Men’s and women’s tennis has strong showing at nationals

The Carnegie Mellon men’s and women’s tennis teams had strong representation at the ITA National Small College Championships held in Mobile, Ala., with two teams taking fourth in doubles play: seniors James Muliawan and Niko Ljuboja, as well as sophomore Laura Chen and junior Ashley Herrick. Chen also made the singles draw for the tournament and placed fourth overall. This tournament concludes the season for both teams.

The ITA nationals mark the second appearance for Muliawan and Ljuboja, who made the tournament in their first year. This time, the duo won their first match against a Luther College team with a little trouble, but triumphed in the end 6–4, 6–4. Despite a strong win, the two were unable to repeat the previous day’s results and fell in the semifinals to Andrew Thomson and Andrew Lee of Middlebury College, 6–1, 6–3. For the playoff match, Muliawan and Ljuboja faced a duo from Ithaca College. After losing the first set 4–6 and winning the second 6–4, the Tartans fell in the tiebreak to take fourth place.

“I guess our result is okay; I wish we could have done better, but it’s been fun,” Muliawan said of his fourth place finish. “I made singles last year and doubles in my freshman year, so three out of four years isn’t bad.”

“I had a fun time playing with James, and I’m glad we were able to make nationals our senior year,” Ljuboja stated. “This trip was a lot of fun, and I’m glad I was able to spend some quality time with other people on the team. It’s nice to start my senior year the same way I started [my freshman year]: making nationals.”

For the women’s side, Chen and Herrick beat Emory’s Lorne McManigle and Zahra Dawson 1–6, 7–6 (7–4), 1–0 to advance to the semifinals. The Tartans next faced Jackie Shtemberg and Felice Trinh of the College of New Jersey, but fell 6–3, 1–6, 1–0 (9–7) after a long and grueling battle. Determined to do better in the next match, the Tartans overpowered the first doubles team from Redlands University, 6–4, 6–2 to take third.

“I think that there were a lot of good people in the tournament, so I guess losing to good competition isn’t as bad,” Chen remarked. “It’s always very disappointing to lose, but I like to think that since the matches were close that they could have gone either way. Losing to tough competition just makes me want to work harder.”

“I had a great experience going to Alabama for the first time,” Herrick added. “Laura and I had to perform at our best in order to be competitive in every match, but it was really fun having the opportunity to compete against some of the best teams in the nation.”

Chen also competed in singles play, with this being her second year making ITA nationals after placing second last year. The first round proved to be a warm up for Chen, who only dropped three games against her Trinity College opponent 6–2, 6–1. In the semifinals, Chen faced the University of Chicago’s first-seeded Kendra Higgins. After dropping the first set 4–6, Chen rallied back to win the second set by a margin of a couple points, 7–6 (6). Unfortunately Higgins regrouped in the final set to win 4–6.

The tennis teams will resume play in the fall. With such strong representation in this tournament, both the men’s and women’s teams are expected to be an intimidating force to other opponents.