Men’s Tennis Continues Dominance


Photo by Anna Dawson

In the spring of 2015, the men’s tennis team brought home its eighth straight Northwest Conference title trophy, prompting talk of an emerging dynasty on the courts of Whitman College. After the success of the ’14-’15 season and the loss of All-American Colton Malesovas, it seemed as though Whitman would have a target on its back coming into this season, daring the team to try to remain at that level. The target is still there, but the threat of a drop in competitiveness has washed away as quickly as it originated.

Adam Rapoport, a sophomore and recent NWC player-of-the-week, spoke to the success the team has already seen.

“So far our schedule has been about the same as last year, but we have definitely competed better and had better results. Last year we lost 1-6 to the University of Idaho, a solid D1 team. This year we lost a very, very close 2-5, where it could easily have been a victory for us had a few points on each court gone our way instead of theirs,” Rapoport said. “As for conference, last year we struggled out of the gate versus the top teams, barely beating George Fox 5-4 and Pacific 6-3. This year, Lewis and Clark and George Fox visited us a couple weeks ago, and we won 9-0 decisively in both matches.”

Photo by Anna Dawson

Numerous factors contribute to the improved play, but Coach Jeff Northam looked to the level of experience the team has gained as a whole.

“[We had a] pretty young team last year, a lot of first-years and sophomores,” Northam said. “Now that they have another year under their belt, [they’re] not as wide-eyed as last year,  and they know what’s going on and what they need to do to succeed.”

The team has also been experimenting with changing up the doubles teams. Traditionally this is something that is done anyway, with seniors graduating and new players arriving, but Northam sees it as more influential this time around.

“This gives a lot of guys chances to play in meaningful matches. We haven’t done that in a few years,” he said.

Another change from last year has been the addition of an assistant coach, something that the men’s tennis program has never had the budget for in the past. Malesovas, who accumulated two All-American honors and three NWC Player-of-the-Year awards, has come on board to fill that role, and so far he has made a positive impact.

“[Colton] inspires us a lot and feeds us a lot of motivation especially when coach Jeff isn’t with us,” junior Petar Jivkov said.

Malesovas has been helping out with practices, and his main focus has been the conditioning for the team.

“Colton has been really key with the fitness. We’ve been running a lot more and doing a lot more with our lower bodies to try and get in better condition,” Jivkov said.

Though a player to coach transition can have its difficulties, especially after having just graduated, Malesovas has enjoyed the switch.

Photo by Anna Dawson
Photo by Anna Dawson

“It’s been fun to really become invested in all the guys’ games. You know, when you’re playing, you can only really focus on yourself. Now, to feel like I have a hand in a bunch of different players and how they’re doing–it’s been fun, it’s been a good transition,” he said.

At this point in the season, the team has eyes for the national tournament. In years past, the team has consistently been knocked out in the sweet sixteen. Their goal this year, according to Rapoport and Jivkov, is to make it to the elite 8. The way their season is going so far, it seems plausible. The team is coming fresh off of a very successful weekend at home, defeating Cal Lutheran 9-0 on Saturday and defeating #30 Swarthmore the very next day, 7-2.

DSC_0338WEBWhile their expectations are high and the goals for the season are steep, the team has been quietly making some impressive statements with their play as of late. With at least three home weekends left to play, it should be a fun season to watch.

“It really is an awesome feeling when our own peers and friends come support us, as they have in the past. I can personally say that it makes me play with more enthusiasm and energy, and I am sure everyone else on the team feels the same. I would love to see [more fans at home matches], and so would the other guys,” Rapoport said.