Bears dispose of Grinnell in 8-1 rout
The No. 6 Bears started off the day with a 3-0 sweep in doubles for the seventh time this season. Sophomores Gary Parizher, Kareem Farah and Bryan Haywood, along with freshman Tim Noack, each took straight-set victories in third, fourth, fifth and sixth singles, respectively. In first singles, senior Max Woods boasted an impressive win over No. 21 Juan Carlos Perez, 6-4, 6-4.
Farah, who won his singles match 6-0, 6-0, improved his singles record to 16-5 on the season. At fourth singles, Farah exemplified the edge that the Bears own in singles depth.
“I was just using my strengths well, hitting my serve well and hitting my forehand well,” Farah said. “[Grinnell] is not the toughest team on our schedule, so it just wasn’t as difficult of a match as some of them in the past.”
Woods stepped into the No. 1 singles role, which usually belongs to senior Isaac Stein, for the third time in the past three weeks. Stein has been suffering from a bulging disc in his lower back, which has limited his playing time, but head coach Roger Follmer has tried to give Stein enough match play to qualify for the NCAA Championships.
“I planned on playing the same lineup as we did at UAAs, but then Isaac said he was supposed to get an injection on Friday, [the day before the match]. You are supposed to have 48 hours in between when you get the injection and when you compete,” Follmer said. “I asked if he could get the injection on Wednesday or Thursday, but he couldn’t get the injection any earlier, so I said ‘OK, you’re going to play doubles for sure, but [I] don’t think it’s a good idea for you to play singles.’”
In singles, players have an incentive to face highly ranked regional opponents to improve their own regional ranking. Therefore, removing Stein from the lineup hurt Perez’s opportunity to face the No. 12 singles player, but gave Woods a chance to face one of the top players in the region. Follmer emphasized the fact that removing a top player from the lineup so late is usually a faux pax, but in this instance, he had no choice.
“It was pushing it even to put [Stein] in doubles, and I felt bad about pulling him out of singles, but I had to,” Follmer said. “I purposely did not coach Max during his match though. I felt bad about the whole situation.”
Despite the change in game plan, Stein and Woods put together an 8-2 win at No. 1 doubles. Follmer believes that Stein’s injury made him more aware and inclined to take advantage of opportunities to shorten points.
“It reminded me of last year’s [ITA Central Region tournament] when Isaac had the flu, and we pulled him out of singles because he couldn’t do both [singles and doubles],” Follmer said. “He wasn’t 100 percent, just like now he’s not 100 percent, but it forces you to be more aware of getting first serves in and playing smart. On [Saturday], that was as good of doubles as I have seen.”
The Bears will host their fifth annual Special Olympics Clinic from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, and will cap off the regular season on Saturday, May 7 against No. 19 DePauw University. After that, the team has its sights set high.
“I think it’s pretty simple,” Farah said. “I expect to win a national championship.”