CLAREMONT, Calif. (Sept. 29, 2016) – Caltech men's tennis will send a record six Beavers to the ITA West Regional Championship hosted by Pomona-Pitzer Colleges this weekend.
Only three returning Beavers entered the field this year, with a trio of rookies joining them. Senior Morgan Lebby (Laguna Beach, Calif. / Laguna Beach), sophomore Zixiao Li (Coppell, Texas / Coppell) and freshman Karthik Nair (Irvine, Calif. / Crean Lutheran) were each stuck with tough draws, having to face #2 seed Jake Yasgoor of Pomona-Pitzer and #9 seeds Julian Gordy (CMS) and Bryant Johnson (UR), respectively. Gordy was the No. 87 recruit in the nation two years ago, while Johnson posted a 9-7 record across courts #2-5 as a rookie. Nair's match with Johnson has been tabbed as one of four "Best 1st Round Matchups" in a preview at Division3tennis.com.
Sophomore Derik Nguyen (Anaheim, Calif. / Canyon) and freshman Connor Soohoo (Redwood Shores, Calif. / Silicon Valley Tennis Acad.) have been matched up with Whittier College twins Thomas and Maxwell Koszowski, who boast approximate UTRs of 10 and 9, respectively, but combined have beaten just three players with UTRs over 10 in the last year, while both Nguyen nor Soohoo have lost just once each to players with UTRs below 11 in the past two years. Each has a daunting task likely awaiting them should they advance to the second round, however, with Nguyen in the same pod as #7 Joey Dulle of Redlands and Soohoo in a pod with #9 seed Sam Malech, who went 6-1 at his primary #4 singles position last year.
The final singles competitor for the Beavers is rookie Tine Valencic (Colleyville, Texas / Grapevine), an unrated recruit and twin brother of No. 96 recruit Miha Valencic, who will not compete in this tournament. Tine faces UC Santa Cruz's Derek Levchenko, a hard-hitting senior who memorably rallied from being down match point against Li at The Ojai Tournament last spring to win a thriller in three sets (5-7, 7-5, 7-5) and lost just one match to a player with a UTR below 12 last year. Should Tine pull the upset, top Whittier player #9 Andrew You will likely be his opponent in the second round.
All six Beavers will also compete in doubles, and against familiar foes. Li and Nguyen are scheduled to face Johnson and Avery Davis, a four-star freshman, with #4 seed Pomona-Pitzer's Yasgoor and Kalyan Chadalavada looming in the next round. Nair and Valencic have perhaps the most favorable matchup, against the Koszowski twins, but would have to contend with the #3 seed Sagehens, Antony Bello and Spencer Simonides, the following round. Finally, Lebby and Soohoo take on Levchenko and AJ Flora, neither of whom made the Banana Slugs' doubles lineup at the NCAA Championship, although each rotated in and out of various positions during the regular season.
Soohoo d. MKoszowski (6-0, 6-2); #9 Malech d. Soohoo (6-2, 6-1); Bello d. Soohoo (6-1, 6-1)
Levchenko d. Valencic (7-6 , 6-2); Valencic d. Kasai (6-2, 6-1); #9 Berber d. Valencic (6-3, 6-4)
TKoszowski d. Nguyen (6-3, 6-2); Nguyen d. Helms (6-2, 6-1); Mandic d. Nguyen (6-4, 6-0)
#2 Yasgoor d. Lebby (6-1, 6-0); Kettering d. Lebby (5-7, 6-4, 10-8)
#9 Gordy d. Li (6-2, 6-2); Van Butselaar d. Li (6-0, 6-2)
#9 Johnson d. Nair (wd.)
Flora/Levchenko d. Lebby/Soohoo (8-4)
Davis/Johnson d. Li/Nguyen (8-5)
Koszowski/Koszowski d. Nair/Valencic (wd.)