NEW YORK – The Columbia men’s tennis team starts its fifth consecutive run in the NCAA Men’s Tennis Tournament tomorrow, when the Lions face Monmouth in a 1 p.m. match at the USTA Billie Jean King Tennis Center.
Columbia earned hosting responsibilities as the No. 16 seed in the tournament, as VCU and Virginia join Monmouth and the hosts in the first and second rounds out in Flushing, Queens. The Rams and Cavaliers play in the first match of the day at 10 a.m., with the winner of that match advancing to day two to take on the victor in the Columbia/Monmouth match on Saturday at noon.
Ivy League champions for the fifth consecutive season, the Lions have become the team to beat in the Ancient Eight and in all of the Northeast Region.
This year’s squad is led by Victor Pham in the top singles spot, as the junior became the third Ivy League Player of the Year in the past five seasons for the program. A native of Saratoga, California, Pham is currently ranked No. 27 in the ITA singles poll, and will play in the NCAA Singles Tournament upon conclusion of the team tourney. Pham is 24-8 so far this season and bounced back on after a month off due to injury to finish strong and help the Lions to its fifth straight conference crown.
Also earning All-Ivy accolades in 2018 were first team doubles players and NCAA Doubles Tournament qualifiers Jack Lin and William Matheson, who are currently ranked No. 43, second team All-Ivy singles players Lin and Jackie Tang, and second team doubles honorees Adam Ambrozy and Michal Rolski.
Tang filled in nicely for Pham in the top singles spot, and has played No. 2 throughout the rest of the season. The sophomore from Hong Kong holds a 23-10 record and has been ranked as high as No. 37 in the singles poll this year.
At No. 3 singles, Jack Lin has performed admirably in his first season. After combining to go 20-6 alongside Matheson in doubles, Lin put up a 21-9 singles mark, with victories over players from Baylor and Oklahoma State during Columbia’s triumphs at the ITA Team Indoor National Championship.
Also in singles play, Timothy Wang enters the postseason on a 12-match unbeaten streak, rookie Austen Huang is on an eight match unbeaten streak, and Ambrozy has not been bested in 12 of his past 13 matches.
Friday’s foe is one of familiarity, as Columbia hosted Monmouth on March 3 during a 7-0 victory for the home team. The Lions dominated doubles play, behind 6-1 wins from Lin/Matheson at No. 2 over the Sergio Martinez/Srdjan Jakovljevic pair, while Ambrozy and Rolski defeated Max Benaim and Will Cooke Wharton, 6-0.
In singles play, Columbia only dropped one set in the match, with Rian Pandole rebounding after falling 6-3 to Cooke Wharton in the first set to win sets two and three by 6-1 and 6-0 scores.
The loss to the Lions for Monmouth started a sequence where the Hawks fell in four of five matches, before a different type of streak developed. Monmouth enters the NCAA Tournament having won 11-consecutive duals, including matching 4-0 wins in the MAAC Championships over Fairfield and Marist to hoist the conference crown.
If Columbia were to advance to the Saturday match against either Virginia or VCU, the Lions would seek a program first. Winners of the past three NCAA Titles, Virginia holds a 6-0 career record against Columbia, while VCU beat this weekend’s hosts in the only ever matchup back in 2012.