Men’s tennis rolls to second straight UAA championship

Gad Choi | Contributing Reporter

Stephen Huber | Student Life

Junior Ross Putterman makes a forehand swing against Principia College on March 22. Putterman won two of his three first-flight singles matches to help the men’s tennis team win the University Athletic Association championship over the weekend.

The No. 2 Washington University men’s tennis team cruised through University Athletic Association competition en route to its second straight conference championship in Altamonte Springs, Fla., this weekend.

The Red and Green’s opponents never won more than two matches in each round as the Bears topped ranked foes at each stage of the three-day tournament. The Red and Green are now 13-1 against ranked teams this season.

The trip to Florida culminated with a showdown Saturday in the finals against No. 9 Carnegie Mellon University, which the Bears routed 7-2. The Tartans were only able to manage wins at second-flight doubles and third-flight singles.

Wash. U., the tournament’s top seed, held an advantage after doubles play, a theme throughout the tournament. Although freshman John Carswell and sophomore Josh Cogan lost 9-7 in second-flight doubles, the tandem of junior Ross Putterman and freshman Jeremy Bush took first doubles 8-5 and the duo of junior Kevin Chu and senior Jeffrey Hirsh earned an 8-6 victory in third doubles. In singles play, Putterman, Carswell and senior Tim Noack defeated ranked opponents at first, second and fourth singles, respectively. Meanwhile, sophomore Tyler Kratky won in three sets in fifth singles, and Chu took sixth singles.

“I envisioned that we would be the best the conference, but I didn’t envision this that precisely. Our [Division III] record was great besides losing to the No.1-seed team, and this was pretty surprising considering how young our team is,” Putterman said. “I’m proud of how much we’ve improved, and we’re excited about nationals.”

Beginning their tournament play, the Bears trounced No. 30 Brandeis University 8-1 to advance to the UAA semifinals. The Red and Green got off to a hot start by sweeping the doubles competition and finished the Judges off with wins in five of six singles matches.

Ranked third nationally, the duo of Putterman and Bush continued their dominant form, winning 8-4 in first-flight doubles. Adding to the sweep, Carswell and Cogan secured an 8-5 victory, and Chu and Hirsh added a dominant 8-1 win.

Putterman set the tone for the team in singles by persevering through a three-set marathon, winning with a final score of 6-1, 6-7 (3-7), 11-9. Bush also persisted to a three-set win at third singles (2-6, 6-2, 10-5).

“We played the big points well, and the whole team was just very confident. We did a great of job of being focused, and we had great execution,” head coach Roger Follmer said.

Looking to advance to their ninth straight UAA championship match, the Bears took on No. 10 Case Western University in the semifinals. Starting off the afternoon, the doubles combo of Putterman and Bush continued their hot streak with an 8-4 win. Carswell and Cogan playing at second doubles also added a point for the Bears with an 8-4 victory, giving the team a 2-1 lead heading into singles play.

Needing three points from the singles competition to advance, the Red and Green pulled off a near-sweep, posting a 5-1 record to win the semifinal with an overall mark of 7-2. Carswell pushed his streak of consecutive wins in singles matches to 15 with a 6-0, 7-6 (7-5) win in second-flight. After playing to a tiebreak in his match on the previous day, Bush again found himself tied after two sets before winning 6-3, 1-6, 10-4. Noack, Kratky and Chu all won in straight sets to clinch the victory for the Red and Green, setting up Saturday’s championship match against Carnegie Mellon.

The first round of the NCAA tournament will take place May 9. Until then, Wash. U. will continue to practice and prepare for the postseason.

“We still have some of the most important matches of the season coming up, so I’m just thinking about how we can improve for those. It’s hard to generalize on what we can improve on as a team because our team chemistry is amazing, but each person has individual things they can work on,” Bush said.

The Bears have reached the NCAA semifinals for six straight years but have won the national championship just once, in 2008. Follmer is confident in his team’s ability going forward.

“We embrace playing the best opponents. We need to continue what we’re doing, and we’ll be able to continue the success we’ve had. Our guys will be prepared and ready to go,” Follmer said.