Whitman Sports Blog: Athletes score big victories, awards heading into spring break

Pamela London

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This week, the Sports Blog takes a look at the state of Whitman sports heading into spring break.

Whitties bring home the hardware

Five Whitman athletes collected NWC Player of the Week awards in the past two weeks of competition (Feb. 20-26 and Feb. 27-March 2).

Senior Conor Holton-Burke (tennis), junior Alyssa Roberg (tennis), sophomore Kyle Moyes (baseball) and first-year Peter Valentine (baseball) all earned their first Player of the Week nods, while first-year Courtney Lawless (tennis) was honored for the second week in a row.

Two weeks ago, Valentine hit .368 in four games vs. No. 9 Eastern Connecticut State, driving in eight runs with three doubles and a triple. He had at least one extra base hit and one RBI in each game and his five RBI in game two helped rally Whitman from a 7-0 deficit after three innings to close within 7-6. Whitman fell 12-9 in the game and 4-0 in the series.

Moyes followed up his teammate’s effort last weekend, hitting .500 (5-10) in three games vs. the University of Puget Sound. His six RBI and five runs scored accounted for 11 of the 17 runs scored by Whitman in the series. Moyes hit one home run in each game and made four put-outs with no errors while playing left field. He is now tied for the NWC lead with four homers. Whitman won its first two games of the season and took the series from the Loggers 2-1.

Holton-Burke, the reigning NWC Player of the Year, was victorious twice each at No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles in matches two weeks ago vs. Pacific Lutheran University and the University of Puget Sound. Those two singles wins gives Holton-Burke 100 career wins, becoming the 16th player in Whitman history to reach that milestone.

After winning the NWC’s first Player of the Week award for the 2012 season, Lawless earned her second nod in a row two weeks ago. Lawless won twice at No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles in matches at PLU and UPS. She is currently 5-0 in singles competition (4-0 at the time of her award). She also won at No. 2 singles this past weekend in a match against Pacific University.

Roberg made it a Whitman sweep for the first three weeks of the women’s tennis season by winning the award this past week. After winning in straight sets at No. 1 singles, Roberg paired with Lawless to win 9-7 at No. 1 doubles against Pacific.

Men’s tennis rises to No. 8 in national rankings

For the first time in the history of Whitman men’s tennis, the Missionaries have a team ranked in the top 10 in the nation. Whitman’s No. 8 ranking is the highest national ranking in coach Jeff Northam’s 19-year career at the helm of the program.

Whitman’s previous highest ranking was No. 12 in 2006-07.

After ending last semester ranked No. 29, Whitman played its way into the upper echelon of NCAA DIII tennis with victories over four national powerhouses: No. 6 UC-Santa Cruz, No. 22 Mary Washington, No. 23 Rhodes and Kalamazoo.

Two wins last weekend extended a six-year string of regular season conference victories, as the Missionaries have now won 81 in a row during the NWC season.

Whitman runs its record to 7-3 overall, 3-0 in the NWC and 7-0 against DIII teams. Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (No. 4) is the only team in the West Region ranked above the Missionaries.

A Whitman grad from the class of 1988, Northam was part of a Missionary team that rose to No. 2 at one point during his playing career. Northam shared three NWC titles while playing for Whitman.

The Missionaries will play five NWC matches in three days this coming weekend in Oregon before traveling to southern California for spring break showdowns with Whittier College, the University of Rochester (New York) and No. 18 Trinity (Connecticut) University March 16-18.

Women’s tennis wins fifth in a row

The Whitman women’s tennis team rides a five-game winning streak into spring break after sweeping the first three weeks of NWC Player of the Week awards (Lawless 2, Roberg).

After sweeping Pacific 9-0 at home last weekend, Whitman sits at 5-2 on the season and 4-1 in the NWC.

The Missionaries play Lewis & Clark College and George Fox University this weekend at home in NWC action before heading down south for the break to face four opponents in Texas. Whitman is slated for matches against Mary Hardin-Baylor (March 20 in Belton, TX) and UT-Dallas (March 22 in Dallas). They will then travel to Tyler, TX, to face off against UT-Tyler and Trinity (Texas) March 23 and 24.

Baseball earns first wins, series victory

The monkey is finally off of their back: the Whitman baseball team took two of three games from the University Puget Sound this past weekend, snapping a 12 game losing streak.

Led by NWC Player of the Week Kyle Moyes, the Missionaries ousted the Loggers by taking the first and third games of the series while dropping a close 8-6 decision in game two. The series was the first games of the NWC regular season for both teams.

Moyes hit .368 for the series with a home run in each game. That gives him four total home runs on the season, which ties for first in the NWC.

In game one, Whitman jumped out to a 7-0 lead and junior Justin Weeks pitched eight innings giving up six hits and one earned run while striking out two batters. Weeks kept UPS off the scoreboard until the top of the eighth inning, when he hit a batter and gave up two singles to bring the first and only Logger run home.

In game two, Whitman again put UPS in the hole early, jumping out to a 2-0 lead after the first inning with sophomores Cam Young and Aaron Cohen driving home a run each. After UPS tied the game at 2-2 in the top of the third, Whitman took the lead back in the bottom of the inning when sophomore Kyle Buckham and first-year Peter Valentine scored on an RBI single by Cohen. The teams exchanged runs before the Loggers took the lead for good in the top of the sixth inning, driving home a pair of runs to lead 8-4. Whitman pulled two runs back on a Moyes homer and run scored by Valentine, but fell short 8-6.

In game three, Whitman scored all four runs in the bottom of the fourth inning and Moyes’ three-run home run provided the difference in the game as the Missionaries took the series’ rubber match 4-2. Senior Jake Nelson pitched seven innings including four scoreless innings to open the game. Nelson gave up four hits (all singles) and two earned runs before giving way to sophomore Brett Lambert who struck out two of the seven batters he faced in recording the save.

Swimming

Two Missionaries will be spending their spring break preparing to represent Whitman at the NCAA DIII national championships in Indianapolis, Ind., March 21-24.

Junior Galen Sollom-Brotherton met the NCAA’s automatic qualifying standard in the 1,650-yard freestyle last month at the NWC championships, winning the race in 15:35.53. Sollom-Brotherton will also swim the 500-yard freestyle and the 400-yard individual medley. He has the nation’s fifth-best time this season in the 500 free and the twelfth-best time in the 400 IM, as well as the second-best time in the 1,650 free.

First-year Karl Mering posted provisional qualifying times at the NWC championships but unlike Sollom-Brotherton had to wait until this past week before learning his times made the cut for the national championships. Mering won the 100-yard butterfly in 49.70 at the NWC championships. He is ranked 16th and is the only first-year in the country to post a qualifying time in the event. Mering will also swim the 200-yard butterfly (ranked No. 22) and 50-yard freestyle (No. 37) at nationals.

Sollom-Brotherton and Mering are the first male swimmers to represent Whitman at the DIII national championships. Whitman previously competed in the NAIA national championships before shifting to DIII for swimming in 1995.

A top-eight finish earns the swimmer All-American honors.

The Whitman 800-yard freestyle relay (Sollom-Brotherton, Mering, senior Mitchell Lee and first-year Kevin O’Leary) had a provisional qualifying time in a victory at the NWC championships but failed to make the cut for nationals. They swam a time of 6:51.37, which would have qualified last season but this year was ranked No. 20 (top 16 times qualify for nationals).

On the women’s side, junior Katie Chapman swam a provisional qualifying time in the 200-yard butterfly but fell short of qualification for nationals.

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