La Cava Wins Epic Battle for Singles Crown

News Release Date:
Monday, September 26

WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- Two Whitman College tennis heavyweights, Andrew La Cava and Conor Holton-Burke, went toe to toe for what seemed like 15 rounds in Monday's singles final of the USTA/ITA Pacific Northwest Fall Championships on Whitman's outdoor courts.

Andrew La Cava
Conor Holton-Burke

Both players were still standing at the end of three-hour title bout, even though both had landed and absorbed any number of feathery jabs and hard right hands.

Once the final bell sounded and the score cards were totaled, it was La Cava leaving the ring with an epic 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (9-7) split-decision triumph.

Few points came easy in the slugfest, but La Cava needed one last remarkable flurry of punches to claim his crown.

After holding serve to even the third set at 6-6, La Cava quickly found himself on the wrong end of 5-1 and 6-2 counts in the tie-breaker.

But the crafty sophomore fought off four match points to the square the breaker at 6-6 and then added a fifth straight point to lead 7-6 and earn a match point of his own.

Holton-Burke, a rangy senior and the defending Northwest Conference (NWC) Player of the Year, picked off the next point to send the match back to deuce, only to see La Cava finish the marathon with the next two points.

"As they were battling through the fifth set, it wasn't about who was going to win," Whitman coach and tournament director Jeff Northam said.

"I just didn't want to see either guy lose. It was honestly one of the best college matches I've ever seen."

In winning the regional singles title for a second straight year, La Cava used a service break to break free from a 5-5 deadlock in the first set. He then held serve to take the set at 7-5.

Holton-Burke bounced back to pocket a back-and-forth second set, breaking La Cava at 5-4 to win 6-4.

The deciding third set stayed on serve until La Cava broke Holton-Burke for a 5-4 lead. Holton-Burke broke right back, and both players held serve one more time to reach a 6-6 stalemate and set the stage for the climactic tie-breaker.

The regional tournament, which started Saturday on the Whitman campus and attracted players from all nine NWC schools, resumed this morning with the singles semifinals.

Holton-Burke advanced by scrambling past Whitman junior Jeff Tolman 6-4, 6-4 in one semifinal while La Cava outpointed Whitman junior Sam Sadeghi 6-4, 6-3.

While both La Cava and Holton-Burke were running on fumes by the time their singles final ended late in the afternoon, their day was not over.

Both players are still in hunt for the tournament's doubles championship. That match was set to begin at 5:30 p.m..

La Cava reached the doubles final with Tolman as a partner. They face Holton-Burke and junior Matt Tesmond.

A year ago, Holton-Burke and La Cava were on the same side of the net in winning the regional doubles title.

The prize waiting for both regional singles and doubles champions is a ticket to the National Small College Championships, slated for next month in Mobile, Ala.

Whitman players have won the regional singles title every year since 2006, when the Northwest was given its own regional tournament. Whitman players have also won the doubles crown in all but one year.

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CONTACT: Dave Holden
Sports Information Director
Whitman College, Walla Walla, Wash.
509 527-5902; holden@whitman.edu