The Gustavian Weekly

Men’s Tennis falls to Chicago at Nationals: Johnson and Whaling prepare for Individual Championships | The Gustavian Weekly

By Joe Brandel - Sports & Fitness Editor | May 17, 2019 | Sports & Fitness

This past weekend, the Gusties competed in the regional leg of the NCAA Men’s Tennis Championships hosted at the University of Chicago. After a perfect 9-0 conference record, the team was named MIAC Champions for the 31st consecutive year and followed it up with a postseason playoff title heading into the tournament.
These accolades made it easy for the NCAA selection committee to determine the team was worthy of a first round bye in the regional matchups. Joining the No. 16 ranked Gusties in the six-team regional was No. 2 ranked University of Chicago, Luther, Augustana, Grinnell, and St. Scholastica.
In the team’s first match of the tournament and regional semifinals, the Gusties took on Grinnell College, who were fired up from their 5-0 win against St. Scholastica the day before.
This did not seem to phase the black and gold however, who made quick work of Grinnell with a decisive 5-0 win.
Head Coach Tommy Valentini was impressed with the team’s composure on the bigger stage.
“The guys were great today,” Head Coach Tommy Valentini said. “The energy and execution were outstanding in the doubles. [Aney] and [Derbani] and [Johnson] and [Whaling] came out flying. From there [O’Neil] and [Sanga] played very well to get us the sweep. We stayed very focused and present in the singles and handled the moment very well.”
The top doubles team of Seniors Chase Johnson and Patrick Whaling won by a score of 8-1. The second doubles team of Junior Yassine Derbani and First-year Nick Aney also won 8-1. Closing out doubles was Junior Mike O’Neil and Sophomore Xavier Sanga who won 8-4.
“Our seniors led us to the fourth and fifth points, but all of the boys were competing well when we got the clinch,” Valentini said. “We’re grateful to be in the final 16, and we are looking forward to the challenge and excited to compete and enjoy the moment.”
At one singles, Whaling won his match by scores of 6-3, 6-0 and Johnson quickly followed with a win to conclude the match 6-1, 6-3.
The following day, the team faced off against No. 2 ranked University of Chicago, a team that has given them troubles at the national stage for the past few years.
Chicago jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in doubles, but these were not easy wins by any means. The same doubles pairs played and one, two, and three doubles lost by scores of 8-4, 8-7 (8-6), and 8-6, respectively.
The Gusties battled back in singles and earned two points behind the efforts of Johnson and First-year Indraneel Raut.
“Down 0-3, the guys came out in singles and competed at an incredible level. They stayed positive, and present, and never gave in. A group with lesser character would have folded in that situation against an opponent of this caliber. We were absolutely warriors up and down the line. Raut was brilliant in every phase of the game at 6, and Johnson put together a vintage performance coming back from a set down to beat an All-American singles player convincingly in the last 2 sets,” Valentini said.
The Gusties’ season would ultimately come to a close, however, after Chicago garnered two more wins at three and four singles, ending the match with a score of 5-2.
Despite the loss, Valentini was proud of the effort and resiliency shown by all the players as they faced off against one of the best sides in the nation.
“The Chicago guys played extremely well against [O’Neil] and [Derbani] to score there. We were in great position with [Whaling] having played a composed and excellent match to lead 4-0 in the third, and [Aney] serving for the match after a great tactical match at five,” Valentini said. “I just can’t say enough about the heart and strength of this group. They were a few inches away from the result we hoped for today, but they were successful at the highest level and in living out our values.”
The Gusties closed out the season with an overall record of 20-8. Johnson, Whaling, O’Neil, and Aney all earned All-Conference honors. Derbani, Raut, and Sanga were also named as All-Conference Honorable Mentions.
Whaling and Johnson also were also ITA Regional Award winners for their performances in the NCAA tournament and will both be heading to Kalamazoo, Michigan May 24-26 to compete in the NCAA Individual Championships.
Whaling will compete in the singles tournament and then join Johnson in doubles.

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