WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- Trinity University put its home-court advantage and distinct edge in collegiate experience to good use Sunday, handing a young Whitman College men's tennis team a 5-0 defeat in the opening round of the NCAA Div. III national playoffs.
Trinity, a long-time tennis powerhouse in the Southwest, advances to the eight-team NCAA Div. III National Team Championships, set for May 11-12 at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. Whitman, which took five freshmen into the national playoffs, ended its season with a 15-7 record.
"I'm not sure why, but we got off to a slow start in all of our matches, in doubles as well as singles," Whitman coach Jeff Northam said. "It's not that we played poorly. Trinity just played exceptionally well. Their coach said they played their best tennis of the season today."
"Trinity has a lot of recent experience at this level," Northam added. "Three of their top six players are (returning) All-Americans."
In contrast, Whitman had five freshmen playing in the six singles slots. "I don't think there's ever been a team take five freshmen into the national playoffs," Northam said. "I'm tremendously proud of this bunch of guys. I'm not sure I could have asked for anything more. Obviously, it would have been nice to win today, but all things considered, I'm tickled plum to death. What a great season this team has had."
Trinity, ranked No. 4 in the West Region and No. 9 nationally, swept the three doubles matches to take the early 1-0 lead in the team scoring. Senior Sean Fifield and junior Stefan Parker, who won last fall's ITA national doubles title, scored an 8-5 victory over Whitman freshmen David Miller and Robbie Munday in the No. 1 doubles match. Junior Jordan Taillon and sophomore Jeremy Stone were 8-6 winners at No. 2 doubles, beating two more Whitman freshmen, Steven Ly and Phalkun Mam. Junior Nick Kaloudis and freshman D.J. Petros completed the sweep at No. 3 doubles, downing Missionary freshman Dane Miller and junior Brad Changstrom by an 8-3 score.
At No. 1 singles, Fifield, a three-time All-American, rolled to a two-set victory over Ly. Sam Spiegel, Whitman's only senior, and Dane Miller lost by the same scores at No. 5 and No. 6 singles. Whitman's Mam fell 6-1, 6-4 at No. 3 singles, failing to capitalize on a break point late in the second set.
With Trinity holding an insurmountable 5-0 lead, two of the singles matches were not completed. At No. 2 singles, Trinity's Taillon won the first set and was tied at 3-3 with Whitman's Munday when that match was suspended. Trinity's Parker won his first set with Whitman's David Miller 6-4, but Miller was up 4-3 in the second set when their match was suspended.
"David was up 4-1 at one point in his second set, and he assures me he was going to win that match," Northam said. "Robbie was also hanging tough in his match, and Phalkun came close to forcing a third set in his match. We had a few bright spots."
Despite Sunday's loss, Whitman finished its season with its greatest number of dual match victories in 16 years. In the most recent ITA polls, Whitman was ranked No. 5 in the West Region and No. 15 nationally.
Trinity is one of two West Region teams that will advance to the NCAA National Championship Tournament. The other is the University of California-Santa Cruz, which blitzed Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 7-0 earlier today to claim the region's other berth.
Trinity, which won its last NCAA national team title in 2000, has captured 11 consecutive Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference titles. The Tigers lost in the quarterfinals of last year's national tournament.
No. 1 -- Sean Fifield (Trinity) def. Steven Ly: 6-2, 6-2
No. 2 -- Jordan Taillon (Trinity) vs. Robbie Munday: Tallion leading 6-3, 3-3, not finished
No. 3 -- Nick Kaloudis (Trinity) def. Phalkun Mam: 6-1, 6-4
No. 4 -- Stefan Parker (Trinity) vs. David Miller: Miller leading 6-4, 3-4, not finished
No. 5 -- D.J. Petros (Trinity) def. Sam Spiegel: 6-2, 6-2
No. 6 -- David Mertz (Trinity) def. Dane Miller: 6-2, 6-2
No. 1 -- Fifield/Parker (Trinity) def. David Miller/Munday: 8-5
No. 2 -- Taillon/Jeremy Stone (Trinity) def. Ly/Mam: 8-6
No. 3 -- Kaloudis/Petros (Trinity) def. Dane Miller/Brad Changstrom: 8-3