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Men’s tennis takes third in singles, doubles at fall nationals

| Managing Editor

Junior John Watts and seniors Chris Hoeland and Charlie Cutler finished in third place in the singles and doubles competitions respectively at the 2008 Wilson/ITA National Small College Championships held this past weekend in Mobile, Ala.

“We were disappointed not to win the tournament,” Cutler said, “but we definitely had a good fall season and can’t be too upset with our results.” Watts, the top seed and defending champion of the event, fell in the semifinals 6-4, 6-3 to eventual champion John Kauss of Gustavus Adolphus College.

Watts had defeated the University of California-Santa Cruz’s Max Liberty-Point 6-2, 6-2 in the first round of play to advance to the semifinals. In the third-place match, he topped Conrad Olson of Middlebury College 6-4, 6-4. Kauss defeated Emory University freshman Chris Goodwin 6-2, 6-3 to win the title.

Hoeland and Cutler, also the top seeds in the doubles draw, finished third at the event for the second year in a row. They beat Bobby Cocanaugher and Cory Kowal of Trinity University 6-4, 6-4 before falling to Kauss and Mike Burdakin 5-7, 7-6 (5), 10-5 in a semifinal match that lasted nearly three hours. The team rebounded to beat Amrit Rupasinghe and Ben Stein of Bates College 7-6 (2), 6-4 for third place. Kauss and Burdakin fell to Goodwin and his older brother Michael in the championship match 7-6 (3), 6-1.

The conclusion of this tournament effectively ends the fall season for the Bears. They will play next on February 14 against Drury University, currently ranked third in Division II tennis, in Springfield, Mo. Official practices will begin again in January.

If the fall season serves as an indicator, Wash. U. seems poised to make a run at defending its national title. No one graduated from last year’s team, and three singles players made it to the quarterfinals of the fall regional championships, as did four doubles teams. There were also seven seeded singles players and four seeded doubles teams in the same tournament for the Red and Green. The doubles regional championship match was an all-Wash. U. affair with Cutler and Hoeland defeating teammates Isaac Stein and Max Woods, both sophomores, 6-1, 7-5 for the title.

“We had a really good fall,” Cutler said. “We dominated the region across the board.”

“We have a very good team from top to bottom,” Watts added.

Perhaps winning the team’s first-ever UAA title will be just as difficult of a feat as defending their national title. Emory again looks to be among the toughest competition for the Bears at both levels.

“[The conference title] is one of the things we really want to win,” Hoeland said. “We were really close the last two years, and Emory has won it 20 years running.”

During the off season, the Bears will continue to focus on the more important spring season, highlighted by their goals of winning the elusive UAA title and another national title. “For me, it feels like I have much more to accomplish this year,” Watts said.

“From last weekend and regionals, I definitely feel like we can realistically go after other not yet reached goals like an Indoor National Championship in late February…and/or conference title this April,” Head Coach Roger Follmer said.

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