New-look Men's Tennis Team Aims to Continue NWC Dynasty
News Release Date:
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Thursday, January 29, 2013
WALLA WALLA, Wash. – When it comes to Whitman's men's tennis team, the numbers speak for themselves. Whitman's concrete juggernaut boasts 5 consecutive conference championships, 90 consecutive regular season conference wins, and a #13 national ranking. Last season, Whitman beat five nationally ranked teams, and was one of just three Division III teams to complete an undefeated regular season within the division, finishing 22-6. With four all-Americans on their roster, they have the pieces to repeat the feat. If Whitman is Goliath, however, there are plenty of conference foes eager to play the role of David.
"If you look at the strength of the conference, I think this is probably the strongest it has been in 5 or 6 years." Says Head Coach Jeff Northam. "Between us, George Fox, and Pacific, we have three teams in the top 12 in the region, so obviously that's great for our conference to start getting some national recognition.
He adds, "I think that both of those teams improved a ton and should probably be our main competitors this year."
Northam's squad will need to hunker down to win another conference championship
Experienced Seniors Anchor Young Roster
Matt Tesmond, Sr.
As for this year's lineup, Northam notes, "It's going to be an interesting and challenging year because we lost Conor Holton-Burke and Adriel Borshanksy, who were really two of the most consistent performers that Whitman's had. This year, we'll also be without Jeff Tolman, who is taking a year off, so that basically means half of our starting lineup from last year is departed."
Sam Sadeghi, Sr.
Far from being despondent at the loss of three regular contributors, Coach Northam claims, "It will be fun to see who steps into the leadership and playing roles." Chief among those leaders will be seniors Matt Tesmond and Sam Sadeghi.
Coach Northam calls Tesmond "a doubles stalwart," as he has started in doubles for the last two years, including a stint at the top rung last year. A doubles all-American, Tesmond went 22-10 against the toughest national competition last year, with wins over nationally ranked doubles teams from Trinity (CT) and Mary Washington.
Sadeghi, on the other hand, has done most of his best work on the singles court. A one-time regional semifinalist, Sadeghi won singles matches against 3 nationally ranked teams last year, while also notching a 14-6 record at #3 doubles. "Sadeghi," says Northam, "has won so many matches for over the years, and he should definitely be in the top half of the singles lineup this year. Both him and Matt have been incredible leaders so far, and both will look to play in single and doubles this year.
Transfer Eases Graduation Pains
Andy Riggs, Jr.
With two graduations and the unexpected absence of Tolman, Whitman was delighted to welcome a talented transfer into the fold to help fill out the lineup.
"We had a very nice surprise this year when junior Andy Riggs transferred from Stevens Tech." Gushes Northam. "Last year, he played #2 and #3 singles for Stevens and had an unbelievable season, defeating some of the top players in the Northeast region. So far this year, he made it to the semis of the ITA regional tournament, losing in 3 sets to a nationally ranked player."
Riggs also teamed with Tesmond to advance to the finals of the doubles draw, defeating the top-seeded duo from Pacific along the way.
Deep Junior Class to Shoulder Heavy Load
Andrew La Cava, Jr.
Whitman's junior class is by far its most populous. With five returning players and Riggs, the junior class makes up half of Whitman's roster, and, as Northam notes, "These are guys who have been playing, improving, and are definitely looking to impact the lineup."
Steven Roston, Jr.
Leading the way, as always, is Andrew La Cava. La Cava went 21-9 in singles competition last year, primarily at the #1 spot and finished the season with a #19 national ranking. "La Cava has showed himself to be one of the top players in the nation. Last year, he made it to the Round of 16 in the national tournament, losing to the eventual champion in one of the closest matches of the tournament.
Will Huskey, Jr.
"As good as he is in singles, he's probably an even better doubles player. Honestly, he's been the most dominant doubles player we've had at Whitman. In fact, he played for the national championship this fall in doubles."
Naturally, La Cava won't be the only junior in the lineup. Steven Roston, a 5' 8" crafty left-hander from Hillsborough, CA, went 18-11 in a utility role last year and showed flashes of brilliance. He narrowly lost in singles against nationally ranked Kalamazoo College and held match points in doubles against DI Eastern Washington.
Atanas "Nasko" Atanasov, Jr.
"Roston is a hard worker who has improved tremendously over the past few years." Northam says, "He certainly will figure into our successes this year. In the fall, he defeated the #1 singles player from the 2nd best team in the conference in two convincing sets and advanced to the semis of the doubles draw."
On the opposite end of the height spectrum, the 6' 4" Will Huskey wins by overpowering his opponents with a big serve and forehand. "Will has worked incredibly hard on his fitness the last couple years, and when he's been in the lineup, he's had phenomenal results." Claims Northam. "He had match points against Gonzaga, a good DI team, at #4 singles, and went three sets against Montana (the #2 team in the Big Sky), so he's certainly proven that he can play at an exceptionally high level."
