Whitman Falls in Tennis Marathon to No. 20 UT-Tyler
SANTA CRUZ, Cali. – When the 13th-ranked Whitman Missionaries and the 20th-ranked UT-Tyler Patriots took the court this afternoon, both teams knew the match would be a war of attrition – both had already played competitive matches against top 20 opponents earlier in the day, and both had reputations for long matches –, but nothing could have prepared them for the battle that awaited them.
Will Huskey, Jr.
Make no mistake, UT-Tyler is much stronger than their No. 20 ranking indicates. The Patriots recently added transfers from ranked Division I teams Texas Tech and Texas A&M to their already strong lineup featuring two more DI transfers. They had also recently beaten the 21st- and 16th-ranked teams in Division III as well as the defending NAIA national champions from Oklahoma Christian. Their ranking is simply a relic from the previous season.
The first forty minutes were bereft of the drama that was to come. UT-Tyler jumped out to an early lead when Ryan Ybarra (from Texas Tech) and Daniel Brown (from Texas A&M) cruised by Matt Tesmond (Cincinnati, OH) and Andy Riggs (Auburn, CA) 8-2. Andrew La Cava (Bellevue, WA) and Colton Malesovas (Austin, TX) quickly knotted things up, however, when they trumped UT-Tyler's Ryan Spencer and Kevin Singer (a former NCAA-qualifying doubles team) 8-2. The longest doubles match of the day came at No. 3 where Steven Roston (San Carlos, CA) and Sam Sadeghi (Glendale, CA) dropped an early lead in a 5-8 defeat at the hands of Ramon Martinez and Johnathan Karsten.
Despite trailing 1-2, Whitman got off to a hot start in singles. At No. 1, Malesovas and Ybarra traded breaks at the onset before settling into their respective serving rhythms. Ybarra made some uncharacteristic errors while serving to stay in the set, and Malesovas capitalized to the tune of a 6-4 victory. The Missionaries also earned early breaks at numbers 2, 4, 5, and 6 singles and appeared poised for a comeback. At the bottom of the lineup, those breaks turned into sets for Whitman's Roston, Riggs, and junior Will Huskey (Auburn, CA). La Cava was not so lucky at No. 2, however, where Brown saved six set points in recovering from a 2-5 deficit to send the set to a tiebreaker. Brown took an early lead in that tiebreaker, but La Cava saved two set points of his own before eventually falling 8-6.
Andrew La Cava, Sr.
While La Cava was just beginning his second set, Riggs was putting the finishing touches on a 6-1 6-2 win of Tyler's Daniel Budd to tie things up at 2. Before Whitman could think of taking a lead, the Patriots struck back with second set victories at No. 1, No.4 and No. 6, and took the lead again when Sadeghi dropped a 6-2 6-3 decision to Martinez at No. 3.
Though La Cava was still in the midst of a seemingly endless second set, Huskey knotted the match again by trumping Karsten 6-3, 4-6, 6-2. Once again, the Patriots didn't take long to strike back. With Malesovas clearly suffering from the effects of back-to-back three-set matches, Ybarra cruised in the third set at No. 1 to put the Patriots on the brink of victory. With La Cava and Brown still trading blows late in their second set, Roston earned an early 4-0 lead in the third set of his match with former Patriot No. 1 Ryan Spencer. It seemed as though the match would soon be tied again, but Spencer managed to break Roston once and had an opportunity to earn the second break back with Roston serving at 5-3. Whitman's junior answered with three magnificent points to close out his 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 win.
While Roston was closing out his three-set victory, La Cava was still nearing the end of an incredible second set. Whitman's three-time all-American saved double-digit break points throughout the set and earned a break at 4-4 only to get broken in return while serving for the second. One game later, La Cava served to stay in the match and played a phenomenal game to force a tiebreaker. The breaker was equally flawless, as La Cava opened up a 4-0 lead an eventually won 7-4.
Brown and La Cava began their third set with the team match tied at 4-4 and both teams cheering loudly from the sidelines. Both combatants were visibly hampered by long days of tennis, but, unfortunately for Whitman, it was the Patriot who prevailed in the third, winning 7-6 (6), 6-7 (4), 6-2 to close out a sensational 5-4 victory for the Patriots.
Said Head Coach Jeff Northam after the match, "In 20 years of coaching, I'm not sure I've ever seen a match quite like this one. This team is special. The team support for each other up and down the lineup is unreal."
The Whitties will have little time to recover from this latest marathon. They are scheduled for another at 2:30 PM on Monday vs. No. 11 UC Santa Cruz on their home courts. The Banana Slugs have already defeated four nationally ranked teams this season. After that, the men's tennis team will head to Honolulu, HI for more Spring Break matches. As always, follow Coach Northam (@northam) on Twitter for up-to-the-minute match updates.
#20 UT-Tyler def. #13 Whitman 5-4
1. Ybarra/Brown (UT-T) def. Riggs/Matt Tesmond (WC) 8-2
2. Malesovas/La Cava (WC) def. Spencer/Kevin Singer (UT-T) 8-2
3. Karsten/Martinez (UT-T) def. Roston/Sadeghi (WC) 8-5
1. Ryan Ybarra (UT-T) def. Colton Malesovas (WC) 4-6, 6-3, 6-2
2. Daniel Brown (UT-T) def. Andrew La Cava (WC) 7-6 (6), 6-7 (4), 6-2
3. Ramon Martinez (UT-T) def. Sam Sadeghi (WC) 6-2, 6-3
4. Steven Roston (WC) def. Ryan Spencer (UT-T) 6-4, 2-6, 6-3
5. Andy Riggs (WC) def. Daniel Budd (UT-T) 6-1, 6-2
6. Will Huskey (WC) def. Johnathan Karsten (UT-T) 6-3, 4-6, 6-2