CLAREMONT, Calif. — Wesleyan men's tennis was one of only a few schools to have two singles players among the 32 selected to compete in the NCAA singles tournament, with senior Steven Chen and freshman Andrew Finkelman receiving spots in the draw of the most prestigious tournament of the year. On Thursday, both Cardinals took the court for their opening matches but were defeated to bring the season officially to a close.
Chen was the first on court, and despite starting out well and getting off to a 4-1 lead on Bernardo Neves of Washington University in St. Louis, the senior struggled to find a groove from that point forward. Neves reeled off nine straight games to take the first set and establish a big lead in the second, and from that point it was too big a deficit for Chen to overcome, eventually falling 6-4, 6-2.
The loss for Chen ends his playing career at Wesleyan, who leaves the program as one of the greatest Cardinal tennis players in history. Chen twice earned All-American honors, has been ranked inside the top-10 in the country, has multiple First Team All-NESCAC selections, and amassed a career singles and doubles combined record of 127-57, the highest win total in recent Wesleyan Tennis men's history.
Not long after Chen's defeat and the ending of a chapter for Wesleyan Tennis, Finkelman made his NCAA debut, taking on fellow freshman Hayden Cassone of Emory. The two had met earlier this spring, with Cassone coming from a set down to defeat Finkelman. This time around, it was the Wesleyan freshman who got out to a slow start before getting himself back into the first set. At 5-5, every point became critical as both players looked to get ahead, and ultimately it was Cassone who raised his game with huge serves and forehands to take the set 7-5. In the second set, Cassone looked even more comfortable and was able to dictate points well with his forehand, jumping out a big 5-0 lead to put him on the brink of victory. Finkelman continued to fight, just as he's done all season, and reeled off a couple games, but in the end it wasn't to be, as Cassone wrapped up the win 7-5, 6-2 to move into the round of 16.
Finkelman's freshman year concludes as one of the most impressive in Wesleyan Tennis history. Besides being just the third male Cardinal to ever qualify for the NCAA singles championship, Finkelman also had wins over the number one player in the country, reached the final of the New England ITA Regional Championships, earned a top-10 national ranking, was named Second Team All-NESCAC, and compiled 22 total wins.
With both players eliminated, Wesleyan now looks ahead to the 2018-19 season, where a core group of returning players combined with several newcomers will look to build on a successful 2017-18 campaign.
-- Recap by Ben Shapiro --