Whit Men's Tennis Team Rolls Past Tough Band of Bruins, Punches Ticket to Nationals for Sixth Straight Season
News Release Date:
Sunday, April 22
WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- With some of its fans ringing the courts while chanting "dynasty, dynasty," the Whitman College men's tennis team made relatively quick work of a tough George Fox squad, besting the Bruins 5-0 on Sunday to claim a ticket to the national championships for a sixth straight season.
Whitman, No. 8 in the NCAA Division III national ranks, elevated its record to 21-4 in what has evolved into its best season in more than two decades.
George Fox, which parlayed an heroic effort into a 5-4 upset of Pacific in Saturday's semifinals, saw its season end with an 11-8 record.
Despite its draining five-hour battle against Pacific in Saturday afternoon's heat, George Fox came to ready to play on Sunday but had trouble keeping pace with heavily favored Whitman.
"It was such a special experience playing at home in front of a large, loud crowd," Whitman coach Jeff Northam said later. "This is an experience that all the guys on the team will remember for many years to come.
"Hats off to a very competitive George Fox team," he added. "Coach Neal Ninteman has really turned around that team. They are certainty a great tennis story in the NWC conference.
Junior Sam Sadeghi and freshman James Rivers collected the first team point of the day at No. 3 doubles, where they won the first seven games before finishing an 8-1 victory over Drew Milton and David Munoz.
Justin McClain and Peter Brown held an early 4-3 lead for George Fox at No. 2 doubles, but junior Jeff Tolman and sophomore Andrew La Cava clicked off five unanswered games to win 8-4 and raise their sparkling spring doubles record to 15-3.
Senior Conor Holton-Burke and junior Matt Tesmond seized a 4-1 Whitman advantage at No. 1 doubles before Preston Mann and Shawn Aldrich rallied to within 7-5.
But Holton-Burke served out the next game to finish the last of the doubles encounters and stake Whitman to a 3-0 lead in the team scoring.
|Conor Holton-Burke celebrates a point|
"We knew it was key to get off to a hot start in doubles," Northam said. "Last time we played George Fox we started very flat and they took two of the three in doubles.
"Today, our No. 3 doubles tandem, Rivers and Sadeghi, really rose to the occasion, defeating a Fox team 8-1 that beat them earlier in the year. That quick win by James and Sadeghi gave us the energy and momentum to sweep the doubles."
Whitman retained the upper hand with first-set wins in each of the first four flights of singles.
"All the singles started off competitively then about the fourth game of each match we really started to hit our stride," Northam said.
Tolman was the first to cross the finish line, posting a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Aldrich in the No. 2 slot, upping Whitman's lead to 4-0.
"Tolman was down 0-2 (love-40) before reeling off 11 straight games to go up 6-2, 5-0," Northam said.
Holton-Burke then brought the proceedings to a halt with a 6-2, 6-0 win over McClain at No. 3 singles. Holton-Burke, the 2011 NWC Player of the Year, has shot well past the 120 mark in career victories.
"Likewise, Conor was deadlocked at 2-2 before taking command of his match and winning the deciding fifth team point," Northam said. "Besides clinching the team match I know this singles match meant a lot to Conor since he lost to the McClain earlier in the year."
With the team result decided, matches were left unfinished at No. 4, where Rivers was on the doorstep of victory with a 6-1, 5-2 lead over Milton, and at No. 1, where La Cava -- the 2012 NWC Player of the Year -- was leading Mann 6-4, 3-2.
"La Cava was continuing his domination of the NWC," Northam said. "He didn't lose a set in singles to a conference opponent all season."
Northam also singled out Rivers as "one of our unsung heros" this season. "James has been rock solid all year."
Sadeghi for Whitman and Munoz for George Fox were just starting their match at No. 5 singles as Holton-Burke clinched the home team's win.
Adriel Borshansky, Whitman's only other senior, was set to play Brown at No. 6 singles, but that match did not get the chance to start.
Whitman also clinched its semifinal victory over Whitworth on Saturday before Borshansky got the chance to play his match (Whitman has four outdoor courts). Borshansky is 19-1 in singles this season.
Whitman earned the right to host the four-team post-season tournament by winning its fifth straight NWC title during a 12-0 regular season.
Whitman won 19 straight matches at one point this spring and has yet to lose to an NCAA DIII team this season. Its regular season winning streak against NWC teams, which has reached 90 matches, dates back to April of 2006.
Whitman now waits to learn where it will play its first-round match in the NCAA Division III national championship tournament. That information will be announced on May 7.
|That's Andrew La Cava, ready to rip a backhand.|
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CONTACT: Dave Holden
Sports Information Director
Whitman College, Walla Walla, Wash.
509 527-5902; firstname.lastname@example.org