Tennis teams shine at 2022 NCAA Championships

Spring 2022 Postseason Recap Series

Kyle Grover, Staff Writer

While most students were heading home for the summer in May, the Case Western Reserve University tennis teams were busy competing in the NCAA Division III championship tournament. The men’s tennis team finished second in the team tournament for the second-straight year and finished with an overall season record of 25-5. 

Then-third-year James Hopper and graduate student Jonathan Powell won the NCAA Doubles Championship, becoming the second pairing in program history to accomplish the feat. 

The women’s tennis team reached the NCAA Division III Championship for the first time in program history, winning its first-ever NCAA Tournament match and falling just one win shy of the program record for wins in a season with a record of 17-5. The women’s team ended the season ranked 12th.


Men’s Team

The men’s team hosted the tournament’s first three regional rounds at Carlton Courts. With a first round bye, the men’s team pounced to a 5-0 win against Ohio Northern University in the second round. The Spartans rode this momentum into the third round against the No. 39 University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Though CWRU fell behind 3-0 due to uncharacteristic poor doubles play, the team’s strong singles play helped overcome this deficit and make a miraculous comeback.

The Spartans then traveled to the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Florida to keep the team’s quest for a national championship alive. The men’s tennis team was locked in for their quarterfinal match against sixth-ranked Williams College with a swift 5-0 victory. CWRU’s dominance continued in the semi-finals with a 5-1 victory over fourth-ranked Middlebury College. 

For the second year in a row, the Spartans competed in the NCAA championship match. Unfortunately, their magical season ended when the men’s team suffered a 5-2 defeat to the first-ranked University of Chicago Maroons.

With the NCAA team’s championship over, the top players for CWRU’s men’s tennis shifted their focus to the NCAA individual championships. Second-year Vishwa Aduru, first-year Ansh Shah and Hopper were selected to represent CWRU in the singles draw. Hopper and Powell also qualified for the doubles draw. 

Though the CWRU singles players ultimately faced defeat in the singles tournament, the doubles tournament was a different story. Hopper and Powell had great success and finished it off by besting Emory University’s Andrew Esses and Nolan Shah 6-4, 6-1 in the doubles championship match. It was the second time in the history of the men’s tennis program that a CWRU pairing has won the NCAA Division III Doubles Championship. Hopper and Powell joined former Spartans Eric Klawitter and CJ Krimbill in the honor, who earned the title in 2014.  

Though the 2021-2022 season was an overall success for the men’s tennis team, they are already looking to next season. 

“I think this season taught our team a lot of lessons and gave us even more inspiration and motivation to achieve the last hurdle of the NCAA team championships for this upcoming year,” said Shah when asked about the season. “Obviously as a freshman coming in, I’m just trying to learn from the upperclassmen and the coaching staff, but I think we just have to keep putting our head down and working hard and fight for an NCAA title.”


Women’s Team:

Just like the men’s team, the women’s tennis team started the NCAA championship team tournament at Carlton Courts. Though this was the first time CWRU women’s tennis has ever competed in the tournament, the Spartans didn’t get crushed by the weight of the moment and won their first match against No. 24 Denison University. 

Starting off with doubles, the duo of second-year Katherine Wang and first-year Radha Patel led the way with an 8-3 win. First-years Hannah Kassaie and Lily McCloskey extended the Spartans’ lead to 2-0 with an 8-6 win of their own. First-year Anna Kan quickly added another point to the CWRU scoreboard after her opponent retired due to injury. Patel continued on with her success in doubles to singles play with a dominant 6-0, 6-1 victory. Shortly thereafter, the late Madeleine Eiss clinched the win for CWRU with a 6-2, 6-1 victory.

Unfortunately, the Spartans fell to the fourth-ranked Claremont-Mudd-Scripps College Athenas in the second round. CWRU found themselves in a hole early in doubles play, with the Spartans losing all three matches. Singles play did not fare any better, with the Athenas claiming victories in the first two singles matches winning the match 5-0.

With this defeat, the CWRU women’s tennis team’s highly successful season came to an end for all but two Spartans: Kassaie and McCloskey. The dynamic doubles pair now had to be locked in for the doubles tournament. Though Kassaie and McCloskey were unranked, they still had brilliant performances at the tournament. Their magical run ended in the quarter finals where they suffered a 5-7, 2-6 defeat against the University of Chicago’s Shianna Guo and Slywia Mikos.

Overall, the CWRU women’s tennis team posted one of the best seasons in program history in 2021-2022. Still, the team is constantly looking to improve. 

“It was our first time qualifying for NCAAs last season, which was super exciting,” said Wang when asked about the team’s future. “However, a big goal for us is to not only qualify again, but make a deeper run into the tournament this year.” 

This upcoming season will be one of toughest in program history. Wang explains, “We’re going into this season without an integral member of the team. The passing away of Maddie has really taken a toll on our team and we all miss her more and more everyday, but I know we’re all ready to compete and leave it all on the court this season for her.”


Academic Success:

While Spartan tennis had impressive performances on the court, they were also recognized for their achievements in the classroom. Both teams earned ITA All-Academic Team honors with a combined grade point average of 3.827 and 3.747 for the men’s and women’s teams, respectively, for the 2021-2022 academic year. 

In addition to this, second-year Sahil Dayal from the men’s tennis team was the recipient of the Elite 90 Award, which is presented to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade-point average participating at the site of the finals for each of the NCAA’s championships, for the 2022 NCAA Division III Men’s Tennis Championship. He became just the fifth athlete in CWRU history to claim the honor.

The teams will kick off their season with some competitions this fall before returning in February for the spring. The women’s team will compete in the Kenyon Invitational for the Sept. 10 weekend. The men’s team will play in the Toledo Invitational the following weekend.