Dynasty Talk Still Alive for Men’s Tennis

Whitman’s Men’s Tennis team began the 2016 season with high hopes after winning the Northwest Conference and reaching the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2015. The team challenged themselves with the early season schedule, playing Division I teams University of Idaho and Seattle University. They understandably had some early season losses, but once the conference schedule began, Whitman’s recent NWC domination continued.

They rolled through the early portion of the conference slate, beating George Fox, Lewis and Clark, Willamette twice and Linfield twice all without dropping any individual matches. The team then went to Southern California to play four teams ranked in the top 25 in the nation. They dropped the first two against a pair of top 10 teams, #9 Bowdoin College and #2 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, before beating #15 Redlands and suffering a narrow defeat against #22 Tufts.

“After spring break we were ranked 14, we moved up a bit after beating one of our major competitor rivals in Redlands on their home court which was a phenomenal win,” Head Coach Jeff Northam said.

After spring break, the team travelled to Oregon to play Pacific, Lewis and Clark and George Fox. After defeating Pacific, the second-placed team in the conference, Whitman dropped their match to Lewis and Clark 4-5–their first Conference loss in nine years.

“It was devastating for most of the guys. I had a close match, Bobby [Robert Carter] had a close match, but I think you just have to learn to get over it. It doesn’t really hurt any of our chances. It wasn’t really a big loss at all,” said junior Petar Jivkov.

Northam offered similar thoughts.

“Spring break was good, and then the post spring break blues hit us. They [Lewis & Clark] played really well, we were kind of in an unusual circumstance and we didn’t get it done,” added Northam.

After the heart-breaking loss, Whitman bounced back to beat George Fox the next day before heading back home to record a pair of solid wins, including one against NAIA Lewis and Clark State College.

“We’ve been dealing with some injuries and sicknesses that I think we’re starting to get over. Last weekend we played with half a team, and they beat a really good NAIA team in Lewis and Clark State College. Not having your top three and beating a top 15 team is a really good effort,” Northam said.

The team then looked ahead to the last weekend of the regular season, which saw Whitman split into two teams. One would travel to Texas to play Trinity and Texas-Tyler and the other stayed at home to play a pair of conference foes in Puget Sound and Pacific Lutheran.

“If we rebound this weekend, basically whatever came before this weekend doesn’t really matter. If we win this weekend against two well-ranked teams, we’re back in the running for a pretty good ranking and good seeding in the tournament,” Jivkov said.

The top guys had a solid weekend in Texas, beating UT Tyler before losing a close match to #12 Trinity later in the day. Due to weather conditions both matches were played on the same day.

“2 and 3 doubles stepped up with big wins that pushed us into singles. The whole team played solid with singles and it came down to a 10 point tiebreak on my court for the match,” said sophomore Zach Hewlin about the UT Tyler match.

He was able to pull off that win before heading into the tough matchup against higher ranked Trinity.

“Again our guys stepped up getting wins at 1 and 3 doubles. Then, stretched thin after a 3 hour match in the morning, we couldn’t pull it through in the singles,” Hewlin said.

The lineup that stayed on campus dominated their weekend matches, beating Puget Sound 9-0 on Saturday before defeating Pacific Lutheran 8-1 the next day. Whitman’s remarkable depth allowed them to compete successfully both places, and the home victories clinched the right to host the NWC Championships this coming weekend. Whitman matches will start at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday morning against Eastern Washington foe Whitworth University.