Home winning streak snapped as Bears fall to Chicago
In its twelfth consecutive match against a ranked opponent, The Washington University men’s tennis team lost at home for the first time in more than four years.
The No. 5 Bears hosted the No. 15 University of Chicago at the Tao Tennis Center on Saturday, but fell 5-4 to their conference rivals. The team’s last loss at home came on March 11, 2007.
The Bears started the day losing all three doubles matches, putting additional pressure on singles play. This was the first time all season that Wash. U. has been swept in doubles.
“When you play the top teams, you have to be ready for doubles,” head coach Roger Follmer said. “We thought we were ready, but they played better than us [on Saturday].”
Despite falling to an early deficit, the Bears responded with a valiant singles effort, winning four out of six matches. Senior Isaac Stein battled back after losing the first set to take a 5-7, 6-3, 6-1 victory in No. 1 singles, and senior Max Woods took care of business with a convincing 6-3, 6-0 win in No. 2 singles. Sophomores Gary Parizher and Kareem Farah also posted victories in No. 4 and No. 5 singles.
“Singles is more about composure, and I think we showed that,” Stein said. “In the second set [of my match], I stayed composed and fought through it. I knew if I kept playing solid tennis and kept being aggressive, [my opponent] would eventually break down.”
Nevertheless, the team refused to shift its focus from its uncharacteristically weak doubles play.
Year to year, Follmer consistently preaches that doubles is the key to defeating top opponents. While he expressed confidence in the current doubles combinations and said that he does not plan to mix up the teams, he still believes there is work to be done.
“The guys now need to know that in the next two weeks [leading up to the University Athletic Association Championships], we will spend more time on doubles than ever, and if they need things to work on outside of doubles, then they can do that on their own,” Follmer said. “The team time will be spent going back to the drawing board and working on some basic stuff in doubles: serves, returns, volleys and communication with your doubles partner.”
The team also hosted the first annual Campus Kids’ Day on Saturday, featuring a fastest serve contest, a target serve contest, and a raffle with prizes. The next community event that the Bears will sponsor is its annual Special Olympics clinic on April 30.
“We always get a great turnout for [the Special Olympics clinic]. People from all over Missouri come in for that,” Follmer said. “I know all the guys on the team are excited about that as well.”
The Red and Green will have a chance to avenge Saturday’s loss when they take on NAIA Lindenwood University on Friday, April 8, at the Tao Tennis Center.
“We just need to work on some basic stuff in doubles, but if we do that I think we’ll be fine,” Follmer said.
Washington University is now 8-4 on the season.