CLAREMONT, Calif. (May 2, 2018) – The third-seeded Caltech men's tennis team played up to the level of its seeding against Pomona-Pitzer Colleges in its first playoff appearance under the SCIAC's new four-team format.
From the first point of the day onward, the Beavers showed they could handle what the second-seeded Sagehens had to dish out. Freshmen James Wei (Chappaqua, N.Y. / Horace Greeley) and Varun Shanker (Midland, Mich. / Midland Dow) proved more than up to the challenge at first doubles, as they defeated the Sagehens' top doubles team, 8-5, in a match where the Caltech rookies maintained control throughout and avenged a loss in their first regular season match back in February. Shanker and Wei are currently the ninth-ranked doubles team in the West region according to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, but could be poised to move up after a landmark week in which they took Claremont Mudd Scripps Colleges' top team, the second-ranked team in the region to three sets at the Ojai Valley Tournament last weekend before taking out the Sagehens' top team on Friday. The Beavers' third pair consisting of sophomore Miha Valencic (Colleyville, Texas / Grapevine) and freshman Kevin Yu (Mason, Ohio / Cincinnati Country Day) had an opportunity to give the Beavers a 2-1 lead, but ultimately came up short in the longest doubles match of the day which ended in a competitive 7-4 tiebreaker.
Caltech also matched up reasonably well in singles play. While the Sagehens ultimately clinched, the Beavers led in the remaining three matches and would have been poised to split singles had those matches continued under regular season rules. Valencic and Yu each got out to quick one-set leads on their opponents and junior Derik Nguyen (Anaheim, Calif. / Canyon) stormed back against his opponent at fourth singles with a dominant second set and good start to the third that saw him leading by the time the match was called.
Head Coach Mandy Gamble and the Beavers will now wait to see if their top doubles team has put together enough of a resume to go to the national Division III tournament, selection for which is based on the NCAA regional rankings, not the ITA. Their prospects for next year look positive as well, with the 33rd-ranked team in the nation losing no players to graduation.