HONOLULU (Jan. 19, 2020) – The 24th-ranked Caltech men's tennis team opened the 2020 season with three matches in Hawaii over the weekend, with the Saturday match resulting in a victory for the Beavers while Friday and Sunday's matches gave plenty of reason for optimism.
Friday: No. 13 Trinity (Tex.) 7, No. 24 Caltech 2
The Beavers' top doubles team, juniors Varun Shanker (Midland, Mich. / Midland Dow) and James Wei (Chappaqua, N.Y. / Horace Greeley) gave the Beavers something to rally behind when they defeated the top team from Trinity University, 8-5, out of the first spot. The eighth-ranked doubles team in Division III broke away after both teams stayed on serve for the first four games. Shanker and Wei went on to take three of the next four to position themselves for a routine victory to start the day. Caltech's third doubles team consisting of senior Connor Soohoo (Redwood Shores, Calif. / Crystal Springs) and freshman Rishi Gundakaram (Wyoming, Del. / Caesar Rodney) found themselves up 4-3 in their match but ultimately came up on the short end of things after a late break from the Tigers.
Trailing by one point heading into the singles portion, Caltech looked to regain momentum from Trinity. The Tigers made sure to get an early jump on the Beavers, however, and went on to take five out six matches. Caltech did receive an encouraging performance from junior Kevin Yu (Mason, Ohio / Cincinnati Country Day), as the third-year player pulled out a victory at fifth singles with a pair of victorious tiebreakers (7-6 (3), 7-6 (4)).
Saturday: No. 24 Caltech 7, Pacific (Ore.) 2
Caltech played its best tennis of the weekend on Saturday when the Beavers took on Pacific University at Punahou High School. Shanker and Wei looked as dominant as ever, blanking their opponents at first doubles, 8-0. However, the Beavers found themselves jockeying for position with the Boxers at second doubles. Hawaii-native Jake Will (Honolulu, Hawaii / Punahou School) and sophomore classmate Patryk Kozlowski (Irvine, Calif. / University High) battled at second doubles but came out on the short end of a back-and-forth match, 8-7 (5).
With the Beavers trailing as the action turned over to singles play, Caltech came up big with victories on all six courts. Shanker's strong play in doubles carried over at first singles where he dispatched his opponent, 6-0, 6-1. Yu finished his match not long after Shanker and moved to 2-0 in regular-season singles action with a 6-1, 6-0 victory out of the fourth spot. Freshman Nathan Zou (Murfreesboro, Tenn. / Central Magnet) got a crack at sixth singles and responded by finishing third fastest among singles players with a 6-2, 6-1 win to put the Beavers up 4-2. The clincher came when Wei staved off a late surge from his opponent at second singles and picked up a 6-1, 7-6 victory. Elsewhere, sophomore Matthew Gonzalgo (Plantation, Fla. / St. Thomas Aquinas) earned a three-set win at third singles (6-0, 4-6, 6-3) and Kozlowski got a victory out of the fifth spot (6-1, 7-5).
"We had an excellent response to start the singles on Saturday," Head Coach Jason Cohen said. "[Pacific] could have had a lot of momentum after a tight win at second doubles to take a 2-1 lead. We talked about coming out and stealing it back to start singles and we did that with great starts to all six matches and got us back on track."
Sunday: No. 9 Hawaii Pacific (Division II) 7, No. 24 Caltech 0
The Beavers got to test their mettle against a top-10 Division II school in Hawaii Pacific University on Sunday to conclude the weekend trip. Caltech's strongest moments came at fifth and sixth singles where Zou won the second set before coming just two points short of his opponent in the super tiebreaker and Will took his opponent to a second-set tiebreaker. Meanwhile, Shanker and Wei took four games off the first doubles pairing on a Sharks team that won 18 matches in 2019.
Cohen and the Beavers will have nearly a month to decompress and prepare for the University of California, Santa Cruz, who will be coming to Pasadena for a match on Saturday, Feb. 15 at 10 a.m.