Over the weekend, the Hopkins men’s tennis team traveled down to Fredericksburg, Va. to compete in the ITA Southeast Regional Championship against numerous other schools. As the final day of the championship concluded, it was clear that the Hopkins tennis team had a lot to be proud of.
Led by Senior Andy Hersh, the team succeeded in winning in numerous brackets of the tournament and secured championship titles in both the singles and doubles brackets. Among the highlights of the weekend were Hersh winning the ITA Southeast singles title for the second consecutive year and sophomores Tanner Brown and Erik Lim capturing the ITA Southeast Doubles Title. It goes down in Hopkins tennis history as the first time that the Blue Jays have claimed both the singles and doubles championship for the ITA championship in the same year.
Hersh entered the tournament as the number one seed in the championship bracket and deservedly so as he did not drop a single set in all six matches he played during the tournament.
“For the past few years, the Southeastern Regional ITA has been dubbed the “Hopkins Regional,” said Hersh. “We have proven to be one of the most dominant teams in the region. This weekend was right on cue with six guys reaching the quarterfinals, two in the semis, and a singles champion coupled with our top two duos reaching the doubles final.”
After storming past his first two competitors, Hersch entered the round of 16 to face ninth-seeded Yuvraj Kumar of Carnegie Mellon and won in straight sets, 6-2, 6-2.
He then crushed another Carnegie Mellon player, the ninth-seeded Abhishek Alla to advance to the semi-finals for the third time in as many years.
On the final day of the tournament, Hersh went on to defeat sixth-seeded Kevin Caulfield of Haverford and dominated third-seeded Hayden White of Washington & Lee en route to the title.
However, Hersh was not the only highlight in the singles draw for Hopkins. Brown entered the singles bracket as the number two seed and played his way into the semi-finals. He dismantled his first two opponents in the tournament in straight sets to move on to the round of 16. He then defeated ninth-seed Luis Acaba of Haverford 7-5, 6-4 to face Ross Silverburg of Franklin & Marshall, where he won a thrilling match in three sets to reach the semi-finals for the second straight year. Unfortunately, Brown’s streak was ended in the semis where he lost to White in a very close match.
Other top performances came from sophomore Jeremy Schwartz who won a pair of matches in straight sets before falling in the round of 16 and Lim who advanced to the quarterfinals for the second year in a row after winning his first three matches before falling in a very tight three set match.
Sophomore Sam Weissler also competed admirably, sweeping his first two opponents both in straight sets before falling in the round of 16 while sophomore Ben Hwang reached the quarterfinals before he lost to White. Sophomore Noah Joachim won his first match in straight sets before losing an extremely close three set match before the round of 16.
“From top to bottom we showed excellent fight and certainly set the bar high for next year,” Hersh commented. “It was a physically grueling weekend that truly rewards those with mental toughness and a great weekend for Hopkins!”
Overall, it was a very successful and competitive weekend for all of the Hopkins singles players as they played against some very tough opponents and have a lot to be proud of in their victories.
The doubles draw of the tournament ended up being an all-Hopkins final as Hersh and fellow senior Jeff Kamei played against Brown and Lim for the doubles championship.
Brown and Lim entered the bracket as the fifth-ranked duo pair and made their way to the championship by knocking off the second and fourth ranked teams. They opened play with an impressive 8-2 victory in their first match and followed it with a stellar 8-4 win over a doubles pair from Haverford. In the quarterfinals, the doubles pair defeated a tough team from Carnegie Mellon 9-7 to move onto the semifinals where they upset the second-ranked powerhouse duo from UMW to reach the championship match against Hersh and Kamei.
Hersh and Kamei entered the bracket as the fourth seed and also beat a pair of ranked opponents along their way to the finals. They began their road to the finals with an 8-6 victory against CMU followed by a convincing 8-4 victory over Haverford. They went on to defeat the fifth ranked team in the quarterfinals and blew past another duo from CMU to advance to the finals before falling to teammates Lim and Brown.
Other Hopkins doubles pairs competed very well in the doubles bracket. Joachim and freshman Nick Garcia played very close matches in the championship bracket while Weissler and freshman Chris Jou won their first match 8-2 before falling to a fifth-seeded team. It was an impressive showing from all of the doubles pairs on the team as Hopkins was able to claim the championship to cap off a very successful weekend.
Along with these achievements, Hopkins also came out victorious in both the B1 and B2 Singles Draw along with the B1 Doubles Draw. Freshman Nathan Law was able to come out on top in the B1 Singles Draw, fellow classmate Conor Dauer claimed the B2 draw, and Hwang and Law were able to win the B1 doubles draw.
When asked about the spring season, Hersh was very optimistic and proud of his teammates. “The team is looking very strong moving forward into the spring. Many people doubted our abilities to do as well as last year with such a young team. While we still have a lot of hard work and long hours ahead of us to get stronger physically and mentally, this team showed a lot of grit and determination and are very hungry to succeed.”
Hersh added that Coach Chuck Willenborg and Assistant Coach Michael Vann have been crucial to the team’s recent success. “I expect nothing short of a final four appearance in the NCAA tournament this year if our team continues to improve and get stronger. Coach Willenborg and Vann have done a fabulous job of getting the team to where it is today. I hope that I can lead the team to an NCAA title under him and his coaching staff.”
Because of their wins in the singles and doubles championship brackets, Hersh, Brown, and Lim will all advance to the USTA/ITA National Small College Championship, which is currently scheduled for October 11-14 at the Copeland Cox Center in Mobile, AL. This championship is comprised of 8 regional champions from NCAA Division II and III, NAIA, and Junior/Community Colleges.
Along with their ITA titles, Hersch, Brown, and Lim also earned ITA All-America honors. “The ITA is a great opportunity to capture All-American Honors,” said Hersh. “I always wanted to win the singles title and am extremely happy about defending the title. Brown and Lim deserved the victory in doubles with their great play. But that being said, I have and always will put the team first over individual accomplishments. Win or lose, I’m happy as long as Hopkins gets the ‘W’.”
This puts the icing on the cake of what was overall an excellent weekend of tennis for the Blue Jays. The team will look to build off of this early momentum heading into their training for the spring season and will want to continue such big performances against future opponents. The Hopkins men’s tennis team certainly seems ready to take their upcoming season by storm.