Shanker, Wei Vie for Title Defense at ITA Regionals

Shanker, Wei Vie for Title Defense at ITA Regionals

CLAREMONT, Calif. (Oct. 4, 2019) – The 24th-ranked Caltech men's tennis team is sending a record 11 players to this year's Intercollegiate Tennis Association West Regional Championship, including defending men's doubles champions Varun Shanker (Midland, Mich. / Midland Dow) and James Wei (Chappaqua, N.Y. / Horace Greeley).


Last year, the then-sophomores made history when they defeated the top-seeded team from Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges, 1-6, 6-3, 7-6(6), to become the first pair of Caltech scholar-athletes to win an ITA regional tournament and advance to the national tournament in Rome, Ga. This year, the Beavers will look to defend their title as the tournament's second-seeded team and one of four Caltech teams in the draw. Their first task will be to get past Ryan Gee and David Jackson from the University of California, Santa Cruz, but could eventually have a chance to avenge a loss to the University of Redlands from the spring with Bradley Cummins and Brysl Libao positioned as the tournament's top-seeded team on the other side of the bracket. Shanker and Wei could also be looking at the possibility of facing teammates before the final if sophomore Patryk Kozlowski (Irvine, Calif. / University High) and freshman Nathan Zou (Murfreesboro, Tenn. / Central Magnet) can get past the third-seeded team from Claremont-Mudd Scripps Colleges in the first round and later the fifth-seeded team from California Lutheran University, the former of which includes reigning SCIAC Player of the Year Nikolai Parodi. 

Two more Caltech teams have been lined up with winnable matches in the other side of the draw. Freshman John Kim (Cupertino, Calif. / Menlo School) and senior Connor Soohoo (Redwood Shores, Calif. / Crystal Springs) are positioned in the Bulldogs' quarter and are set to face Jesse Eccles and Sam Whitehill of Whittier College in the opening match. Kim and Soohoo will look to maintain the program's continued success against Whittier, with the Beavers most recently beating the Poets, 8-1, in the regular season finale this past spring. Caltech's fourth doubles team, which features freshman Rishi Gundakaram (Wyoming, Del. / Caesar Rodney) teaming with sophomore Jake Will (Honolulu, Hawaii / Punahou School), will face one of CMS' unseeded teams in the opening round. Together, the Beavers and Stags, the second-ranked team in Division III, will account for nine of 32 teams in this year's men's doubles tournament.

The men's tennis team will also have a chance to do some damage in the singles draws with 11 players representing the program across three flights. Shanker and Wei have been seeded third and fifth respectively in the Flight A singles draw and can only cross paths if both players manage to make Sunday's finals. Shanker is slated to face off with Casey Morris of CMS first with a semifinal match with conference standout Parodi a possibility in the semis. Wei, meanwhile, will look too turn back Jack Bernstein of Pomona-Pitzer Colleges in his first-round matchup and could be looking at a seeded clash with CMS' Jack Katzman (2) in the quarterfinals should he continue to advance. In addition to Shanker and Wei, three more Beavers will be involved in the Flight A tournament. Junior Kevin Yu (Mason, Ohio / Cincinnati Country Day) will look to pick up a win over CMS' Michael Hao in his first round contest, which could allow him to potentially play spoiler against Katzman in the second round and set up a possible meeting of Caltech players in the quarterfinals. Sophomores Matthew Gonzalgo (Plantation, Fla. / St. Thomas Aquinas), along with Kozlowski are also featured in Flight A this year, with Gonzalgo taking on Matthew Jacobs of CMS in his first round match while Kozlowski matches up with Jacobs' teammate Jake Williams further down the draw.

Caltech's participation in Flight B is headlined by senior Miha Valencic (Colleyville, Texas / Grapevine), who checks in as the tournament's second-seeded player. Valencic's 16 total victories were second only to Shanker this past spring and is looking at a winnable matchup against Occidental College's Joe Schwarz in the first round. Valencic could play as many as three seeded players this weekend, including seventh-seeded freshman teammate Kim, though his biggest test would potentially come in the finals against top-seeded Quinn Hirsohn from Pomona-Pitzer. Kim, the highest ranked Caltech player in this year's freshman class (157th), will make his singles debut against Reina Igna of UC Santa Cruz and would only have to face another Caltech player in the semifinals, should he advance that far. Classmate Zou, ranked 282nd in his class, is also positioned in this half of the bracket and will meet Avery Bicks of the Sagehens in his opening round match. A win for Zou would likely mean a second-round match with fifth-seeded Jacob Lee of Chapman University, and two-straight wins could make for an interesting clash with Valencic in the quarterfinals. In the top half of the draw, eighth-seeded Soohoo will look to advance with a win over Occidental's Christian Anderson. Should Soohoo advance, he would not have to play a seeded player until a potential run-in with fourth-seeded Andrew Leahy of the Bulldogs in the quarterfinals. Sophomore Will rounds out Caltech representation in the Flight B draw and has a daunting matchup with top-seeded Hirsohn waiting for him in the opening round. Gundakaram will be the Beavers' lone representative in a wide-open Flight C draw which has him seeded sixth. The 208th-ranked player in his class will look to get on a roll with a win over Lucas Chen of the Banana Slugs in the first round and is fortunately seeded on the other side of Chen's teammate Kris Harris, the top-seeded player in Flight C.

