Whitman Sports Blog: Spring Break Wrap-up

Pamela London

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Tennis men seek top five ranking

Nine days, eight matches and eight wins: that is how the Whitman men’s tennis team celebrated spring break. Facing five conference foes as well as two non-conference foes ranked regionally and nationally, Whitman stepped up its game another notch looking to improve on its no. 8 national ranking.

The men, also ranked no. 1 in the West Region, played all eight matches away from the friendly confines of Walla Walla.

Whitman stands alone in first place in the Northwest Conference with an 8-0 conference record (15-3 overall). They defeated second-place Pacific University 7-2 in the second match of break.

Unsurprisingly, Whitman swept the NWC Player of the Week awards for the past two weeks: sophomore Andrew La Cava won the first week, followed by senior Conor Holton-Burke.

Whitman is on a school-record 15-game winning streak. The previous high was 13, set in 2010. That team reached the second round of the NCAA DIII tournament.

After the performances displayed the past two weeks, I think it is safe to say, look out top five. Whitman is a-comin’.

Swimming duo shines at Nationals

For the first time in the history of Whitman College swimming, the Missionaries were represented at the DIII National Championships in Indianapolis, Ind.

Not one but two Whitties suited up and swam at the national championships. Each competing in three individual events, junior Galen Sollom-Brotherton and first-year Karl Mering came home with a little more hardware to add to a record-smashing season.

At Nationals, the top 16 competitors in the preliminary races advanced to the finals, with the top eight swimmers competing in the championship final and the next eight swimming in the consolation final.

After placing 13th in the preliminaries for the 200-yard butterfly, Mering won the consolation finals to finish in 9th place overall and earn All-American Honorable Mention. Mering had already set a school record at the NWC championships before coming to nationals and broke that record in the preliminaries by finishing in 1:51.21. That record would not last long: just hours later Mering shattered his own school record in the consolation final, winning in 1:48.84.

Sollom-Brotherton also earned All-American Honorable Mention by placing 10th (second in the consolation final) in the 500-yard freestyle (4:30.37, just 0.53 seconds off the winning time). With this race on day one, Sollom-Brotherton became the first Whitman swimmer to score points at Nationals.

Three days later, Sollom-Brotherton finished off his season with a bang: swimming in the championship finals of the 1,650-yard freestyle, he placed 8th to earn First-Team All-American recognition.

Sollom-Brotherton and Mering combined to score 25 team points for Whitman.

Tennis women back up top 10 regional ranking, go 6-1

The Whitman women’s tennis team defended its No. 10 ranking in the West Region by going 6-1 over the two-week spring break period, including victories over two conference foes and two regionally ranked opponents.

Before heading south to Texas for five matches, Whitman took down Lewis & Clark (9-0) and George Fox (8-1) at home. The Missionaries are currently tied for second place in the NWC with rival Whitworth. Whitman faces the Pirates in Spokane on Saturday.

In Texas, Whitman took on three teams ranked in the top 15 in the West Region: No. 15 Mary Hardin-Baylor (W 8-1), No. 13 Trinity (L 5-4) and No. 8 UT-Tyler (W 6-3). The Missionaries also sandwiched in a 9-0 victory over Hardin-Simmons and 5-4 victory over UT-Dallas.

Before facing Whitman, UT-Dallas had been undefeated. Whitman led 5-0 before the Comets stormed back with four straight victories in singles. First-year Courtney Lawless clinched the match win for the Missionaries with a 6-3, 6-0 win at No. 2 singles.

Golf teams competitive with tough opponents

The Whitman men’s golf team had only one match over spring break, with its scheduled tournament at the St. Paddy’s Day Invitational canceled due to weather. Whitman took on Redlands, ranked No. 4 nationally, in a dual meet in California and finished with a team score of 321, falling 28 strokes behind the Bulldogs.

Junior Geoff Burks and sophomore Andrew Welch led the Missionaries with matching scores of 79.

On the women’s side, Whitman played in two tournaments over spring break: the Missionaries finished second at the PLU Invitational and eighth at the Spring Fling Invitational in California.

At the PLU Invitational, the final round was cut short by nine holes due to hail on the course. Whitman trailed George Fox by only two strokes at the time and finished the tournament at 493 as a team. Junior Tate Head placed second (119) and sophomore Katie Zajicek finished in a three-way tie for third (121).

Whitman finished in eighth place at the Spring Fling Invitational in a field decorated with nationally ranked teams. The top six teams in the tournament included four nationally ranked DII schools, one ranked NAIA school and one DI school.

The Missionaries shot 673 as a team and finished only two strokes back of seventh-place Redlands, who had trailed Whitman by four strokes heading into the final day of play.

Junior Tate Head and sophomore Elaine Whaley led the way for Whitman, each shooting 166, with an 83 on each day.

Both teams are next in action this weekend with the two-day Northwest Spring Classic. Although it is being played in Mission, Ore., Whitman is technically hosting the tournament.

Baseball comes up short

Facing series with three conference foes, the Whitman baseball team was unable to emerge with a victory in nine games over spring break.

The Missionaries were most competitive in a series at George Fox University. In game one of the series, junior Justin Weeks pitched 8.1 innings of three-hit ball and struck out five Bruins. However, Whitman was unable to get anything going offensively against senior Brian Ranta, who pitched a complete game no-hitter. With the game tied 0-0 in the bottom of the ninth, George Fox was able to score the lone run of the game with two outs when a Bruin base-runner reached home on a throwing error after stealing second and third base.

In the next two games, Whitman saw leads of 4-0 in the bottom of the sixth and 3-1 in the bottom of the second evaporate as George Fox took the final two games of the series 12-4 and 12-5, respectively.

Whitman sits in eighth place of nine teams in the NWC, with records of 2-10 in conference and 2-22 overall. The two lone victories on the season came in the first and third games of a series with the University of Puget Sound at home.

Upcoming club sports:

Men’s Ultimate: Onionfest, March 31 at the Whitman Athletic Complex

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