The top-ranked Case Western Reserve University men's tennis team made history on Tuesday night, winning the first NCAA Division III Championship in the history of athletics at the university with a 5-2 victory over second-ranked Tufts University at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Florida.
The title was a long time in waiting for not only the University, which had never won an NCAA Team Championship in its long and storied athletic history dating back over a century, well prior to the federation of the Case Institute of Technology and Western Reserve University but also the men's tennis program, which flourished in the 1970s while winning multiple PAC titles under legendary Head Coach Doug Mooney and more recently reaching the NCAA Championship for the third-straight season this year.
In particular, the title caps off a journey for the team's senior class which paced the team to a 90-13 record over the last four seasons.
The Spartans took immediate control of the match by pulling off a sweep of the three doubles contests to take a commanding 3-0 lead. At second doubles, seniors Chris Provenzano and Diego Maza defeated Josh Belandres and Rishabh Sharda 8-3 to put CWRU on the board. In a rematch of the ITA Cup Championship Match, senior James Hopper and junior Vishwa Aduru followed with an 8-3 win at no. 1 doubles against Derin Acaroglu and Vuk Vuksanovic to extend the Spartans' lead to 2-0.
The win was the 124th doubles victory of Hopper's career, passing former Spartan CJ Krimbill for sole possession of the program's career record.
At third doubles, Head Coach Todd Wojtkowski made a lineup change for the match, plugging in junior Sahil Dayal with sophomore Ansh Shah for the first time in the NCAA tournament. The move paid off, as the Spartans duo bested Alex Ganchev and Jack Moldenhauer 8-6 to complete the sweep and give CWRU the 3-0 advantage heading into singles play.
Tufts picked up the first win in singles play, getting on the board with a 6-2, 6-2 win from Acaroglu over Shah at no. 4 singles. However, in the fifth singles match sophomore Ajay Mahenthiran earned a 6-1, 6-2 win against Javier Gonzalez to put CWRU a win away from the National Championship.
The Jumbos added a win at sixth singles with a 6-3, 7-6 win from Andrej Djokic over sophomore Casey Hishinuma to pull back within two, 4-2.
With three matches remaining on the courts, and the Spartans needing just one to win, both Hopper at first singles and Aduru at second singles won their first sets 6-4, while senior Michael Sutanto dropped his first set at third singles 6-4. In fitting fashion, Hopper, the multiple-time All-American and one of the greatest players in the history of Division III men's tennis would provide the championship-clinching point for the Spartans, winning his second set 6-4 over Sharda to secure the trophy for CWRU.
With the win, the Spartans ended their record-setting season with a 33-4 overall record, marking the most victories in program history. CWRU was flawless against Division III opposition during the year, going 28-0 against DIII teams, and ended the campaign on a 19-match winning streak. The Spartans also claimed its first University Athletic Association Championship and won the ITA Indoor National Championship for the second-straight year during its historic 2023 campaign.
Tufts ended its 2023 campaign with a 24-2 overall record.
With the team championship now complete, the Spartans will look to carry their success over into the individual championships, where Hopper and Aduru will be competing in both the singles and doubles draws, and will be joined in the doubles tournament by Maza and Provenzano. The individual tournaments are scheduled to begin on Thursday, May 18. More information will be posted to athletics.case.edu later in the week.