Bears fall in finals of National Indoor Championships

| Sports Reporter

Junior Isaac Stein rips a forehand in the ITA Indoor National Championship match against No. 1 UC-Santa Cruz on Saturday. Stein was defeated by Marc Vartabedian 4-6, 6-4, 5-7. The No. 3 Bears fell 6-2. (Michael Kyllo-Kittleson | Gustavus Sports Information)

After consecutive victories over No. 6 Johns Hopkins University (8-1) and No. 2 Emory University (5-4) to advance to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) National Indoor Championship finals, the No. 3 Washington University Bears fell to the No. 1 University of California, Santa Cruz, 6-2.

On Sunday, in the finals, the Bears managed only two singles victories, but the three matches that the Bears lost were taken to three sets by juniors Isaac Stein and Max Woods and freshman Adam Putterman.

“We were right there with them,” Stein said. “I don’t think it was us being unprepared. They just played better than we did on that day.”

But the Bears got swept in doubles play, including losses by Stein and Woods and by the previously undefeated John Watts and freshman Kareem Farah.

“We played reactive instead of proactive, and then they jumped on us,” head coach Roger Follmer said. “I talked about how we’ve got to put on the big boy pants, and for whatever reason, I think we lost those big boy pants when we got there. That wasn’t the case for the first two days against just as good­—or better—doubles teams, but in both 2 and 3 doubles, there was some lacking of big-boy pants, and they just took it to us.”

Despite the results in the championship match, the Bears found success in doubles earlier in the tournament.

During the first two days of play, the No. 3 doubles team, Stein and Woods, won both of its matches, including an 8-4 victory over David Maldow and Andrew Wang of Johns Hopkins and a 9-8 (7-5) win over Chris Goodwin and Dylan Pottish of Emory.

“I think at this point in the season and at this point in our careers, it comes down to experience,” Stein said. “We’ve played together for so many matches, freshman, sophomore and now junior year, that when a ball comes to us, we know who is going to take the ball. We know what they’re going to do with the shot.”

On Friday against Johns Hopkins, the team swept doubles play, which was a specific goal of Follmer’s coming into the weekend.

“It was our first match, and it was our best match,” Follmer said. “In fact, it was the best match we’ve played to date. That’s why it was so lopsided.”

The next day, the Bears faced conference rival Emory in the semifinals, and the competition was just as tight as anticipated. Senior Danny Levy won the deciding singles match 6-4, 6-3 over Emory’s Chris Redmond to clinch a 5-4 victory and solidify a spot in the finals.

“We have to call him the Emory slayer,” Follmer said. Levy also defeated Emory opponents at the 2008 Division III national championships and the 2009 UAA championships.

Despite the team’s strong showing on Saturday against Emory, the reliably consistent senior John Watts dropped his first singles match of the season, a 6-2, 6-2 defeat to fourth-ranked Pottish. Watts had beaten Pottish in the quarterfinals of the ITA Small College Championships last October, 7-5, 6-0.

“Next time, I will need to be a little but more aggressive, serve a little bit better,” Watts said. “I don’t think I played my best match that I could have played. The next time I play him, it will probably be outdoors, and I will step up my game a little bit and make some more shots.”

The Bears continue play next weekend at the Principia College Men’s Invitational in Elsah, Ill., which is the final indoor tournament before the outdoor season.

“We will just continue to build on what we accomplished this past weekend,” Follmer said. “Then we’ll set our sights on outside play.”