Opening loss drops Bortz at championships: Sports Shorts 5/23/06

By Ben Jervis

With an eye towards finishing up a top-notch tennis career with two All-American certificates to his credit, first-round playoff elimination was not what fourth-year first singles Ward Bortz had in mind.

Facing a tough West Coast opponent at the outset, Bortz fell 6–2, 7–6 to University of California–Santa Cruz fifth-ranked third-year Shane Templeman in his opening match at the Division III men’s singles tournament Saturday at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The loss eliminated him from the tourney and ended his remarkable two-year run with the Maroons, leaving him with a 17–9 season mark and a 43–19 career record.

Entering the weekend, it seemed like destiny was on his side. The Wisconsin transfer had been a major force in Division-III tennis ever since abandoning the Big Ten for the South Side, and only one match prevented him from claiming top honors.

“I felt good,” said Bortz of his mentality going into the tourney. “I’ve been playing well lately, so that gave me some confidence.”

After struggling in the first set, Bortz fell into a 4–0 hole early in the second and looked essentially finished. The ex–Division I talent then seemed to come alive, rebounding to win five straight games for a 5–4 set lead. But after losing the break point, Bortz couldn’t keep up with Templeman, who won the final two games for the match victory.

“The highlight was those five straight that he won,” head coach Marty Perry said.

Templeman found himself out of singles competition after he dropped his next match 6–2, 6–1 to top-ranked Washington College (Maryland) third-year Arturo Solis.

For Bortz, it was a somber close to an amazing year. The Marquette, Wisconsin native compiled 16 doubles wins overall, primarily pairing with third-year captain Vivek Venkataraman. He also ended the ’05–’06 regular season ranked sixth in the Central Region singles standings.

“I wanted to be an All-American. That was my biggest individual goal,” Bortz said.

And it was a goal he accomplished in his first go-around with the Maroons. After putting up a 26–10 singles season and going 20–12 in doubles last year, the two-time UAA Athlete of the Week propelled the Maroons to the NCAA team tournament for the first time in program history. While the squad was eliminated by Carthage 5–0 in the first round, Bortz’s outstanding numbers in his own right earned him a trip to the singles tourney in Santa Cruz May 20–22, where he defeated Swarthmore’s current third-year Jon Reiss 7–5, 6–7(4), 6–0 before falling to Santa Cruz’s Kevin Casey (A.B. ’05) 6–2, 6–3. The 1-–1 record was enough for Bortz to clinch All-American status.

“Without Ward, we wouldn’t have made [the NCAAs],” Perry said. “He came in and he solidified our number one position and bumped everyone else down. He brought a winning attitude to the team which we didn’t have the year before.”