In a back-and-forth match that lasted nearly five hours and featured four three-set singles matches, the 21st-ranked Case Western Reserve University men's tennis team fought its way to a 6-3 upset win over 14th-ranked Brandeis University to clinch fifth place at the 2018 University Athletic Association Championships at Sanlando Park in Altamonte Springs, Florida.
The matched proved to be a statement victory for the Spartans, who would not fade away against their higher-ranked opponent in the contest, despite falling behind 2-1 after doubles, and dropping the first set in four of the six singles matches. Brandeis was the highest-ranked opponent defeated by the Spartans this season, strengthening the team's resume for a potential at-large bid to the NCAA Championships.
The win also locked up fifth-place in the UAA for Case Western Reserve, as the team exacted a measure of revenge against the Judges, who defeated the Spartans in last year's fifth-place match at the conference championships. CWRU improved to 17-10 with the win, while Brandeis dropped to 14-5 with the loss.
The Spartans registered the first point in the match, taking a 1-0 lead after an 8-4 win at first doubles from senior James Fojtasek and sophomore Anthony Kanam over David Aizenberg and Anupreeth Coramutla (ranked third in the Northeast Region). However, Brandeis responded with wins in the final two doubles matches, as Jackson Kogan and Tyler Ng defeated freshman Neil Mabee and Jonathan Powell 8-6 at second doubles, and Nikhil Das and Rajan Vohra topped freshman Matthew Chen and sophomore Zach Hennessey 8-5 at third doubles, giving the Judges a 2-1 lead heading into singles play.
Kanam secured a 6-4, 6-2 win over Vohra at third singles, and sophomore Siddharth Rajupet defeated Benjamin Wolfe 6-4, 6-1 at sixth singles to put CWRU back in front in the team score, 3-2.
The Spartans still needed wins in two of the final four singles matches. Each CWRU singles player would drop the opening set of their match, but would battle back to force a third set on all four courts. In the second singles match against Kogan, Chen battled back from a 6-3 loss in the first set to win the second set 6-3, but ultimately suffered a 6-1 setback in the deciding third set, as Brandeis tied the team score at 3-3. However, at fourth singles, sophomore Sam Concannon fought his way to a 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 win over Das, putting the Spartans a point away from clinching a win with two matches remaining.
The deciding point would come in the fifth singles contest. After dropping the opening set 6-3 against Ng, Powell claimed a 7-5 win in the second set to knot the match at a set apiece, and then would pull away to win in the third set, 6-4, and secure the victory for CWRU. Powell finished the UAA Championships with a perfect 3-0 record in singles play, and improved to 7-0 in singles matches overall this season.
Fojtasek would put a bow on the victory, earning a three-set win of his own over Aizenberg (ranked 23rd in the Northeast Region), 4-6, 6-4, 7-5.
Saturday's match concludes the scheduled portion of the 2018 regular season for the Spartans, who ended their regular season playing some of their best tennis of the year. After nearly pulling off an upset in a 5-4 loss against ninth-ranked Carnegie Mellon in the UAA semifinals on Thursday, CWRU bounced back for an 8-1 win over NYU on Friday, setting the stage for Saturday's upset win over Brandeis. The team has won eight of its final 10 matches, with the only two losses coming to nationally-ranked Division III teams.
CWRU will now await the announcement of the field for the 2018 NCAA Division III Championships. The team team selections will be posted to NCAA.com by noon eastern time on Monday, May 7th, while the individual selections will be posted by 7:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday, May 9th.