KALAMAZOO, Mich. - The No. 1-ranked Claremont-Mudd-Scripps men's tennis team avenged an NCAA Division III Quarterfinal loss from last season and advanced to the championship match for the fifth time in the last 10 years with a 5-1 win over Chicago on Tuesday afternoon at Stowe Stadium.
With the win, CMS improves to 33-1 and stands one win away from the third national title in program history, joining the 1981 and 2015 teams. The Stags have also finished as runner-up three times this decade, most recently in 2017 to Emory, which CMS will play again this time around after the Eagles took their semifinal 5-3 over Middlebury. The Stags also joined the CMS women's tennis team in finals matches tomorrow after the Athenas took down Middlebury 5-2 on Tuesday to advance to the national title match for the second year in a row.
Sophomore Jack Katzman finished with wins in both singles and doubles, joining sophomore Robert Liu to win in a tiebreaker at No. 3 doubles and then taking a 6-2, 6-3 win at No. 2 singles for the third point for CMS. Junior Nikolai Parodi added a 6-1, 6-4 win at No. 1, and freshman Nic Meister earned the clincher with a fast-moving three-set win at No. 6 (6-1, 1-6, 6-2).
Chicago knocked CMS out in the NCAA Quarterfinals last year in Claremont 5-2, using a doubles sweep to gain a big advantage. In this year's meeting, CMS nearly turned the tables, as the No. 1 doubles team of senior Julian Gordy and Parodi rallied back from 5-1 down to get three match points, but the Maroons were able to fight all three of them off with service winners and take the tiebreaker 8-6 to close the gap to 2-1 heading into singles.
MTEN: Match on 3! Liu and Katzman win the tiebreaker 7-2 for a 2-0 lead. Meanwhile Gordy/Parodi break to get back level at 6-6 at 1. Could be big momentum swing if CMS can pull off a dubs sweep. pic.twitter.com/jyfVHtJ7db— CMS Athletics (@AthleticsCMS) May 21, 2019
Juniors Oscar Burney and Daniel Park picked up the first point in doubles with an 8-5 win at No. 2, with Park serving out the win to give CMS the 1-0 lead. The No. 3 doubles match also went to a tiebreaker, where Chicago led 2-1 early, but sophomores Katzman and Liu rattled off six points in a row for a 7-2 tiebreaker win to put the Stags ahead 2-0.
It felt like there could be a momentum swing as Chicago salvaged the last doubles point in dramatic fashion, but it didn't last long, as CMS asserted itself in singles right away to get momentum back on its side. Parodi, Liu and Meister all won their first sets 6-1, while Katzman jumped out to a 3-0 lead and ended up closing his out 6-2. Gordy, meanwhile, earned a late break and was able to take a 7-5 first set win, with the Maroons only able to salvage one set at No. 5 in a tiebreaker.
MTEN: There's one! Katzman takes a 6-2, 6-3 win at 2 singles to put CMS up 3-1. Two more to clinch! pic.twitter.com/MT4nXbiAGu— CMS Athletics (@AthleticsCMS) May 21, 2019
Katzman fell behind 3-2 early in the second set, but broke right back to tie it 3-3 and then closed out a 6-2, 6-3 win to leave CMS two wins from the clinch. Parodi was able to earn a break late in the set, and served out a 6-1, 6-4 win to make the score 4-1.
MTEN: One more! Parodi holds for a 6-1, 6-4 win at 1 as Stags lead 4-1 over Chicago in the NCAA semis. pic.twitter.com/0KEBkgOpDa— CMS Athletics (@AthleticsCMS) May 21, 2019
The Stags then had a three-way race to the finish line, which was nearly won by Gordy at Court 3, but Chicago's Charlie Pei kept their season alive momentarily, with a desperation lob on match point off a Gordy volley that fell in to get back to deuce, before ending up with the break to tie the second set 5-5, which was where it ended. Liu, meanwhile, broke serve to go up 5-4 in the second and was serving up 30-15 when Meister was able to cap off his win with an overhead at the net on Court 6 to give CMS the 5-1 victory.
The win sends the Stags through to the finals against No. 2-ranked Emory, after the Eagles held off a Middlebury comeback for a 5-3 win. CMS and Emory did not meet each other this season, but played in the 2017 NCAA Finals, which Emory won 5-2 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. That was another match in which CMS fell behind 3-0 after doubles, which proved to pivotal as four of six singles matches went to three sets (with Parodi winning his at No. 1 as a freshman, while Park was tied 3-3 in the third set at No. 5 when Emory earned the clinch).
The two teams also played last year at the ITA Indoor Finals, which Emory won 5-4 after the Stags led 2-1 after doubles. Parodi and Katzman each had singles and doubles wins in that contest, but Emory's Andrew Harrington provided the clincher in a third-set tiebreaker 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (7-3) at No. 5. That meeting was also a battle of No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the nation, with the Eagles holding down the top spot and the Stags ranked second, while tomorrow's match will be No. 1 vs. No. 2 as well, with CMS ranked No. 1.