CMS Men's Tennis Prevails with Hard-Fought 5-2 Win over Bowdoin in NCAA Division III Quarterfinals

The Stags surround Nikolai Parodi to celebrate his clinching singles win
The Stags surround Nikolai Parodi to celebrate his clinching singles win

KALAMAZOO, Mich. - Junior Nikolai Parodi provided the clinching win with a 7-6, 7-6 win over Grant Urken, the defending NCAA Division III Champion in singles, to give the top-ranked Claremont-Mudd-Scripps men's tennis team a 5-2 win over Bowdoin in a tightly-contested contest on Monday afternoon in the NCAA Division III Quarterfinals at Stowe Courts.

With the win, CMS improves to 32-1 on the season and will advance to tomorrow's NCAA Division III Semifinals (2 p.m. Eastern time) against Chicago, which advanced with a win over Amherst in Monday's quarterfinals. The Stags defeated Chicago 6-3 in the regular season to knock the Maroons from the No. 1 spot in the polls, while Chicago defeated the Stags in the NCAA Division III Quarterfinals a year ago. 

CMS also met Bowdoin earlier this year, taking a 7-2 win in the finals of the Stag-Hen Invitational on March 16, but this meeting took on an entirely different feel. The first time, Bowdoin led 2-1 after doubles, but the Stags bounced back to sweep through singles without dropping a set to take a 7-2 win. This time around, CMS swept through doubles for a seemingly commanding 3-0 lead, but Bowdoin was able to provide a strong challenge in singles to bring a comeback into the picture, before Parodi won his second tiebreaker 10-8 (after winning the first-set tiebreaker 8-6) to finish off the win. 

Doubles were also in some ways a microcosm of the entire match, with CMS jumping out to big lead on all three courts and then holding off a Bowdoin comeback. Juniors Daniel Park and Oscar Burney finished off their match at No. 2 strongly with an 8-3 win, while Parodi and senior Julian Gordy had to fight off a late rally from Urken and Jerry Jiang for an 8-5 win at No. 1. Bowdoin recovered from being down two breaks at No. 3 to get back on serve at 7-6, but sophomores Jack Katzman and Robert Liu broke back for the win 8-6 to complete the sweep. 

Katzman and Liu roared out to quick 6-1 wins at No. 2 and No. 4 singles to make it appear as if CMS would make it a quick match, but the Polar Bears started to shift the momentum. Oscar Yang picked up a first-set win at No. 3, Justin Patel earned the first set at No. 6, and Evan Fortier won the first set at No. 5. Jiang, meanwhile, had a great second set effort against Katzman to earn the split with a 6-3 win, the first set that Katzman has dropped since March 10 against RIT. 

Parodi's match was the last one to finish the first set, and his tiebreaker win helped stem some of the Bowdoin momentum. Urken had a set point up 6-5 on his serve, but Parodi was able to fight it off to get to a second changeover, and then took the next two points for an 8-6 win and a 1-0 lead in the match. 

Liu was able to serve out his match at love at No. 4 singles for a 6-1, 6-4 win to put CMS ahead 4-0, but the Polar Bears responded with the next two points. Yang held on for a 6-3, 6-4 win at No. 3, and Patel outlasted Meister in three sets at No. 6 (6-4, 1-6, 6-3) to close to within 4-2. As Parodi's match went to a second-set tiebreaker, Katzman and Jiang were locked in a 3-3 tie in the third set at No. 2, and Park was in the process of earning a split at No. 5 with a 6-3 win in the second set. 

Urken and Parodi went deep into the tiebreaker with Urken getting a set point at 6-5 that Parodi was able to fight off on his serve with a winner.  Parodi earned a match point at 7-6, but Urken fought it off with another service winner. After Urken fought off another match point to tie the score 8-8, Parodi was able to hit a perfect low backhand as Urken charged the net to go ahead 9-8, hitting it down near the shoetops where Urken could do nothing with it but hit it into the net. 

With another match point, Parodi set up the victory with his serve return, which he put right inside the baseline to force Urken into a defensive swing. Parodi then ran Urken into both corners, the second resulting in a desperation lob that Parodi was able to finish with an overhead to secure the win. 

CMS will try to advance to its second national championship match in the last three years and its fifth in the last decade when it takes on Chicago tomorrow at 2 p.m. The Stags won the 2015 national title, and have finished as the runner-up three other times, including in 2017 (to Emory).