Dylan Bodet, Jr.
Rounding out the junior class are Atanas "Nasko" Atanasov and Dylan Bodet. Atanasov, a Bulgarian with a silky ground game, went 5-2 in limited action last year, and frequently exhibits strokes of brilliance. "Nasko is a terrific talent both on the court and in the theatre. He splits his time between the theatre and the court, which keeps him very busy, but he definitely has the ability to play in the top six."
Bodet, a transfer from the University of Idaho has a much less elegant style. As Northam notes, "Dylan has one of the biggest serves I've ever seen. I wouldn't be surprised if he clocked in around 135 MPH. He's still recovering from a wrist surgery, so hopefully he can get his game back to 100% where he can contribute in big matches."
Sophomores Experienced Beyond Years
James Rivers, So.
Though Whitman's two sophomores have just a year of experience each, both are already playing like wily veterans. Hawaiian James Rivers saw plenty of action in both singles and doubles as a freshman. Playing mostly #4 singles and #3 doubles, Rivers compiled 41 victories in his freshman campaign to go with just 14 losses. The Hawaiian also exhibited a flair for the dramatic, coming back from a set down to win against three nationally ranked teams.
Says Northam, "He certainly exceeded my expectations for a freshman coming in. This Fall, he advanced to the regional quarters before losing to Riggs in three sets and teamed with La Cava to play for the national doubles championships." Expect Rivers to be an integral part of Whitman's success this season.
Colton Malesovas, So.
Though fellow sophomore Colton Malesovas didn't meet with such immediate success as a freshman, his fall season was arguably more impressive.
"Colton has probably been the biggest surprise going into this year." Northam exclaims. "Here's a guy that never really got the opportunity to play in the top 6 last year because of our success, who dedicated himself to improving this summer, and won the fall regional tournament. He beat La Cava and played the eventual singles national champion closer than just about anyone. He certainly showed he can play with the very best in the nation."
Malesovas bludgeoned his way to a 17-6 record last year. The characteristically aggressive Texan's only losses came against DI teams Gonzaga, Montana, and Eastern Washington.
Freshmen Set to Make Immediate Impact
Though Whitman already had enough talent to field a national contender, the team added two more players to the pack this fall who have already turned heads.
Noah Lee, Fr.
Alex Noyes, Fr.
Noah Lee, a 6' 3" big-hitting righty from Forestville, CA, was unfortunate enough to draw Willamette's Josh Wong (ranked 18th nationally) in the first round of the fall regional tournament, but recovered to win the consolation bracket without dropping a set. Lee also teamed with Roston to advance to the semifinals of the doubles bracket before falling to La Cava and Rivers.
Coach Northam is eager to see Lee in action: "I've been really impressed with Noah. He's got the game to be a really dominant force in Division III tennis."
Last, but certainly not least, is Alex Noyes. "Noyes," says Northam, "is a crafty, athletic freshman from Kent. He was almost one of the big stories in the fall when he lost to Pacific's top player (an eventual semifinalist) in three close sets. I'm looking forward to seeing what Alex does when he gets some more college match experience under his belt."
Schedule: Brutal Spring Break Offers Exciting Challenges
Whitman starts the 2013 campaign with its annual early-season bout with NAIA powerhouse Lewis and Clark State College on February 8th. The Missionaries open their home schedule against Willamette on Feb. 16th, but don't hit the meat of their schedule until Spring Break.
Head Coach Jeff Northam
Whitman, ranked 13th nationally and 6th in the West region will face their first nationally ranked competition when the team travels to Santa Cruz in early March. On the 10th, the Missionaries will face off against #10 Pomona-Pitzer and unranked UT-Tyler. Despite being unranked, UT-Tyler is a traditional power, which has brought in a pair of DI transfers sure to place them back in the top 30. The next day, Whitman will play the 8th-ranked Banana Slugs from UCSC, who Whitman beat 6-3 at home last season.
Shortly thereafter, Whitman heads to Honolulu, HI for a string of matches against top DIII programs. In one week, the team will play #4 Washington University, #5 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, and #26 Whitter College. While there, the Whitties will also face off against DII powers BYU-Hawaii and Hawaii Pacific.
"We had so much fun (in Hawaii) last year, we thought we would go back." Says a particularly excited Coach Northam. "In all seriousness, we are so incredibly thankful for the alumni and parent support that makes trips like these possible. These trips are so important for keeping our program competitive nationally and provide our student athletes with the best possible experience."
"Thanks in advance to the Rivers family, which took hospitality to a new level last year, and extended their welcoming arms again this year."
When Whitman returns to the Pacific Northwest, they will finish their conference schedule where they hope to earn another NWC championship and hosting privileges for the conference tournament.
"We absolutely have a target on our backs, and we have to be wary of our conference," finishes Northam, "but we also have the talent and work ethic to return to the top 10 and hopefully go even higher."