Whit Men Place Two in Singles Semis, Monopolize Doubles Final
|Colton Malesovas, So.|
Beaverton, Ore.- After a somewhat disappointing first day at the USTA/ITA Fall Regional on Saturday, the Whitman men's tennis team returned to the court on Sunday to reassert their dominance.
Whitman players found themselves opposite George Fox Bruins in four out of the eight Round of 16 matches, and won all four in straight sets. Junior transfer Andy Riggs (Auburn, CA) made quick work of former Bruin #1 Preston Mann in a 6-0, 6-1 victory. Junior Steven Roston (Burlingame, CA) toughed out a two-hour 6-2, 6-1 win over 8th-seeded Sean Aldrich. Sophomore James Rivers (Honolulu, HA) cruised into the quarterfinals with a 6-1, 6-0 victory over Andy Tweet. Meanwhile, fellow sophomore Colton Malesovas (Austin, TX) fell into an early hole against 5th-seeded Justin McClain before finding his game with McClain serving for the set at 5-4. Malesovas didn't lose a game from there on out, and eventually won 7-5 6-0.
Outside of the Whitman-George Fox matches, junior Andrew La Cava (Bellevue, WA), fresh off his 100th victory, advanced to the quarterfinals with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Pacific's Brandon Schlack.
The match of the morning, however, goes to senior Sam Sadeghi (Los Angeles, CA) and 2nd-seeded Josh Wong of Willamette. Wong started off the match by breaking Sadeghi's serve to go up 2-0, but the wily senior broke back immediately, and the two combatants held their service games all the way into the tiebreaker. In the tiebreaker, Wong broke free from a 2-2 deadlock and won five consecutive points to take the set. The second set played out much like the first, as the two players held their first eight service games. At that point, however, Sadeghi made some uncharacteristic errors that allowed Wong to serve for the match. Sadeghi played a brilliant game down 4-5, however, cracking several forehand winners to level the set at 5-5. Unfortunately, Wong responded with a brilliant return game to take a 6-5 lead, giving himself another chance to serve for the match. This time, Wong capitalized to take the set and the match, 7-6 (2), 7-5.
With his victory, Wong advanced to the quarterfinals where he met Roston. The exhausted Wong was forced to play a more aggressive style against the Whitman lefty to keep points short, but he found a groove on his backhand and was able to come up with several incredible passing shots on his way to a 6-2, 6-4 victory. Wong has already beaten three Whitman players, but he will have to beat at least one more to win the tournament.
|Andy Riggs, Jr.|
In the semifinals, Wong will face Andy Riggs who came back to oust teammate James Rivers in the quarters. In that match, Rivers jumped out to take the first set 6-1 thanks to several mystifying backhand errors from Riggs. Rivers appeared on his way to a straight set victory, as he jumped out to an early break lead in the second set, but Riggs began painting lines on passing shots, and fought his way back for a 6-3 second set victory. The third set was evenly matched all the way through, but with the match on serve at 4-3 for Riggs in the third, Andy managed to break then hold to earn his spot in the semis.
The other all-Whitman quarterfinal turned the NWC tennis world on its head, as Colton Malesovas picked up where he left off in the morning's match to stun top-seeded Andrew La Cava 6-4, 6-3. The teammates held their first eight service games before Malesovas, who didn't start for Whitman last year, unleashed a string of stunning passing shots to break the two-time all-American. Shortly thereafter, Malesovas served out the set to become just the second player to win a set off La Cava in this tournament. Most expected Malesovas to come back down to Earth, but if it was possible, he raised his level in the second set. La Cava, who had been making several errors in the first set, started the second with a resounding hold punctuated by a couple well-struck volley winners. Malesovas would not be intimidated, however. The sophomore controlled the rallies from there on out, and any time La Cava tried to change the pace by approaching, Malesovas unleashed another passing shot winner. Before the stunned crown knew what had happened, Malesovas had busted his way into the semifinals with a 6-4, 6-3 victory. There, he will the #7 seed Giancarlo Battaglia who toppled two tough Bruins in his singles matches today to advance to the semis.
Ironically, the two non-Whitman players in the semifinals are the same two who eeked their way by a pair of Whitman first year qualifiers in the first round. Both first years, Noah Lee (Forestville, CA) and Alex Noyes (Covington, WA) breezed through their back draw matches and will meet in the finals of the consolation bracket Monday win Walla Walla.
Continuing with the trend from yesterday, Whitman's two singles semifinalist failed to match last year's dominating performance during which all four semifinalists were Missionaries. Also continuing with the trend from yesterday, the advanced parity in the singles draw had no bearing on Whitman's doubles dominance.
After advancing four teams to the quarterfinals yesterday, three of four were able to advance to the semis. 2nd seeds Andrew La Cava and James Rivers took out their singles frustrations on an overmatched Whitworth doubles team, winning 8-1. Their semifinal opponents were teammates Noah Lee and Steven Roston, who advanced to the semis by coming back from a 2-4 hole to upset the #4 seeds, Justin McClain and Chris Lilley of George Fox 8-4. Roston and Lee couldn't maintain their torrid play; however, as La Cava and Rivers broke in the first game en route to an 8-1 win.
On the other side of the draw, Matt Tesmond (Cincinnati, OH) and Andy Riggs advanced to the finals in dramatic fashion. The #3 seeds jumped out to a 5-0 lead on a 5th-seeded team of Sean Aldrich and Preston Mann from George Fox, but they immediately surrendered both breaks, as the George Fox team quickly closed to 5-4. Riggs and Tesmond broke again to take a 7-4 lead, but the feisty Bruins broke back once more to pull within 7-6. Fortunately, the Missionary duo upped their intensity with the match on the line and broke Mann's serve to win the match 8-6.
Their semifinal oppoenets were top seeds Troy Zuroske and Giancarlo Battaglia of Pacific. The Boxers advanced to the finals by beating 5th-seeded Sadeghi and Malesovas. In that match, the Boxers jumped out to an early two-break lead thanks in large part to several doubles faults from the Missionaries. Sadeghi and Malesovas immediately responded, however, breaking to draw within 2-3. The teams then contested a long deuce game in which the Whitman duo had a break point to even the score. Unfortunately, the Boxers were able to hold, and used that momentum to break the Missionaries once more. That deficit was too much for Sadeghi and Malesovas to overcome against two of the biggest servers in the conference. They pulled within 6-7 before Zuroske served out an 8-6 victory.
The semifinal was less competitive. After getting broken in the first game, Tesmond and Riggs put everything together to reel of six straight games against the #1 seeds during a stretch in which Tesmond exhibited why he is an ITA doubles All-American. Both he and Riggs executed textbook doubles, crossing at will on their service games and lobbing their returns with finesse. The Boxers broke the streak by holding to make it 6-2, but Tesmond and Riggs held then broke to set their date with Rivers and La Cava in the finals.