Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 8
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman men’s tennis team knocked off by top-seeded UC-Santa Cruz

Matt Solomon (Photo Credit : David Jacobson)

In the midst of losing five straight games to Whitman’s number one doubles team of senior Matt Solomon and first-year Jeffrey Tolman, University of California: Santa Cruz’s Marc Vartabedian unleashed his frustration by turning away from the court and forcibly hitting the tennis ball against the stone wall of the Bratton Tennis Center. The tide appeared to be turning favorably not only for Solomon and Tolman, but for the men’s tennis team as a whole. However, the team fell short of fulfilling the promise encompassed within this fleeting sign, dropping a series of close matches to fall 8-1 to UC-Santa Cruz, the top ranked team in NCAA Division III.

Aside from seniors Jake Cappel and Jasper Follows, who combined to defeat UC: Santa Cruz’s Ulrich Capaul and Parker Larsen in a 9-8 (7-4) decision, the Missionaries emerged from this Jan. 30 match winless in both singles and doubles play. That being said, Whitman was far more competitive than the final score suggests.

Head coach Jeff Northam described the match as “a good loss.”

“At every position we competed with Santa Cruz and had opportunities in most every match. The difference between winning or losing a set 6-4 comes down to a point here or there,” he said.

In doubles matches shortened to eight games, Solomon and Tolman ultimately lost a tantalizingly close 9-8 (7-3) decision while the number two doubles team of senior Christoph Fuchs and junior Quin Miller succumbed to an 8-6 defeat.

In singles Solomon played evenly with UC-Santa Cruz’s number one, Bryan Pybas for a short while, only to lose in consecutive sets (4-6, 1-6). Junior Chris Bailey and sophomore Conor Holton Burke: playing second and sixth, respectively: each claimed a set, but were unable to win their matches. Tolman lost consecutive 6-4 sets in number three singles while Fuchs lost in straight sets in the number four match.

Considering UC: Santa Cruz crushed Whitman last year at the NCAAs, this showdown with the defending Division III National Champions was by no means a complete disappointment.

Quin Miller (Photo Credit: David Jacobson)

“The big thing the team takes out of the match is belief. We now know that we can play with the best team(s) in the nation,” said Northam.

It was especially impressive that UC-Santa Cruz was unable to overwhelm Whitman this time given that junior Etienne Moshevich and senior Nadeem Kassam, two of Whitman’s top players, were unable to play due to injury.

In a testament to its depth, the team was able to remain competitive in spite of the injuries to these players.

“In college tennis you only play six singles players. We have 15-16 guys that can compete in our conference . . . Going into the weekend, Conor Holton-Burke was our number eight player. However injuries to Etienne and Nadeem Kassam gave him the opportunity to play and he almost knocked off the number six player from the number one team in the nation,” said Northam.

Along with team depth, Northam and Solomon cite togetherness and experience as the team’s primary strengths.   In light of these strengths, Solomon is cautiously optimistic regarding the team’s future.

“At this point, I think it’s hard to say whether this match was a setback or building block. It’s all in how we use this match as motivation to push ourselves harder in training over the next few months. We have a chance to be a very special team,” said Solomon.

Whitman will have two weeks to practice and hone its game before conference play begins with matches against Pacific Lutheran University and the University of Puget Sound on Feb. 13 in Tacoma, Wash.

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