UChicago 2022 Tennis Team

Men’s tennis has been on the rise since 2015, when the team made it to the NCAA semifinals for the first time. Since then, the Maroons have reached the semifinals three times in four years—but the 2022 season proved to be the breakthrough. (Photos courtesy UChicago Athletics and Recreation)

The rite stuff

Hard work plus talent plus … elaborate handshakes?

In May 2022, the Maroon men’s tennis team finished a 22–1 season by beating Case Western Reserve University’s Spartans 5–2 in the national title match in Orlando, Florida. It was the first NCAA Division III championship team sports win—in any sport—in UChicago history.

Winning a championship takes hard work, dedication, talent, and healthy habits. But does it also come down to music and wardrobe choices? Coach Jay Tee and the players share some secret rituals from their record-setting season.

Everyone was really superstitious about their pre-match warm-up partners. Doubles partners always warmed up together on the same court.—Marek Michulka, Class of 2023

During tournaments we made sure to have a full and healthy breakfast every morning. We found a breakfast place before the tournament began and ordered breakfast from there every day during the tournament.—Bailey Forgus, Class of 2023

Before matches the team would always have the same Jimmy John’s sandwiches. However, post-match meals consisted of either Chipotle or [coach] Jay [Tee]’s personal favorite, a Chinese buffet.—Biren Reddy, Class of 2023

My personal superstition occurred on changeovers. I would always sip Gatorade first, then water. I’d wipe my face with a towel, then go back to Gatorade, then water. I’d set the towel to the right of me and water on the ground in a specific place, much like Rafael Nadal.—Derek Hsieh, Class of 2024

Every time we played doubles, we did an elaborate handshake—and if there were any mistakes in the handshake, we would continue to do it until it was perfect. It helped us get in the right mindset for the match.—Jacob Lowen, Class of 2025

Whenever traveling to and from the match, everyone would make sure to sit in the same seats in the van.—Shramay Dhawan, AB’22

Connecting with our location on the South Side, we would exclusively listen to old-school Kanye [West] before every match in the spring, focusing on [albums] Graduation and The College Dropout. I was always in charge of the music.—Alex Guzhva, AB’22

I don’t like the word “superstition” because it unnecessarily increases fear of the unknown and reliance on luck. “Routine” is a better word. My favorite routine was our pre-match team chant [which remains classified] because we drastically improved it for that season.—Christian Alshon, Class of 2023

We had very specific uniform combinations that we thought were lucky. When we were playing tournaments, we carefully planned out our uniforms for the week. We would also do a lot of laundry on trips so that we could re-wear our favorite uniforms match after match, even if we had other clean uniforms.—Arjun Asokumar, LAB’20, Class of 2024

We would have a brief team meeting at the hotel the night before every match, sitting in the same spot each time. It helped us get in the zone and visualize what we wanted to accomplish the next day.—Sachin Das, Class of 2023

My superstition was telling the guys that their superstitions had nothing to do with us winning or losing. I also wore the same shirt for the entire week at NCAAs because it was good luck.—Head coach Jay Tee