Bears sweep pair of ranked opponents homestand
Coming off its first two-match losing streak of the season, the No. 5 ranked Washington University men’s tennis team bounced back this weekend, earning three wins over a two-day period at home.
The Bears defeated National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) No. 24 Lindenwood University, 6-3, on Friday, and No. 18 McKendree University, 5-4, and Principia College, 9-0 on Saturday.
“These are the kinds of matches you need prior to an important weekend coming up with [University Athletic Association Championships] next Friday,” head coach Roger Follmer said. “Guys continued to play solid singles. Whoever would go out there, No. 1 to No. 6, was ready.”
Despite playing lower-ranked opponents, the Bears confidently agreed that these matches were simply preparation for the UAA Championships.
“I think we went into this weekend expecting to win all three matches,” sophomore Kareem Farah said. “These were kind of tune-ups for our UAA Championships.”
On Saturday against Principia, the Bears did not drop a set in any match as they swept the Panthers. Follmer re-inserted No. 1 player Isaac Stein into the lineup for both singles and doubles, after suffering a back injury, to give him an opportunity to win individual matches against regional opponents, which is a huge factor for qualifying for the national championships in late May.
“You need regional wins because [Stein] and [Woods] are in the mix in both singles and doubles,” Follmer said. “I don’t want to shoot them in the foot to qualify for the national championships.”
Against McKendree, the team dug itself an immediate hole, losing all three doubles matches. Stein sat out for the second game, but, once again, the Bears won five out of six singles matches to snap McKendree’s 14-match winning streak. Sophomore Adam Putterman, who moved up to No. 2 singles for the day, led the charge with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 win, and sophomores Gary Parizher, Farah, Bryan Haywood and freshman Tim Noack also won their respective singles matches.
“It’s a different spot and, obviously, the players are better,” Putterman explained. “I learned a lot from the [Lindenwood match] about being patient and making fewer errors, and I tried to apply [what I learned] to the second match. It seemed to help a lot.”
The Bears lost two of three doubles matches to start the day on Friday, but responded by winning five of six singles matches to pull out the victory against Lindenwood. Senior Max Woods embraced his opportunity as the No. 1 singles player, posting a 6-2, 6-3 victory. Parizher, Farah, Haywood and freshman Naveen Chadalavada all won their singles matches in straight sets as well.
“We really don’t have any holes in singles,” Follmer said. “Whoever we put out there, they are doing a good job.”
The Bears have hit a rough patch in doubles recently, evidenced by a 7-14 record over their last seven matches. However, Follmer, who has built the men’s tennis program around strong doubles and has emphasized doubles in practice recently, is confident that the team will recapture its old winning habits soon.
“We put enough focus and talk enough about [doubles] that I think it’s a matter of time before we get going,” Follmer said. “If we go to [UAA Championships], and get swept three times in a row, then I will be worried. But right now, I think it’s just a matter of time before good things start happening.”
As the season heats up, the Bears will face off against the University of Missouri—St. Louis on Wednesday before heading to Waltham, Mass., for the UAA Championships on Friday.