CLAREMONT, Calif. (Oct. 4, 2015) – Freshman Andre Liu (Novi, Mich. / Novi) led a quartet of Caltech men's tennis players to the program's best-ever performance at the USTA/ITA Division III West Regional Championships on Friday and Saturday.
Liu opened the tournament with a huge 7-6 (6), 6-2 upset of heralded three-star Pomona-Pitzer Colleges twin and #9 seed Samuel Gearou, ranked the No. 233 recruit in the country. UC Santa Cruz junior Sean Hollister got the better of the rookie in the next round, 6-0, 6-2, and Liu nearly pulled another upset in the second consolation bracket, narrowly falling to Pomona-Pitzer senior Thomas Low, 6-2, 5-7, 10-6.
Freshman Zixiao Li (Coppell, Texas / Coppell) gave Cal Lutheran University three-star recruit Amirardalan Safi, ranked No. 170 in the nation, a tough opening match in a 7-5, 6-2 defeat. The Caltech rookie then progressed in the first consolation bracket with a dominant 6-0, 6-1 victory over University of Redlands senior Nick Pizzuti before succumbing to the Bulldogs' #5 singles sophomore Joey Dulle, 6-3, 6-2.
Junior Morgan Lebby (Laguna Beach, Calif. / Laguna Beach) and freshman Derik Nguyen (Anaheim, Calif. / Canyon) also participated in the tournament, dropping both their individual matches but each narrowly missing out on a win. Lebby faced a tough draw in Whittier College's #2 singles senior David Stanko but fell by just two breaks at 6-4, 7-5 before going down to the eventual doubles champion, UCSC freshman Adrian Sirovica (6-3, 6-1). Nguyen was matched up with CLU #3 singles senior Gio Valdez and fell to the veteran, 6-3, 6-2. The Beavers' top recruit then took Claremont-Mudd-Scripps College three-star freshman Alfred Simental right down to the wire, rallying from a 3-6 first-set loss to take the second in a tiebreak, 7-6 (2), and forcing extra points in the superbreaker before bowing out, 10-8.
The Beavers also formed two doubles teams on Friday afternoon but were unable to advance. Lebby/Li fell to CLU's Jesse Knight/Ian Slater, 8-4, and Liu/Nguyen lost 8-3 to Pomona-Pitzer four-star freshman Joshua Gearou/sophomore Marko Mandic.
"We couldn't have dreamed of a better tournament," Head Coach Mandy Gamble said. "Everyone faced opponents who either played at higher courts last year or were ranked higher as recruits, and all four had at least one very close match. I'm already getting impatient for the start of the season this spring."
Gamble and the Beavers open the 2016 season at home on Sunday, Jan. 31 at 11 a.m.