ORLANDO – When Christian Alshon stepped to the service line up 5-3, 40-love in the third set on Wednesday afternoon, history was resting on his racket. On his very next serve, the University of Chicago junior pummeled an ace straight down the T.
That clinching point set off a raucous celebration on the courts as the UChicago men’s tennis team defeated Case Western Reserve University 5-2 in the NCAA Division III Championship title match. The Maroon men became the first team to win an NCAA Division III national championship in school history.
The No. 1-ranked Maroons capped their historic season on a 15-match winning streak, finishing with a 22-1 overall record. The 22 victories broke the previous program record of 20 wins set in 2019.
UChicago men’s tennis was a program on the rise in recent years. A youthful 2015 squad made a run to the NCAA semifinals for the program’s first time ever – a feat the Maroons would accomplish three more times in the next four years. However, the semis proved to be a roadblock until the 2022 season.
The Maroons were back in the NCAA semis for the fifth time on Tuesday, with No. 3-ranked Tufts University standing in the way. A barnburner commenced in the sweltering Florida heat as the teams battled to a 4-4 tie with one match remaining. Alshon fought through cramping in his No. 1 singles match and served up an ace to end it, sending his squad through to the NCAA national title match.
A familiar foe awaited. No. 2-ranked Case Western Reserve University (25-5 record) loomed on the other side of the net. As conference rivals in the University Athletic Association (UAA), the two teams had already met twice this season. CWRU claimed the first matchup in the finals of the ITA Indoor National Championship back in February by a 5-1 score. UChicago then repaid the favor with a 5-0 triumph in the UAA Championship match on April 23.
The trilogy came to a head on Wednesday morning at the United States Tennis Association (USTA) National Campus. Doubles play broke in favor of UChicago at the onset. Alshon and sophomore Derek Hsieh bested their opponents at No. 1 doubles by an 8-4 margin. The No. 3 tandem of junior Sachin Das and senior Alex Guzhva cruised to an 8-2 win. The Spartans countered by capturing a team point at the No. 2 position.
With six singles matches set to begin, the Maroons knew they needed three wins to secure the title. Guzhva and Shramay Dhawan obliged – the seniors were victorious by matching scores of 6-4, 6-1 at the No. 4 and No. 5 positions, respectively.
Despite holding a 4-1 lead in the team scoring, the Maroons were still tested all the way down to the wire. CWRU got a straight-sets win at No. 2, and the remaining three matches all went to deciding third sets.
It was Alshon who would play the hero once again. At the No. 1 position, the junior dropped the first set 6-3 to James Hopper before rallying to take the second set 6-2. The third set saw Alshon draw ahead 4-2, but Hopper countered with a service break to make it 4-3. Undeterred, Alshon immediately broke Hopper’s serve to put the Maroons on the edge of victory at 5-3. Four points later, the Maroons were officially crowned NCAA national champions.
“Today’s championship is the culmination of many years of hard work by our current players and those that came before them,” Head Coach Jay Tee said. “We dealt with some adversity early in the year as we were forming our culture and identity, but the men responded well to every challenge put in front of them. Today, we focused not on playing for a championship or an opponent but instead just focused on the ball in front of us – the same one we’ve all hit a million times in our careers. The last three days, and the entire season, has been a complete team effort. While Christian provided the heroics the past two days, he and his teammates put him in the position to deliver in the clutch, which he did. I’m just so thrilled to share the court with this group of men and it is truly a privilege to be their coach. It’s the best group of young men I could ever ask to be associated with.”
During its time as a member of NCAA Division III, UChicago has reached the national championship final on five different occasions. Women’s soccer was the national runner-up in 2003 and 2017. Women’s tennis took second place in 2012. The 2022 UChicago men’s and women’s tennis teams both reached the final this year.
UChicago 5, Case Western Reserve 2
1. Christian Alshon (UC) def. James Hopper (CWR) 3-6, 6-2, 6-3
2. Vishwa Aduru (CWR) def. Arjun Asokumar (UC) 6-4, 6-1
3. Derek Hsieh (UC) vs. Ansh Shah (CWR) 4-6, 7-6 (8-6), 1-2, unfinished
4. Alex Guzhva (UC) def. Michael Sutanto (CWR) 6-4, 6-1
5. Shramay Dhawan (UC) def. Chaitanya Aduru (CWR) 6-4, 6-1
6. Andrei Leonov (UC) vs. Jonathan Powell (CWR) 5-7, 6-4, 1-2, unfinished
1. Christian Alshon/Derek Hsieh (UC) def. James Hopper/Jonathan Powell (CWR-M) 8-4
2. Vishwa Aduru/Sahil Dayal (CWR) def. Arjun Asokumar/Andrei Leonov (UC) 8-3
3. Sachin Das/Alex Guzhva (UC) def. Chaitanya Aduru/Michael Sutanto (CWR) 8-2
- Friday, May 27 @ 8:45 AM (ET) – UChicago at NCAA Singles & Doubles Championships (at Orlando, Fla.)
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