Women’s tennis takes second at Midwest Invite, men pick up two wins

Jon Lewis | Senior Sports Editor

Both Washington University tennis teams were in action this weekend, with the women traveling to the Midwest Invite in Madison, WI, and the men hosting their first home matches of the spring.

JJ Kroot hits a backhand during the game against Southwest Baptist University. The Bears hosted their first home match of the season.Grace Bruton | Student Life

JJ Kroot hits a backhand during the game against Southwest Baptist University. The Bears hosted their first home match of the season.

Women’s Tennis

Despite a 5-4 loss in the finals of the Midwest Invite this weekend, women’s tennis head coach Kelly Stahlhuth was still positive about her team’s performance.

“We played them indoors and lost 5-2, and we didn’t even get to finish,” she said, referring to her team’s loss in the third-place match of the ITA Indoor National Championships back in March. This time, the match could have gone either way. “That’s a great improvement in five weeks,” she said.

The No. 10 Bears started the weekend with a Friday doubleheader against a pair of ranked teams: No. 23 Hope College and No. 36 Gustavus Adolphus College. Stahlhuth said that being the higher ranked team in both those games actually presented a challenge for Wash. U.

“Being higher ranked, they had nothing to lose,” she said. “And so they really went for it.”

In the first match, the Bears opened up a 2-1 lead after a series of close-cut doubles matches. Rebecca Ho and Kaylan Griffith fought out an 8-6 win, while Grace Deering and Lisa Chionis secured an even tighter 9-8 victory, with a 7-5 win in the tiebreak.

In singles, the Bears quickly blew open the match, winning four of the six singles points for a 6-3 victory. Ho continued her dominance in singles with a 6-3, 6-1 win. Wash. U. swept the bottom of the order, with Brigitte Hodge, Kate Lee and Lilly Jubas winning at fourth, fifth and sixth singles respectively.

Just a few hours later, the Bears were back on the courts against Gustavus Adolphus, to similar effect. Once again, they took a 2-1 lead after doubles finished; though this time Chionis and Deering had a much more comfortable 8-1 win.

For the second time that day, Wash. U. then took four wins in singles, for another 6-3 scoreline. Ho, Hodge, Griffith and Sajna Tripathy all took down their opponents and secured a rematch with Chicago the next day.

Saturday, it was a case of deja vu all over again in doubles, with the Bears taking a 2-1 lead after doubles for the third time in as many matches. In singles, however, it was all about the narrow margins.

Two of the singles matches went to third set tiebreaks, and Wash. U. lost them both. Deering dropped her matchup at the number two slot, losing a dramatic 12-10 tiebreak. At the sixth spot, Lee lost her tie break 10-5, despite winning the first set 6-1. In the end, these two narrow victories made all the difference, and the Maroons secured a one-point victory.

Despite a sour ending to the weekend, Stahlhuth was happy with what she saw.

“We were happy because we made them nervous,” she said. “We were right there with them.”

Plus, the Bears will get a third swing at Chicago in just one week, when the Maroons make the trip down I-55 to play in St. Louis. Stahlhuth said that in the rematch her team will look to continue an upward trajectory towards the playoffs.

“We’re looking to peak over the next couple weeks, like we’ve been talking about all season,” she said.

Men’s Tennis

“Today we got to prove that we are the best men’s college team in Missouri,” men’s tennis head coach Roger Follmer said Saturday afternoon, after his team’s 6-3 win over Division II Southwest Baptist University.

Last weekend, the Bears defeated the Show-Me State’s other top Division II tennis program, Northwest Missouri State.

The win over Southwest Baptist was the second of Wash. U.’s home stand, after a comprehensive 9-0 shutout of Millikin University. After sitting out the match against Northwest Missouri, Jason Haugen returned to the lineup against the Division III regional rivals, playing singles for the first time since Feb. 26 and reuniting with Konrad Kozlowski at number one doubles.

Haugen and Kozlowski got the ball rolling with an 8-1 victory, before pairings Jeremy Bush and J.J. Kroot, and Bernardo Neves and Radha Vishnubhotla followed suit. The Bears’ dominance continued through singles. Johnny Wu and John Carswell both won their matchups in two comfortable sets, as did Haugen, Neves, Bush and Shaun Berman.

Follmer decided to play it safe with Haugen’s injury for the second match. “We try to rest him against non-Division III opponents,” Follmer said. “We’re airing caution with Jason.”

Pulling Haugen, however, meant reshuffling the lineup. Bush and Kroot moved up to number one doubles, while Kozlowski paired with freshman Robin Engel at number three.

“It’s good to get Robin a little experience at doubles as a freshman,” Follmer said.

Against the No. 20 team in Division II, the new doubles lineup responded, with both Vishnubhotla and Neves and Kozlowski and Engel pulling off 8-6 victories to give the Bears a 2-1 lead.

Wu was presented with a significant challenge in the form of Sherif Abohabaga, the fourth-ranked singles player in his division, and dropped the match 6-3, 6-4. The other singles players, however, would get the Bears the wins they needed.

At the two spot, Carswell earned a comfortable 6-2, 6-2 win, while Neves, Kroot and Engel earned three more victories for Wash. U., bringing the final score to 6-3.

“It’s always good to get a win against ranked opposition regardless of division,” Follmer said, though he added that. “Our focus is not the ranking, it’s on always getting better.”

Follmer said he was also pleased with how his team has been able to respond to changes in the lineup, praising their “next man up” attitude.

“We want to have that championship attitude every time,” he said.

The Bears will continue their stretch of home games this week, hosting Rose-Hulman on Monday, and No. 39 University of Wisconsin-Whitewater on Thursday. These matches will culminate on Sunday with the Bears’ biggest regular season game against the University of Chicago.