the Biszantz Tennis Center, improving their record to 9-4 overall and 2-0 in conference play. 

The Stags started off strong in doubles play with a quick 8-1 win on Court 3 by the Harvey Mudd College freshman duo Advik Mareedu HM ’26 and Warren Pham HM ’26. Ian Freer CM ’24 and Daniel Blackman CM ’24 were next to post a point for CMS with a 8-5 win on Court 2.

On Court 1, Matthew Robinson CM ’25 and Christian Settles CG ’23 took their pro-set to a tiebreak in hopes of giving the Stags a sweep of doubles. However, after some volley errors by CMS and a few key passing shots by Oxy, the Tigers claimed the tiebreak eight points to six, giving them their lone win of the afternoon.

Leading 2-1 after doubles, the Stags started off singles play hot with all six CMS players taking their first sets. On Court 6, Morgan Schilling CM ’25 wasted no time, claiming the first set 6-0. Standing at 6 feet 2 inches tall, his big serve and powerful groundstrokes aided in his domination, but according to Schilling, it was his mental approach that gave him the edge against Oxy.

“I really stayed in control mentally,” Schilling said. “There weren’t any high highs or low lows. I just focused on continuing to do what I was doing.”

All the way on the other side of the bank on Court 1, Mareedu also won his first set quickly. Although he went down 2-3 to begin the match, he used his lengthy arms to stay in many long rallies and come up with crafty point-winning shots to turn things around, winning four straight games to take the set 6-3. 

Mareedu had a stellar fall season, finishing with an undefeated nine-match winning streak en-route to an ITA Cup victory. He came into the spring season holding the No. 1 spot in the ITA Division III National Rankings and was most looking forward to being able to experience the dual match format that defines college tennis. 

“The fall is mostly individual,” Mareedu said. “I was really excited to develop with the rest of the guys and do more team based stuff in the spring.”

Mareedu posted the first singles point for the Stags with a 6-2 win in the second set, putting CMS up 3-1. Settles was next to get a win for the Stags, coming out on top against his opponent 6-3, 6-2. Settles explained that his serve-and-volley style of play proved difficult for his opponent to handle and that he was happy to be able to implement some of the things he had been focusing on in practice. 

“As a team, we’ve been working on trying to be loose and play the same style of tennis in the bigger moments,” Settles said. “I thought I served and volleyed pretty well and played an aggressive brand of tennis. I was able to execute on some big points.”

Settles, who is a student at Claremont Graduate University, often dueled against CMS during his time playing for Trinity University in Texas. With an extra year of eligibility due to COVID-19, he decided to play for his dad, Paul Settles, head coach of the Stags. 

“It’s great [playing for my dad],” Settles said. “I’ve had so much fun this year getting to really know these guys. I’m glad to be home in Claremont, and I’m super pumped to be wearing the Stags uniform.”

On Court 5 and Court 6, Pham and Schilling were racing to get the clinching point. Pham, whose tricky slices and aggressive net play won him a competitive 6-4 first set, was cruising in the second set up 5-2. Meanwhile Schilling, who’s opponent did not back down after the first set beatdown, was battling it out in a second set tiebreak. Ultimately, Schilling powered through the tiebreak first and secured the Stags their win, with Pham giving CMS their sixth point of the afternoon just seconds later. 

“Obviously, I had a really great first set and came out playing really well,” Schilling said. “[My opponent] really upped his game in the second set, but I think I stayed consistent. It was also nice to look at the scoreboard and see everyone else taking care of business. That kind of gave me the confidence to pull it out.”

With the Stags up 6-1, it was up to Freer and Robinson to finish out the dual match. On Court 3, Freer’s steady groundstrokes worked his opponent around the court, and he took the first set 6-2. With a change in strategy, Oxy was able to steal the second set 6-4, but Freer held it together in the deciding tiebreak, pushing his opponent back with some spinny forehands and pulling him out wide with his precise yet powerful serve. He sealed the victory with an ace to win the tiebreak 10-4. 

On Court 2, Robinson was able to use his lefty advantage to control the majority of the points and move his opponent around the court. He finished his match with a forehand winner to come out on top 6-4, 6-3.

The Stags are looking to build on this convincing win as they continue conference play. They have not lost a SCIAC matchup since 2006, and Schilling is looking forward to keeping the SCIAC winning streak alive.

“I’m really looking forward to beating up the other SCIAC teams,” Schilling said. “It’s always fun to beat conference opponents. I’m pretty confident with the guys we have, and I think we’re just gonna go out there and just be electric for the next month and a half.

Settles believes that CMS can avenge last year’s NCAA Championship quarterfinal loss and go even further this year.

“The keyword is NCAAs,” Settles said. “I think that’s what everybody has their eyes on, and we’re all super excited to give her our best again this year and see how far we can go.

The Stags followed up the dominant win the following day with a 6-3 victory on the road against Redlands. They will return to the Biszantz Tennis Center for a pair of matches against Gustavus Adolphus on Friday, April 7 at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. 

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