WALLA WALLA, Wash. – A member of the Whitman College men's tennis team has earned Northwest Conference Player-of-the-Year honors for a third consecutive season, and coach Jeff Northam has been named NWC Coach of the Year for the third time since the spring of 2000.
Matt Solomon, a sophomore from Los Gatos, Calif., was named Player of the Year after leading Whitman to an undefeated NWC regular season and the conference title at last weekend's championship tournament in Yakima, Wash. Solomon was the leading vote-getter on the eight-man NWC First Team, which also includes his older brother, Daniel Solomon, a junior.
As the top player in the NWC, Matt Solomon follows in the footsteps of two 2007 Whitman graduates -- Phalkum Mam, who was the 2007 Player of the Year, and Steven Ly, who nabbed the award in 2006.
Chris Bailey, a Whitman freshman from Mercer Island, Wash., was the leading vote-getter on the six-man All-NWC Second. Jake Cappel, a sophomore from River Forest, Ill., also earned a spot on the second team.
Northam, a veteran of 13 seasons at the helm of the men's program, earned his first two NWC coaching awards following Whitman's championship seasons in 2000 and 2004. Despite losing three first-team all-conference players to graduation last May, Northam guided a young team this spring to a second consecutive undefeated conference regular season. Whitman's overall record of 22-9 includes upsets of an NCAA Div. I school and a nationally-ranked NAIA opponent.
As a player at Whitman in the late 1980s, Northam was part of teams that shared in three NWC titles and maintained a high profile in the national ranking, rising as high as No. 2 in 1986. In 1987, Whitman became the first Northwest college or university in nearly 20 years to beat the University of Washington in a dual match.
Matt Solomon, a graduate of St. Stephen's Episcopal School in Austin, Texas, earned second-team all-conference honors last season, and played No. 1 singles for Whitman this spring. He holds the No. 5 spot in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association's latest west regional singles rankings. He won the ITA's west region singles title last fall and nabbed the doubles title as well with freshman Etienne Moshevich (Richmond, B.C.).
Daniel Solomon, a graduate of Menlo School (Atherton, Calif.), played his first two seasons at Colorado College. He transferred to Whitman this year and moved into the No. 2 singles spot. With two more wins at last week's championship tournament, he raised his singles record against NWC opponents to 9-0. He is No. 15 in the latest regional rankings.
The Solomon brothers also play No. 1 doubles and are ranked No. 5 in the most recent regional rankings.
Bailey, a graduate of Mercer Island High School, has rolled through his first college season with an impressive 18-7 record in singles. That includes a 13-0 mark against NWC foes. Given Whitman's deep and talented roster, Bailey bounced between the first four slots in singles, and he has a three-set victory over a senior opponent who made this spring's All-NWC first team.
Cappel, a graduate of Oak Park & River Forest High School, compiled an 11-1 NWC singles record this spring while playing in each of the top four slots. He also has a 6-0, 6-3 victory over an older opponent voted to the conference first team.
Cappel played most of the season at No. 2 doubles, teaming with sophomore Nadeem Kassam (Vancouver, B.C.).
Whitman players not making the all-conference team include sophomore Dan Wilson (Bellevue, Wash.; Issaquah HS), who cruised through the season with an 11-0 record against NWC competition. He won the bulk of his matches at No. 4 and No. 5 singles.
In winning last weekend's NWC crown, Whitman also earned an automatic berth in the NCAA Div. III postseason. Northam expects to hear next Monday as to where and when his team will begin regional play. A year ago, Whitman was sent to the regional hosted by DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., where it won its first match before losing in the regional final.
Whitman is No. 20 in the latest national rankings.