Bears fall in finals of ITA Indoor Championship

| Sports Reporter

The Washington University men’s tennis team recorded two wins over ranked opponents before falling to conference rival Emory University in the match for the 2011 national indoor title.

After defeating No. 9 North Carolina Wesleyan University 8-1 and No. 5 University of California, Santa Cruz 5-4, the No. 6 Bears dropped the championship match of the 2011 Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Division III Men’s Team Indoor Championship 6-3 to the No. 4 Eagles.

The Bears now stand at 4-2 on the season, with all six matches played against ranked Division III and Dvision II opponents.

Wash. U. jumped out to an early lead on Emory on Sunday, winning the first two doubles matches. Junior Cameron Chiang and sophomore Kareem Farah picked up an 8-3 win in second doubles, and sophomore Adam Putterman and freshman Max Franklin staved off Emory’s No. 3 doubles team, 8-3. The Bears lost six of their next seven matches, however.

“It was a pretty horrible loss,” Putterman said, “especially when you get an early lead like that and you see the potential to have an upset. They’re our rivals. It’s a heartbreaker.”

In a matchup against the No. 1 player in the country, Emory’s Dillon Pottish, senior Isaac Stein was defeated 6-4, 6-2 at first singles, and senior Max Woods lost to Chris Goodwin 6-1, 7-5 at second singles. Farah was the only Bear to win a singles match against the Eagles, overcoming Eric Rothschild 6-7 (2-7), 6-2, 10-8 at sixth singles.

Head coach Roger Follmer saw the loss as a learning experience and an indication of what the team did well and where it can improve.

“When you lose, you learn more,” Follmer said. “Our doubles were definitely super strong, but we just need to focus on fitness, quickness, eating choices, endurance and those kinds of things.”

On Saturday against Santa Cruz, the Bears continued their strong doubles play, with the teams of Woods/Stein and Chiang/Farah winning their doubles matches. Putterman and Farah also boasted straight-set singles victories, in addition to sophomore Gary Parizher’s three-set singles win.

Follmer remained cautiously optimistic but refrained from being overconfident, as the Bears will face Santa Cruz again on March 25.

“There is no question we had the best doubles [teams] there, but that’s just one snapshot,” Follmer said. “In order to repeat and beat Santa Cruz outdoors, we need to work on some things because they are definitely going to be coming at us, and we will have to be ready for that test.”

Farah posted 3-0 records in both singles and doubles over the weekend. Although he was primarily used as a doubles specialist last year, Farah entered the season with a chip on his shoulder to prove he can be a force in singles as well.

“Coach asked me particularly this year to prove myself both in a singles match and a doubles match on any given day,” Farah said. “So, I came into this weekend with the intention of proving myself.”

After this weekend’s strong showing, the Bears feel confident that they have asserted themselves as one of the teams to beat on the national circuit this season.

“We’ve erased any doubts that we are not a contender to win it all,” Putterman said. “Obviously we want to go into every match taking it one individual match at a time, but I think potential-wise we have the ability, the talent and the work ethic to take it all.”

The Bears will put this confidence to the test at the Principia College Tournament this weekend in Elsah, Ill. Play begins on Friday at 8 a.m.

“This tournament just shows that if we work on the things we need to work on, we are absolutely in the running to win a national championship,” Farah said.

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