CLAREMONT, Calif. - The Ephs returned to action on Friday - this time on the west coast - for the start of the second half of their spring break trip, as they looked to snap their two-match skid in a meeting with the Maroons of the University of Chicago on the courts of Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in a rematch of last year's NCAA Quarterfinal dual.
The Maroons knew that they would have to start better than they did last season in Kalamazoo - where they dropped all three doubles points - if they were going to have a chance to upset the second-ranked team in the country. However, two days' rest worked wonders for the Ephs, meaning even a slightly stronger doubles showing from the Maroons could not halt the march of the purple and gold, as the Massachusetts side claimed two of the three doubles points and four of the six singles points on their way to a 6-3 win over the top-ranked team in the central region.
Leah Bush and Mia Gancayco set the standard for the Ephs in doubles as the sophomore-junior partnership reaped significant returns with a straight-forward 8-1 win at the number two position to ensure the Ephs were the first team with a point.
The Eph team on Court 3 wasn't far behind their compatriots, as Julia Cancio and Emily Zheng continued their strong start to the spring season with their fifth win in six doubles matches, losing only three games in the process of defeating Laura Gutierrez and Adrienne Travis, 8-3.
The Maroons managed to keep the dual close going into singles, however, as their top doubles team of Marjorie Antohi and her partner, Rachel Kim, jumped out to an early break lead against the likes of Hannah Atkinson and Chloe Henderson, 3-0. Though the Ephs by no means conceded the match, managing to claw their way back to a 3-4 deficit, the number-one Maroons ultimately fashioned an 8-4 victory to pull their side to within one point of the Ephs entering the singles portion.
Any hopes the Maroons had of avenging their 2016 postseason loss, however, were quickly dashed, as the Ephs took first sets on all six singles courts.
Gancayco and Cancio were the first off the courts, following up their 6-0 opening sets with 6-1 and 6-3 score lines on Courts 5 and 6 respectively, bringing the Ephs to within one point of clinching the overall dual.
Bush delivered the finishing blow at the number one position, as she won the first set in her singles match for the first time this spring season. The Eph sophomore overcame Ariana Iranpour in straight sets, 6-1 and 6-2, to put the match beyond doubt even with three matches remaining on the court.
The Maroons refused to stop fighting, however, and they managed to claim two of those three remaining matches.
Antohi got the Illinois outfit on the board in singles with a three-set win at the number two position over Sydney Myong. Myong claimed the opening set 6-3, only to be pegged back by the same margin in the second set. In lieu of a third set, since the match's outcome had already been determined, the players played a match-tiebreaker, which the Maroon first-year eked out by the slimmest of margins, 10-8, over her first-year opposition.
The match on Court 4 was the next to finish up, and Atkinson was the person to emerge victorious, growing the Ephs' point tally to six as a result of her 6-3, 6-1 win over Tiffany Chen.
Last but not least was the battle on Court 3, which raged for two sets before a retirement settled the match. Linda Shin battled out a 7-5 first set with Kim, but that did not secure her the victory, as the sophomore Californian roared back to level the match at one set apiece after a 6-3 second set. However, the Eph senior was unable to play out the match-tiebreaker, and instead was forced to retire, ending the dual 6-3 in favor of the Ephs.
"Today was a huge win," affirmed Eph head coach Alison Swain in her post-match comments, as she talked about the growth of her team over the course of their spring break training trip. "We had several spots in the lineup where we were able to take decisive leads and finish those matches. Improvement in our starts showed today and that was a goal of ours."
The Ephs will look to continue to improve tomorrow on Saturday, when they face off against the team that played host to the Ephs and the Maroons on Friday, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. That showdown is set to start at 10 AM PDT.
Williams 6, University of Chicago 3
- Bush, Leah (WILLIAMS) def. Iranpour, Ariana (CHICAGO) 6-1, 6-2
- Antohi, Marjorie (CHICAGO) def. Myong, Sydney (WILLIAMS) 3-6, 6-3, 1-0(8)
- Kim, Rachel (CHICAGO) def. Shin, Linda (WILLIAMS) 5-7, 6-4 (ret.)
- Atkinson, Hannah (WILLIAMS) def. Chen, Tiffany (CHICAGO 6-3, 6-1
- Gancayco, Mia (WILLIAMS) def. Navarro, Estefania (CHICAGO) 6-0, 6-1
- Cancio, Julia (WILLIAMS) def. Rudin, Alyssa (CHICAGO) 6-0, 6-3
- Antohi, Marjorie/Kim, Rachel (CHICAGO) def. Atkinson, Hannah/Henderson, Chloe (WILLIAMS) 8-4
- Bush, Leah/Gancayco, Mia (WILLIAMS) def. Chen, Tiffany/Rudin, Alyssa (CHICAGO) 8-1
- Cancio, Julia/Zheng, Emily (WILLIAMS) def. Gutierrez, Laura/Travis, Adrienne (CHICAGO) 8-3
Order of Finish:
Doubles – 2, 3, 1
Singles – 5, 6, 1, 2, 4, 3
Williams: 6-2, nationally ranked #2, regionally ranked #1 (Northeast)
University of Chicago: 9-3, nationally ranked #6, regionally ranked #1 (Central)