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 62, 76 to University of CaliforniaSanta Cruz fifth-ranked third-year Shane Templeman in his opening match at the Division III mens 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 179 season mark and a 4319 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. Ive been playing well lately, so that gave me some confidence.
After struggling in the first set, Bortz fell into a 40 hole early in the second and looked essentially finished. The exDivision I talent then seemed to come alive, rebounding to win five straight games for a 54 set lead. But after losing the break point, Bortz couldnt 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 62, 61 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 0506 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 2610 singles season and going 2012 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 50 in the first round, Bortzs outstanding numbers in his own right earned him a trip to the singles tourney in Santa Cruz May 2022, where he defeated Swarthmores current third-year Jon Reiss 75, 67(4), 60 before falling to Santa Cruzs Kevin Casey (A.B. 05) 62, 63. The 1-1 record was enough for Bortz to clinch All-American status.
Without Ward, we wouldnt 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 didnt have the year before.