Wash. U. hosting 2011 ITA Central Regional Tournament

| Sports Editor

While the rest of Washington University enjoys another typical weekend, the school’s tennis programs gear up to host the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s Central Regional Tournament.

Men’s tennis head coach Roger Follmer and women’s tennis head coach Kelly Stahlhuth worked diligently to prepare for the arrival of 30 different schools.

“Kelly has taken on as the main head of the tournament,” Follmer said. “In the past, the school has hired an outside tournament director but this year because of knee surgery she is unavailable. It’s strange after having someone else run it for thirty plus years and now Kelly and I are really running it all.”

With teams coming from across the nation, Follmer and Stahlhuth booked courts at three different locations across St. Louis, and had to arrange scheduling for each team.

“We have 192 matches to put on Friday and we have access to 28 courts,” Follmer said.

Both coaches have made the draw and coordinated with trainers, officials and other schools making sure the teams know where to be and when.

Many reputable teams will join the Bears this weekend for the tournament, including ranked teams Denison University, DePauw University, Kenyon College and Kalamazoo College. In addition, University Athletic Association competitors Case Western Reserve University and University of Chicago will participate.

“These are all teams with a lot of depth and a lot of talent,” Follmer said.

The ITA, which according to its website is “the governing body of college tennis,” plans a total of 88 regional events hosted throughout the country during September and October. Over 1,200 institutions belong to the ITA with over 15,000 student-athletes participating yearly in its events.

The fall ITA tournament is very important, as it is an individual tournament with both singles and doubles winners automatically awarded All-America honors.

“This is the biggest tournament of the fall season,” junior Adam Putterman said. “It has a huge amount of influence on individual rankings in the spring and is the last fall tournament.”

In recent years, a few Bears have made it to this status. Alumnus John Watts captured the singles title four years in a row, only losing one set throughout all four tournaments in the process.

“It’s quite a test of talent, will power and good fortune,” Follmer said.

As the tournament is very significant, the strain for the players can prove overwhelming. Each person plays Friday, Saturday and Sunday multiple times, moving locations if necessary. Although the Red and Green do have the home-court advantage, stress is still on Follmer’s mind.

“We want to bottle up the stress and anxiety and not get too high or too low,” he said. “If we do that we have a good chance of winning.”

This weekend is the capstone to the teams’ four-week-long tournament and is an opportunity for players to show coaches their talent.

“We have a few guys playing well but this tournament will tell me who is ready to play,” Follmer said.

At last year’s tournament, held at Kalamazoo, Mich., the Bears came out weak in doubles, and have been working in practice to avoid the same mistake.

“I really hope that we can have a lot of players go really deep into the tournament,” Putterman said.

With all other details worked out, Follmer and Stahlhuth are banking on beautiful weather for the weekend. Otherwise, teams will have to travel to Southern Illinois and South County St. Louis to play on rented indoor courts.

“What makes the tournament best is Wash. U.’s beautiful campus,” Follmer said.

The 31 teams, including the Bears, begin play on Friday morning.

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