ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. – The Brandeis University men's tennis team, seeded fourth and ranked 10th in Division III, upended top-seeded and second-ranked University of Chicago today, 5-3, in the semifinals of the University Athletic Association (UAA) tournament at Sanlando Park in Altamonte Springs. With the win, the Judges advance to the UAA championship match for the first time in program history, where they will meet second-seed and third-ranked Emory tomorrow at 8:30 a.m.
"This team is really special," said head coach Ben Lamanna. "They worked really hard for this and trained for it. They have been resilient, and shown good character – a bunch of good kids who've earned it."
The Judges started out strong with a 2-1 doubles win. Chicago earned the first point of the match at #1, where Erik Kerrigan and Ninan Kumar defeated David Aizenberg (Highland Park, Ill./Highland Park) and Anupreeth Coramutla (Monroe Township, N.J./Phillips Andover), 8-4.
At #2, Brandeis rookie Adam Tzeng (Eagle, Idaho) was paired with sophomore Rajan Vohra (Glen Head, N.Y. / North Shore) for the first time this season, as regular partner Jeffrey Chen (Northfield, Ill./New Trier) was ruled out after suffering cramps during yesterday's 5-3 quarterfinal win. The #2 duo defeated UC's Charlie Pei and Joshua Xu, 8-6, to even the match. At #3, senior Tyler Ng (Great Neck, N.Y./Great Neck South) and rookie Colt Tegtmeier (Madison, Wisc./James Madison Memorial) rallied to take a tiebreaker from the Maroons' Tyler Raclin and Jeremy Yuan, 8-7 (7-5).
"We've had a new guy step up for us each match," Lamanna said. "Today, Rajan was huge stepping in to doubles. And Colt and Tyler played a phenomenal match at #3 against a couple of All-Americans."
In singles action, the teams traded blows, with the Maroons' Alejandro Rodriguez topping Vohra at #5, 6-1, 6-2, to square the match at 2-2. Coramutla downed Yuan, 7-5, 6-1, at #2 to give Brandeis lead back, and Tzeng took a 7-5, 6-2 decision from Charlie Pei at #3 to put Brandeis on the brink of victory.
"For Preeth, that might have been the best match he had all season," Lamanna said. "And Adam has been such a great competitor all season long as a freshman."
Chicago bounced back with a 6-4, 6-4, win at #6, where Alex Guzhva knocked off senior Zach Cihlar (Phoenix, Ariz./Brophy College Prep). The Maroons had won the first set in the two remaining matches, at #1 and #4, but Brandeis bounced back to win the second in each, forcing a pair of third sets to decide the match. Ultimately, senior Aizenberg had the clinching victory at #1, avenging his doubles loss to Kerrigan, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, by winning the last five games. Sophomore Nikhil Das (Smithfield, R.I./Moses Brown School) trailed Xu, 3-6, 6-3, 3-4, but was on serve, when the match was clinched.
"Zach displayed his senior leadership by stepping into the lineup, and played a great match," Lamanna said. "And when David got on a roll with his late break in the second set, he just kept going."
Brandeis improves to 16-3 on the season as they look to win their second-ever UAA title, joining the 1989 squad that won when the tournament was a flighted event, not head-to-head team competition.