Friday, Oct. 4 


#2 Shanker/Wei d. Gee/Jackson (UCSC), 8-6

Eccles/Whitehill (WC) d. Soohoo/Kim, 8-4

Berber/Morris (CMS) d. Will/Gundakaram, 8-6

#3 Freer/Parodi (CMS) d. Kozlowski/Zou, 8-1

Flight A Singles

Morris (CMS) d. #3 Shanker, 2-6, 6-1, 6-4

#5 Wei d. Bernstein (PP), 6-1, 6-1

Jacobs (CMS) d. Gonzalgo, 4-6, 7-5, 6-1

Kozlowski d. Williams (CMS), 6-4, 6-1

Hao (CMS), d. Yu, 6-1, 6-3

#5 Wei d. Wilkins (CU), 6-3, 6-1

#8 Freer (CMS) d. Kozlowski, 6-2, 6-0

Flight A Singles Consolation

Gonzalgo d. Zhang (OXY), 7-5, 7-5

Forman (Colo.) d. #3 Shanker, Wo (inj)

Bellet (P-P) d. Yu, 6-3, 7-5

Flight B Singles

Schwarz (OXY) d. #2 Valencic, 6-1, 4-6, 10-7

Igna (UCSC) d. #7 Kim, 6-1, 7-6

#8 Soohoo d. Anderson (OXY), 6-2, 6-4

#1 Hirsohn (PP) d. Will, 6-1, 5-7, 11-9

Zou d. Bicks (PP), 7-5, 6-4

#8 Soohoo d. Skattum (PP), 6-1, 6-4

#5 Lee (CU) d. Zou, 6-4, 6-2

Flight B Singles Consolation

Hum (Colo.) d. Will, 6-4, 6-1

Morrow (CLU) d. #7 Kim, 6-2, 7-5

#2 Valencic d. Moylan (CLU), 6-2, 6-1

Flight C Singles

Chen (UCSC) d. Gundakaram, 6-2, 6-2


Saturday, Oct. 5 


#2 Shanker/Wei d. Bicks/Stark (PP), 8-7 (1)

#2 Shanker/Wei d. Chmielewski/O'Connor (OXY), 8-7 (5)

Doubles Consolation

Williams/Zhang (OXY) d. Kim/Soohoo, 8-5

Will/Gundakaram d. Hirsohn/Skattum (PP), 8-7 (3)

Leahy/Lilov (RED) d. Kozlowski/Zou, 8-3

Forman/Hum (COLO) d. Will/Gundakaram, 8-6

Flight A Singles

#2 Katzman (CMS) d. #5 Wei, 5-7; 6-2; 6-2

Flight A Consolation

Gonzalgo d. Snyder (PP), Wd (ill)

Gonzalgo d. Madabhushi (PP), Wd (inj)

Flight B Singles

#8 Soohoo d. #4 Leahy (RED), 2-0, Ret.

Stark (PP) d. #8 Soohoo, 6-4, 6-1

Flight B Consolation

Bicks (PP) d. #2 Valencic, 6-4, 6-3

Flight C Consolation

#6 Gundakaram d. Murphy (CLU), 4-1 Ret (inj)

#6 Gundakaram d. Maniego (WC), 7-5, 6-2


Sunday, Oct. 6 


#2 Shanker/Wei d. Comadena/Madabhushi (PP), 8-5

#1 Cummins/Libao (RED) d. #2 Shanker/Wei, 6-2, 6-4

Flight A Consolation

Gonzalgo d. Habbestad (CMS), 2-6, 6-3, 1-0(4)

Flight C Consolation

#6 Gundakaram d. Yang (RED), 5-7; 6-2; 1-0(3)

Spina (CLU) d. #6 Gundakaram, 6-3, 6-3



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