CLAREMONT, Calif. (Sept. 28, 2018) – Returning Intercollegiate Tennis Association All-America doubles sophomore pairing Varun Shanker (Midland, Mich. / Midland Dow) and James Wei (Chappaqua, N.Y. / Horace Greeley) has been tabbed the top duo in the ITA West Regional Championship draw and will look to defend their status beginning Friday.
Caltech will send three doubles teams and a record 10 singles players to the newly flighted tournament, with four contesting the 'A' flight and a whopping six in the 'B' draw.
Shanker and Wei are heavily favored over the winner of the first-round play-in match and are not slated to face a seeded foe until at least the quarterfinals, when #8 Jed Kronenberg/Josh Gearou would look to avenge Pomona-Pitzer's only dropped point in last year's SCIAC Postseason Tournament semifinal that punched the Beavers duo's ticket to the NCAA Championships.
Also competing in doubles action are senior Derik Nguyen (Anaheim, Calif. / Canyon) and junior Miha Valencic (Colleyville, Texas / Grapevine) facing #5 seed California Lutheran University's Jake Haffner and Yahn Gawrit, while senior Zixiao Li (Coppell, Texas / Coppell) and junior Connor Soohoo (Redwood Shores, Calif. / Crystal Springs) go up against Jack Bernstein and Sam Gerou, who briefly teamed to post a 1-3 record at #3 doubles last spring. Li and Soohoo would likely face #7 seed Alfred Simental and four-star freshman Nic Meister of Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in the quarterfinals should they advance.
In the 'A' singles flight, Shanker – last year's 12th-ranked singles player in the final ITA West region rankings – is the underdog according to the seeding system against #9 Brad Cummins from the University of Redlands, for whom the former three-star, Top-250 recruit went 6-1 between courts #5 and #6. The winner will have the probable honor of challenging top-seeded Jack Katzman (CMS), who reached the finals of last spring NCAA Championship singles competition. The other three Beavers representatives all received tough draws against seeded opposition from CMS, with Wei set to battle #7 Julian Gordy, Valencic taking on #5 Avinash Vemuri and freshman Patryk Kozlowski (Irvine, Calif. / University) facing #6 Robert Liu.
The 'B' draw bodes far better for Caltech with another top seed, sophomore Kevin Yu (Mason, Ohio / Cincinnati Country Day) beginning his tournament against Haffner, a former two-star junior. Rookie Matthew Gonzalgo (Plantation, Fla. / St. Thomas Aquinas) will have something to prove as well thanks to his #4 seed and will take on Sebastian Ariza, a mainstay in the lower half of CLU's lineup, in the opening round. Soohoo is next up with a close matchup against CLU transfer Isaac Pashenkov in the #2 seed's pod, while Li goes up against Parth Desai, who has seen little action in his three years at Pomona-Pitzer, and Nguyen challenges fellow Sagehen Avery Bicks, who posted a 7-3 record at #2 and #3 singles last spring. In a cruel twist of fate, rookie Jake Will (Honolulu, Hawaii / Punahou School) makes his debut against fellow Hawaiian rookie Andrew Yip (UR), who ranked 161st in this year's class.
Friday, Sept. 28
#5 Haffner/Gawrit (CLU) d. Nguyen/M. Valencic, 8-3
#1 Wei/Shanker d. Eccles/Yannuck (WC), 8-7 (3)
Bernstein/S. Gearou (PP) d. Li/Soohoo, 8-4
Shanker d. #9 Cummins (UR), 6-3, 6-0
#5 Vemuri (CMS) d. M. Valencic 6-7, 6-4, 7-6
Wei d. #7 Gordy (CMS) 4-6, 6-4, 7-5
#6 Liu (CMS) d. Kozlowski, 6-0, 6-1
Haffner (CLU) d. #1 Yu, 6-2, 6-4
#5 Yip (UR) d. Will, 6-3, 6-4
#4 Gonzalgo d. Ariza (CLU), 6-3, 6-0
Li d. Desai (PP), 6-2, 6-2
Nguyen d. Bicks (PP), 6-4, 7-5
Soohoo d. Pashenkov (CLU), 6-1, retire
#4 Gonzalgo d. Schwartz (PP), 6-4, 7-5
Okuhama (WC) d. Li, 6-1, 6-4
#7 Reznik (UR) d. Nguyen, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2
Soohoo d. #2 Rooney (CU), 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-1
Saturday, Sept. 29
#1 Wei/Shanker vs. Carroll/Vermui (CMS), 10:30 AM
Soohoo vs. #7 Reznik (UR), 1:30 PM
#4 Gonzalgo vs. Schwartz (PP), 1:30 PM