Men’s tennis sweeps UW-Eau Claire as women come third at tourney
The Washington University men’s tennis team continued its recent hot streak with a 9-0 sweep over the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire on Friday afternoon, while the women’s team came in third place at the Madison Invitational.
The No. 8 ranked men’s team improved to 11-4 on the season with the victory. At the invitational, the No. 16 ranked women defeated No. 30 Hope College on Friday, 5-4, before falling to No. 11 Kenyon College in the semifinals, 6-3, and beating No. 27 Denison University, 6-3, in the consolation game on Saturday morning. The women are now 6-9 on the season, bouncing back after some stumbles to start the year.
Playing at Wash. U.’s Tao Tennis Center for the first time this season, the men’s team demonstrated its prowess by losing just six points in doubles and winning the singles matches in straight sets.
“Some of us had to weather the storm a little bit since [Eau Claire] came out strong but then we rolled to second set victories. Everyone fought really well,” said team captain senior Konrad Kozlowski. “Since we’ve got a couple of big matches coming up, being able to implement in match play things we’ve worked on in practice was definitely good for a lot of people.”
Just as it has been all season long, effective doubles play was crucial to the men’s victory. Playing the top doubles spot, Kozlowski and junior Bernardo Neves shut out their opponents, 8-0. Sophomores Ethan Hillis and Benjamin van der Sman followed with an 8-2 victory of their own before junior J.J. Kroot and sophomore Daniel Li capped the triad of doubles matches with an 8-4 triumph.
“We’ve got five good doubles teams right now,” head coach Roger Follmer said. “Obviously only three of them play, but I’m liking what I see from not only the starters but the guys who are right there waiting in the wings. Everyone’s ready to go and that’s what we need moving down the tail end of the season.”
The Bears’ winning was not limited to the doubles play. Kozlowski won his eighth straight singles match while Hillis, Li, sophomore Koki Takabatake, van der Sman and Neves each won singles matches of their own.
Kozlowski, who captains the team with fellow senior Radha Vishnubhotla, is just one win away from his 100th career victory. “[The milestone] will be a nice thing to have, but to me it’s not that important because there are a lot of more important things that are still out there for us as a team this season,” Kozlowski said.
In Wisconsin, the women played a trio of exciting matches. On Friday against Hope College, junior Zoe Park clinched the Bears a trip to the semifinals with a clutch defeat of the Flying Dutch’s sixth singles player, 6-4, 6-1. That afternoon, Park’s victory at sixth singles and senior Brigitte Hodge’s stunning comeback at fourth doubles, 3-6, 6-1, 14-12, were not enough to vault the Red and Green past Kenyon to the championship game, as the Bears dropped two close doubles matches before falling behind quickly in the singles play and losing, 6-3.
In the third place match against Denison on Saturday morning, the women lost the first two doubles matches and were in danger of falling further behind before singles play salvaged the day. Park and Hodge, freshman Divya Sharma and sophomores Ashley Lessen and Laurel Wanger each won their singles matches, including three tiebreak sets full of electric energy.
The women had lost six straight matches coming into play on Friday, so the tournament was an encouraging sign that the Bears have put their early season struggles behind them. Park has now won her last four singles matches, while doubles duo freshman Stephanie Ren and junior Sanjna Tripathy have won four straight as well.
The women’s team will look to build off this weekend’s momentum in its final six matches before playoffs begin the last weekend of April. Monday afternoon, the Bears take on Principia College in a home match. The last time the two teams met, in April 2017, the Bears swept the Panthers, 9-0. The men’s team will also look to continue its winning streak in a matchup against crosstown rival No. 49 UMSL on Wednesday afternoon before moving on to next weekend’s trip to Chicago, which will include important conference matches against the top-ranked team, Chicago, and No. 14 Case Western.