Men’s tennis: Hot and cold over break, Bears finish the week 4-1

| Sports Reporter

After dropping only one match in three blowouts against the University of the South (9-0), Methodist University (8-1), and Baldwin-Wallace College (9-0), the Washington University men’s tennis team got swept by Division II opponent Armstrong Atlantic State University, 9-0, before edging out sixth-ranked Kenyon College, 5-4.

“We just played pretty well in those first few matches,” head coach Roger Follmer said. “That’s part of playing outdoor tennis: Longer rallies, and it’s a little more of a game of patience and resiliency. That probably helped us.”

Leading the surge early in the week were juniors Max Woods and Isaac Stein, who both finished the week 3-1 in singles play.

“Usually I am more emotionally unstable,” Woods said. “But last week, I stayed calm, collected, and stayed focused on the match.”

Woods and Stein also teamed up to finish 2-1 in doubles for the week. Senior John Watts and freshman Kareem Farah shared some success in doubles, finishing the week with a 4-1 record.

“We tried to start off very quickly, have some positive energy when we got out there on the court,” Watts said. “We did a good job of getting a lead early, and then staying on top of our opponents.”

The team’s doubles success did not go unnoticed by Follmer, who has been stressing the importance of doubles play all season.

“I definitely think we’ve made some progress in doubles,” Follmer said. “That’s what’s won championships the last couple of years: the teams that play good doubles. It’s kind of like foul shooting in basketball, or pitching in baseball or goaltending in hockey. If you’ve got good doubles, you put yourself in a position to compete with anyone in the country.”

Despite the 9-0 defeat to Armstrong, the No. 1 team in Division II men’s tennis, the Bears were not discouraged. In fact, the Bears took this match as a learning experience that could be used to improve their own games.

“They might be the best team we’ve played ever in my nine years at Wash. U.,” Follmer said. “They were just more poised, and had a more-attacking style, especially in doubles. It was good for the guys to see that, not only the pace, but the intensity and the focus.”

After that match, the Bears took on Kenyon College, and they used their previous loss to regroup and refocus on their way to the victory.

“It was good that we saw much higher-level competition and I think that actually got us ready for the Kenyon match,” Watts said. “Everyone stepped up their intensity and stepped up their focus, and we were ready to go against Kenyon. I think [the Armstrong] match helped a lot.”

The Bears will take on ninth-ranked Graceland University at 2 p.m. on Saturday at the Tao Tennis Center outside the Athletic Complex.

“We’ll have some good matches coming up,” Follmer said. “And then we’ll be gearing up toward the UAA conference at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh.”