5 NWC Titles Highlight 2017-18 Season

Jordan O'Roy, Staff Reporter

As the 2017-18 academic year comes to an end all varsity athletic teams begin to wrap up, giving that one last practice or match a final hurrah until returning in the fall for the 2018-19 season. Out of the thirteen varsity athletic teams, five became NWC Champions in 2017-18, and every team achieved many individual accomplishments including All-NWC first and second teams, freshmen of the year awards, and multiple honorable mentions.

Volleyball’s season finale didn’t go as planned, losing at Pacific University who were able to sweep the season series with a 3-0 victory (25-22, 25-17, 25-13) over the Blues. Hoping to end the season with a win, Whitman (9-12, 9-7 NWC) will instead have to be satisfied with a step in the right direction as they continue to move forward within the conference. The Blues have continued to surpass their conference win total each of the last couple of years and this fall finished fourth in the league.

The Whitman women’s tennis team entered the 2018 NWC tournament as the second seed and and defeated third-seed Lewis & Clark College (5-1) to advance into the Northwest Conference championship final. In a rematch of the 2017 tournament championship game, Whitman beat 25th-ranked Linfield College by a 5-3 count to claim the 2018 NWC championship. After winning the NWC championship the Blues had their final matchup to determine their regional position. Whitman hosted Lewis-Clark State College battling it out on the Whitman outdoor tennis courts. The 27th-ranked Blues beat the Warriors with a 7-2 victory. Now the Blues wait patiently to learn their postseason fate on Monday, May 7. The first three rounds of the NCAA Division III Women’s Tennis Tournament begin May 10.

Whitman’s men’s tennis team earned their 11th consecutive Northwest Conference Championship. The Whitman Blues rode momentum from their doubles matches into a 5-1 victory over the Lewis and Clark Pioneers battling it out on the Whitman outdoor tennis courts and claiming the conference title. Four players from Whitman’s 21st-ranked men’s tennis team earned All-Northwest Conference honors, along with head coach Jeff Northam who was voted coach of the year by his peers for the ninth time in his career. The all-conference first team included Whitman’s Zach Hewlin and Ben Kirsh, while Robert Carter and Gary Ho were All-Northwest Conference second-team honors.

The Whitman women’s swim team finished the Northwest Conference championship meet as victors for the second consecutive season. The Whitman men’s swim team battled in third and fourth place for much of the final meet, but were eventually able to climb to second place.

The Whitman men’s soccer team ended with eight conference wins, doubling the team’s number of Northwest Conference victories from the previous season. The team had many individual honors starting with Noah Cavanaugh who finished third in the conference with eight goals, and led the team with seventeen shots on goal. Next, Ben Freedman led the team with thirty-eight shots and was second on the team with three assists. Finally, Gabe Jacobsen finished sixth in the conference with three assists and goalkeeper Owen Davis-Bower finished top of the conference with four shutouts, and third with only fifteen goals against. In addition, first-year Ananda Gupta reflected on this past season, as he will be stepping onto the field to play a bigger role as senior Ridley Eastland-Fruit prepares to take on another journey at Columbia University after completing Whitman’s 3-2 engineering program.

“I think that the men’s soccer team had an outstanding season this year. We finished third and were only two points (one win) away from winning the conference. I think that next season will be even better because the incoming first-years look to be very promising and the rising sophomores have settled in and are already being leaders on the pitch. We hope to win the conference next season,” Gupta explained.

The Whitman’s women soccer team went 2-16-2 overall, but, being a young team consisting of ten sophomores and seven first-years the team has a bright future as they are expecting to come into the 2018 season stronger and better than ever. Also, we cannot forget to recognize the accomplishment of first-year defender Quinne Woolley who earned All-NWC second team honors.

Whitman’s lacrosse team has just four years under the program’s belt, and in 2018 the Blues posted their second consecutive winning season, finishing second-place this spring. The Blues also earned their second consecutive Northwest Conference women’s lacrosse freshman of the year award, where Sage Ali was selected by the conference’s coaches. Ali (midfield) was joined on the All-NWC first team by sophomores Nina Moore (midfield) and Olivia Engle (defense), and first-year Hannah Miller (attack). In addition, Junior midfielder Lindsay Schwartz was an All-NWC second-team selection, adding to the many individual awards.

Whitman’s women’s golf team triumphed at the Northwest Conference Championship leaving the Whitman and George Fox as the league’s co-champs. However, with only one automatic bid to hand out for the national tournament all five players from Whitman and George Fox played one last playoff hole. When all five players stepped off the green it was Whitman that had won the playoff, and the conference’s Nationals bid. The Blues can now book their tickets for Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida, where the national tournament will be played at the Mission Hills Resort Golf Club from May 8-11. First-year Helen Maslen reflected on their season:

“The women’s golf team did phenomenally this year. We placed first in many tournaments, the most impressive and important was the NWC Championship that qualified us for Nationals in Florida! It seems like we are on top of our games and everyone has worked so hard to get to where we are. To improve our teams performance, we just have to keep practicing. Next year, I look forward to spending more time with the team and getting to know the girls even better,” Maslen said.

Whitman’s men’s golf team closed out its 2017-18 season by carding an overall score of 623 (311-312), which was good for a sixth-place finish overall at the Northwest Conference Men’s Golf Championship Tournament.

Whitman’s cross country team had two major individual successes with Eli Fournier’s national meet finish (110th-place out of 280), and his national-qualifying 10th-place regional finish, and Whitney Rich’s all-region 22nd-place finish. In addition to the men’s cross country team’s accomplishments the women’s team had a seventh-place regional finish.

Whitman’s baseball team stayed in the hunt for the Northwest Conference postseason tournament until the regular season’s final league game when Linfield College ended the Blues’ season with a three game sweep. Even though the Blues’ season didn’t go as planned, the team had already made the biggest turnaround out of all the varsity sports teams this season. The NWC released its 2018 All-Conference baseball squad, which included Whitman’s Lucas Thrun, Joseph Zimmer and Jimmy Smiley. Thrun was voted by the league’s coaches to the All-NWC first team, Zimmer was selected for the All-NWC second team, and Smiley was selected as an honorable mention all-conference performer.

The men’s basketball team finished the year ranked third in the country according to D3Hoops, following a season that ended in the Elite 8 round of the national tournament. They closed out with a 29-2 record for a 93.5 winning percentage, and were once again crowned Northwest Conference regular season champions. As a first-year Darne Duckett was ready to play the moment he stepped onto the court and became a very valuable player throughout the team’s journey, and as he reflected on this past season, he outlined a valuable team culture:

“The teams performance was great but we could’ve done better. We could improve by all committing on what our end goal is, so if we can work hard next year I feel that we can get to where we want to be,” Duckett said.

Whitman’s women’s basketball team went 22-4 (14-2 in the NWC) and earned an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament after finishing second in the NWC regular season and losing in the semifinal round of the league’s postseason tournament. The women continued their journey to the first round where they suffered an unfortunate loss to East Texas Baptist. The Blues kept their heads held high as they not only look forward to next year but also recognize Senior Casey Poe as 4th team D3Hoops All-American.

The 2017-18 varsity athletic season is one that Whitman is extremely proud of, and as the academic year comes to a close so do sporting events until the fall. However, for teams traveling to finish out nationals we wish you the best of luck and we are always rooting for you!