Roston, La Cava Prove Crucial to Men’s Tennis Success

Mitchell Smith

One of Whitman’s most successful teams continued its domination of the Northwest Conference this past weekend as the men’s tennis team won all nine games in matches against both Linfield College and Willamette University on its way to an undefeated record in conference play.

The Missionaries pride themselves on their quality from top to bottom of the lineup, but the team rode several strong performances this year to their seventh straight NWC title. In their last year at Whitman, seniors Steven Roston and Andrew La Cava have stood out.

Roston got a break for much of the weekend to rest for next weekend’s conference tournament. With a singles record of 11-0, the team has looked to him all year as a reliable winner in the middle of the singles lineup. Roston’s success stems, according to him, from a surprising source: his voice lessons.

“We were warming up for class and [my teacher] just said, ‘breathe and relax,’ and that night I carried that onto the tennis court and saw an improvement in my game, and I’ve been doing it ever since,” said Roston. “I’ve just been loving the way that I’ve been playing tennis.”

First-year Jake Dewitt-Hoeger pointed to Roston as someone who has really anchored the team so far. While Roston played No. 4 singles for much of the year, he has played a few matches at the No. 3 position, matching him up against much stiffer competition.

“We’ve moved him around, and that’s a lot easier said than done, to win those matches, and he’s done as well as you could with an undefeated season,” said Hoeger. “He’s been unreal.”

La Cava won both his singles and doubles matches on Saturday against Willamette after not playing Friday against Linfield, continuing to add to his all-time record for wins by a Whitman men’s tennis player. The previous record of 157 wins (both doubles and singles wins combined) was set by alumnus Phalkun Mam ’07. After his wins this weekend, La Cava has 161 career wins and the rest of the year to increase his record.

With the regular season over, the Missionaries are looking forward to the postseason and the promise that such a dominating regular season brings. Any of the next few matches could be the last for a large group of seniors that include Roston, La Cava, Colton Malesovas, Andy Riggs, Atanas Atanasov and Will Huskey. According to Roston, there are high hopes for the postseason.

“We just want to go out there and play our best. We honestly believe that we can beat any team on any given day. We want to get out of the region, get to the Elite Eight and work from there,” said Roston.

Hoeger shared the same optimistic expectations.

“We’re expecting to win it all this year. Why not?” said Hoeger. “And if you can’t do that, then it’s a goal to reach the Elite Eight, reach the Final Four––I think that would be a success.”

The Elite Eight this year will be held in Claremont, Calif., which adds some extra motivation for Los Angeles native Hoeger. In the team’s trip to California earlier this year, he lost a close match in front of his family while playing the No. 6 singles against Pomona-Pitzer.

“I know I’m going to give it my all,” said Hoeger. “That loss has put a chip on my shoulder, so if I get back to that moment, I’m not going to make the same mistakes.”

While Head Coach Jeff Northam shares the same confidence that his players have, he expresses it in much more subtle ways. Northam refused to even speculate about a potential trip back to Southern California.

“That would be a long time down the road … not even thinking that far ahead, not at all,” said Northam.

Regardless of what the future holds for the Missionaries, this year will be remembered as another strong chapter in the history of Whitman tennis.