Tennis: Men aim for title repeat, women for first win
Hoping to repeat as University Athletic Association champions, the No. 2 Washington University men’s tennis team is riding a six-match winning streak and a 16-2 overall record into this weekend’s UAA tournament in Altamonte Springs, Fla.
The Bears begin the three-day tournament on Thursday against No. 30 Brandeis University, a team the Bears have not played this season.
Other top teams in the tournament include No. 4 Emory University, No. 9 Carnegie Mellon University and No. 10 Case Western Reserve University. Last month, the Bears defeated Emory and Carnegie by 6-3 scores, and the team has an impressive 10-1 record against ranked opponents. Although the Bears have only played two matches in the past two weeks, head coach Roger Follmer pointed to the team’s rest and health as an additional reason to be confident heading into the tournament.
“We are pretty well-rested. We didn’t play last weekend against outside competition with Easter weekend and Passover,” Follmer said. “Definitely from an injury standpoint, we are healthy and we should be feeling pretty good heading into the tournament.”
Benefitting from veteran leadership and newcomers alike, the Red and Green have been able to dominate in both singles and doubles play this season. In singles, the Bears have been powered by freshman John Carswell (21-3 record), who has won 13 straight matches, and senior Tim Noack (16-6 record). In doubles, Carswell and sophomore Josh Cogan have posted a 13-4 record this year while the tandem of freshman Jeremy Bush and junior Ross Putterman are 18-8. Follmer emphasized doubles as a key to success for the Bears this weekend because of the momentum that can carry over to singles matches.
“Doubles usually sets the tone. I would say…that the energy and the fun and excitement we bring to the doubles table is going to be key,” Follmer said.
Last season, the Bears won the UAA tournament, and as the tournament’s top seed, their expectations this year are to repeat as champions again.
“We’ve set that as one of our goals in January so we’re down to our last couple goals, and…one of them is to win conference again. It’s a high expectation, but if we play well, I think we can do it,” Follmer said.
On the women’s side, the No. 9 Bears have a 15-4 record, including a 7-3 mark against ranked opponents, and head into the conference tournament seeking their first ever UAA title.
On Friday, the Bears start off the three-day tournament against No. 23 Case Western Reserve University, a team they bested 6-3 less than two weeks ago. Nonetheless, head coach Kelly Stahlhuth isn’t taking Case Western too lightly.
“We’ve got to get through Case. I mean, they are ranked, and we just beat them a couple weeks ago, but it was just 6-3 so it wasn’t a blowout,” Stahlhuth said.
The Red and Green will be up against stiff competition in the conference tournament. No. 8 Carnegie Mellon University defeated the Bears 6-3 in February, and the favorite, Emory University, is ranked second nationally. In order to compete with these top teams, Stahlhuth stressed that the team cannot look ahead to potential later-round opponents.
“I think for us, we can’t look ahead. We have to take it one point at a time,” Stahlhuth said. “We’ve got to come out strong in doubles and hopefully that goes well. If it doesn’t go well, we’ve got to bounce back quick in singles. We are just worrying about Case on Friday at 9 a.m., and then we will worry about what happens after that.”
In singles play, the Bears are anchored by freshman Rebecca Ho (20-2 record) and senior Corinne Rauck (16-3 record), who is just one win away from becoming the 21st member of Washington University’s 100-win club. In doubles, the team of senior Betsy Edershile and junior Hannah Newstadt has compiled a 13-2 record this season, and the sophomore duo of Aly Coran and Jamie Silverberg is 14-7. Doubles have been a key decider for the Bears this season as the team is 14-1 when leading after doubles but just 1-3 when trailing after the first three matches.
In last year’s UAA tournament, the Bears finished fourth out of eight teams, but the Red and Green are aiming for at least a third-place finish this year.
“The players set goals back in October and one of them was to finish third or higher at conference, so that’s what we are shooting for,” Stahlhuth said. “I think we have high expectations and high goals set for ourselves, but we’ve still got to take it one day at a time.”