CLAREMONT, Calif. (May 2, 2019) – The 22nd-ranked Caltech men's tennis team will take on the nation's top squad in Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges in the first round of the SCIAC Postseason Tournament on Friday afternoon.
The Beavers enter the tournament as the four seed after posting a 4-3 record in SCIAC play, including a 5-4 victory over second-seeded and then-national No. 14 Pomona-Pitzer Colleges, as well as heartbreaking back-to-back 5-4 away losses to third-seeded then-No. 22 University of Redlands and California Lutheran University, the latter of which came without sophomore James Wei (Chappaqua, N.Y. / Horace Greeley) in the lineup.
CMS, meanwhile, swept the conference (dropping a mere three total points in 63) and have not lost a SCIAC match in over a decade, while their lone loss this season came on the road at No. 7 Amherst College, 5-4. The Stags were in top form two weeks ago when they hosted the Beavers, claiming all nine points with straight-set victories across the board. Still, the championship semifinal could bring some fascinating storylines. CMS has had incredible success in doubles this year, particularly at courts two and three where the Stags have posted a combined 48-8 record, but top duo Nikolai Parodi and Julian Gordy – ranked second in the West region – have gone just 13-7 compared to Wei and classmate Varun Shanker (Midland, Mich. / Midland Dow), who at 11-6 and ranked fourth in the region could contend for that valuable doubles point to open play. The Stags did claim this same matchup, 8-4, earlier in the year, but the Beavers have mixed and matched at third doubles for the past few weeks and could surprise from that spot between some combination of rookies Matthew Gonzalgo (Plantation, Fla. / St. Thomas Aquinas) and Jake Will (Honolulu, Hawaii / Punahou School), senior Zixiao Li (Coppell, Texas / Coppell) and junior Connor Soohoo (Redwood Shores, Calif. / Crystal Springs).
Shanker likely will face a familiar opponent in Parodi, who ousted the top-seeded Beaver from the semifinals of this past weekend's 119th Ojai Tournament, 7-6 (4), 6-3 en route to his third straight tournament title. Jack Katzman was Shanker's opponent when these teams faced each other two weeks ago and also came out on top, 6-2, 6-2, while Parodi defeated Wei at second singles, 6-1, 6-1 but with the junior on a nine-match winning streak, he will be the heavy favorite to appear at his usual first singles spot. The pair also are the only two players in the region Shanker has fallen to this spring, while he has defeated others ranked third, fourth (first at the time), seventh, ninth, 11th and 12th. Wei also has lost in-region just twice this season, including a 24-point super tiebreaker against No. 28 George Fox University in March.
Sophomore Kevin Yu (Mason, Ohio / Cincinnati Country Day) gave CMS its toughest test last time out at third singles, where he made West Region No. 17 Julian Gordy work for a 6-3, 6-4 victory. 18th-ranked Robert Liu, meanwhile, recorded the Stags' most decisive victory at court four over junior Miha Valencic (Colleyville, Texas / Grapevine), who should enter this matchup with more confidence following an Ojai run that saw him defeat the West's 14th-ranked player (Josh Gearou of Pomona-Pitzer Colleges) to earn a shot at Parodi in the quarterfinals. Rookie Patryk Kozlowski (Irvine, Calif. / University High) also put up a strong fight at sixth singles (6-2, 6-3) against Oscar Burney, who has moved down the lineup from third singles last year and likely will maintain his current spot through the tournament. Senior Derik Nguyen (Anaheim, Calif. / Canyon) should round out the lineup after dropping a tight first set, 6-4, before going down 6-1 in the second to CMS rookie standout Nic Meister, the 78th-ranked recruit in the nation who has lost just once while playing all six spots in the lineup this spring.
Head Coach Jason Cohen and the Beavers are set for a 3 p.m. first serve on Friday, May 3 at the Biszantz Family Tennis Center in Claremont.