Men’s tennis stumbles, drops to 10-6 on the season

| Contributing Reporter

Lucas Guy swings into the net for a drop shot; Guy won his singles match in two sets 6-1 and 6-2. (Clara Richards, Managing Senior Sports Editor).

Entering the weekend, the Washington University men’s tennis team boasted a 9-4 record and occupied the #4 spot in the Division III men’s tennis rankings. Over the weekend, two agonizingly close defeats — a 5-4 loss to McKendree University on Friday and a 5-4 loss to Division II program Northwest Missouri State (NWMST) on Sunday — mean the Bears have now dropped two of their last four matches.

Against the McKendree Bearcats, the Bears took two of three doubles matches to snatch a quick 2-1 lead. In singles, seniors Daniel Li and James Shaheen won the Bears their last two points, winning in three and two sets, respectively. Tough losses, however, gradually accumulated for the Bears, as the Bearcats won three of their four singles wins in the third set to send the Bears home with a loss.

On Sunday, the Bears dug themselves into a hole early, losing all three doubles matches against the NWMST Bearcats to enter singles play down 3-0. The first two singles matches were split, so all hope seemed lost just before the Bears reeled off a series of wins. Three-set wins from Li and senior Luke Smith, alongside a commanding two-set win by sophomore Jared Phillips, meant the score was even at four-a-piece entering the final match, but the Bears could not find a way to finish off the comeback, dropping the final set en route to their 5-4 defeat.

Senior Luke Smith hits a forehand against Daniel Gomez. Smith dropped the match for the only singles loss of the matchup. (Clara Richards, Managing Senior Sports Editor)

Despite this weekend’s results, the Bears have put together a strong season thus far. After dropping their first match of the year, WashU regained its momentum, winning ten of their next twelve matches. “We went to the national indoor championships, and I think we started to hit our stride there,” sophomore Gaurav Singh, who was a 2020-21 All-UAA doubles selection, said. “We beat Emory [University] 5-4 in a really close match and [one of] our freshmen John [Fakouri] ended up winning in the last match, which was cool to see. I think we’ve been really good mentally this year, and continuing to improve on that will be important, especially getting into those tight matches where anything is possible.”

Emory, last year’s Division III national champion, is not the only high-profile win the Bears have collected this season. Victories over five programs currently in the top-40 in the country, as well as a win against Division II Biola University, make the Bears’ résumé stand out against those of their competition. This year’s success comes on the heels of a 2021 season, which saw the Bears finish a set away from reaching the national championship, an ending which Singh sees as double-edged motivation. “I think I took last year’s loss harder than some others, [and] I would say it definitely motivated me a lot to just keep going at it,” Singh said. “While recognizing that we got really close and were right there motivates me to work hard in the gym [and] play tennis a lot, in terms of mindset, treating it like a completely new year has helped me as well.”

Following the match against Principia College, which WashU won 8-1, the Bears will gear up for their final four matches of the regular season before beginning UAA Championships on April 21. The team will look to rekindle their winning ways and clinch a berth in the NCAA championships later this year.

 

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