29
May
09

stein battles for singles crown

Stein awoke early Sunday morning just as he had every day since we have been out in California. He had an unbelievable opportunity ahead of him on Sunday, the chance to play in both the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championship match. Sunday would turn out to be one of the greatest days in Bates Tennis history, and for that reason it is necessary to tell the story of each match individually, rather than a collective whole.

The NCAA Singles Championship was first up for Stein. The match started at high noon against one of the most decorated division 3 tennis players of all time, fellow senior Michael Goodwin of Emory University. Goodwin has received numerous All-American awards in both singles and doubles, has won a team national title, but has never won an individual national championship. It was not going to be easy for Stein going against such an amazing shot maker as Goodwin, but Ben had found a way to victory in the previous four grueling matches and expected this day to be no different.

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With the TV cameras rolling, the newspaper photographers snapping their cameras, Stein served up the first point of the match. The first set was back and forth, both players serving bombs and then attacking off of the forehand side. Late in the set, Ben had a set point, but Goodwin served an ace to get himself out of trouble. He would then go on to break Ben to win the first set. It was a highly entertaining and well-played first set; the fans expected more of the same in the second.

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Both guys traded blows throughout the second, with Goodwin eventually getting the break of serve. It looked as though Stein was done for; his magical run had come to an end when Goodwin stepped to the line to serve it out for the championship at 5-4. That was when Stein showed the grit and fight he displayed all tournament, the heart that had drawn so many of the spectators to root for him over the three days, and the toughness that should make anyone associated with Bates proud. He returned big serves with even bigger returns, ran down every ball and allowed Goodwin to feel the nerves as he struck a forehand long to lose the game. Stein would then go on to win the next two games in convincing fashion to take the second set. We were headed to third and final set to decide the national championship, what more could we have asked for.

Stein Serve

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The third set started as we hoped, an easy hold for Stein. It was then that Goodwin showed exactly what has made him such a great player. He started to rip winners from all angles of the court, painting lines and drawing oohs and awes from the crowd. The fatigue finally caught up to Ben, as his serve did not have the pop it normally did. His right arm and legs had been pushed to the limit, as this was his 7th match in less than three days. It would be the Emory Eagle’s day, winning 6-1 in the third set. It would have been easy for Ben to go down in the second set after losing such a close first set and knowing he had a doubles match to follow, but this was a player determined to leave it all out on the court. His amazing three-day run in singles was finished, but not without a glance back at some incredible matches.

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Friday- Stein defeated Erani of host Claremont Mudd Scripps, coming out strong early to win the first, only to let nerves set in and lose the second set. Regaining his form in the third set he went on to victory earning him his first All-American honor in singles.

He then defeated Boren of Emory in a physically exhausting two set match. Battling cramps throughout the second set, he found a way to will himself to victory meaning he was one of the top eight players in the country.

Stein Trophy

Saturday- First up was one of the hottest players from the first day of competition, Wang from Johns Hopkins. After struggling to get going in the first set, he finally started playing the tennis we expected in the second but still found himself down a match point. On a second serve, he served and volleyed winning an amazing point to keep him in the match. He would eventually win the tiebreak to take the second set and also break the spirit of his opponent winning the third set in convincing fashion.

In the semi-finals Ben would find his toughest test so far, the #1 player in the country, Kauss from Gustavus Adolphus. Stein executed the game plan perfectly, dictating with his serve and forehand, getting to net putting pressure on his opponent to make tough passes. He would win two hotly contested sets to move him into the finals against Goodwin.

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For most people this would be a dream come true just to do this well in singles, but as Ben moved through the singles draw, he was equaling it in the doubles, which makes his story even more incredible.

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