Eudice Chong from Wesleyan University in Connecticut will play this morning for her third NCAA Division III tennis singles championship in as many years.
The men's champion will be a first-timer. The finalists at Chattanooga's Champions Club are top-seeded Lubomir Cuba from Middlebury and third seed Nikolai Parodi from Claremont- Mudd-Scripps, so they're not surprises, but Cuba is a sophomore transfer from Michigan and Parodi is a freshman.
They met earlier in the week when Parodi edged Cuba in a very tight three-set match during CMS's 5-4 win in the team championships, but Cuba won a regular-season meeting against the Washington, D.C., resident.
A junior from Hong Kong, Chong has won NCAA titles in Cincinnati and Kalamazoo, Mich., and can make it 3-for-3 in Chattanooga. She won 6-1, 6-1 and 6-2, 6-0 in her quarterfinal and semifinal matches Friday, and her toughest match yet was a 6-3, 6-3 defeat of Pomona-Pitzer's Maryann Zhao in the round of 16.
Chong's 10 a.m. opponent in the final could have been her doubles partner, sophomore Victoria Yu, but Yu lost 6-3, 6-4 to No. 2 seed Rebecca Ho of Washington University of St. Louis in the semifinals.
"That would've been pretty cool," Chong, who is seeded No. 1 both in singles and doubles, said about the potential title match against Yu, "but Rebecca played very well."
Chong is 2-0 against Ho in spring-break meetings the past two years but said this year's victory was "straight sets but very close."
A psychology major whose choice of the Connecticut school began with an email from coach Mike Fried, Chong played mostly International Tennis Federation tournaments growing up, and she has played in numerous women's tournaments in recent summers back home. She won doubles in one 2016 Hong Kong event that included pros.
She and Yu will play in a doubles semifinal after the singles final, and the doubles championship matches are scheduled for 2 p.m. at the Champions. The Wesleyan duo won 6-1, 6-2 Friday and will face Redlands' Sarah Ikioka and Elizabeth Johnson, who advanced with a three-set win.
Yu is a first-year partner for Chong, who reached the doubles quarterfinals in 2015 and the semifinals last year.
"She's very active at the net, and I try to set her up at the baseline, but I like to come up, too," Chong said. "So it makes a pretty good team."
The other women's doubles semifinal will pit Claremont-Mudd-Scripps' second-seeded Nicole Tan and Lindsay Brown against Emory's third-seeded Bridget Harding and Katarina Su, who hold the No. 1 spot in the ITA rankings set after the fall season. Harding and Su won 6-3, 6-4 over Pomona-Pitzer's Emily Chen and Zhao, while Tan and Brown won 6-3, 7-6 against Hannah Atkinson and Chloe Henderson from national team champion Williams.
Cuba also can play for two national titles today. After his 7-6, 6-3 and 6-2, 6-2 singles wins Friday, he and junior William de Quant won 6-3, 7-6 in their doubles quarterfinal.
They will face Herman Abban and Pawel Jaworski from Carthage, while top seeds Brian Grodecki and Alex Taylor from Williams take on Chicago's Erik Kerrigan and Ninan Kumar in the other semifinal.
Cuba, who's from Long Island, committed to Middlebury before getting and accepting a late scholarship from Division I member Michigan. He played for the Wolverines as a freshman but decided he preferred what he perceived as the Middlebury experience, and longtime coach Bob Hansen welcomed his change of mind.
"I wanted to play for college titles, and I knew I'd have a great opportunity to do that here," Cuba said Friday. "I knew I could be an impact player at Middlebury. I wanted to be a leader of a team and help win as much as possible."
"(Cuba and de Quant) are both great kids, and I think that's a great start," Hansen said. "I'm very proud of them already, but if they can cross the finish line tomorrow it would be special."
Contact Ron Bush at email@example.com or 423-757-6291.