This past weekend the men’s team was fortunate to host Swarthmore, Cal Lutheran, and Lewis Clark. It’s fun to host teams that have never been to the PNW, or in some cases, never played tennis indoors. I also try to make this trip as easy and convenient for the visiting coaches and players. I know first hand the hassles of traveling with a team – it can take forever to get a van rental at the airport, the time spent traveling to and from the match sites, the pains of getting an entire team loaded into a cramped van to find food. So I make it easy. Teams can fly into Walla Walla or Pasco (50 mins away) and I pick them up in a Whitman turtle top van and take them to the Red Lion Hotel. The Red Lion has been wonderful to work with during these types of events, they give us special pricing and best of all they are located across the street from the indoor tennis courts. Also since Whitman is located next to downtown there are dozens of great restaurants within a two block walk. I think it’s awesome that a team can come to town and not need any kind of transportation.
To make this year’s event even more special we roasted a pig courtside and provided dinner Saturday for all the teams. Thanks to Tim and Nelou Fennessy for providing and cooking the pig! Makes for a nice touch to an already wonderful weekend.
Our first match of the weekend was against Cal Lutheran. As with most of the season we have been playing around with doubles combos and positions trying to find the best possible line-up. The guys have been great dealing with my tinkering. Every weekend of play I have tried new combos and/or move teams around in the line-up. So far it’s worked great as more guys get the opportunity to play and guys get the opportunity to play with different players. This is something different that I have done this year and its worked great and the guys have jumped on board with the strategy.
Earlier in the week I had decided to pull our undefeated #1 doubles team (Zach and Phil) to see how Petar/Jake would respond to playing #1 and also to see how Chase/Gary would do at #3. Funny story is I thought I had told both Zach and Phil my plans but forgot to actually tell Phil. So Phil shows up Saturday ready to go at doubles only to find out he has been benched. Phil just gave me a wry smile and a chuckle ... pretty hard to be undefeated in doubles for the ENTIRE year including wins against 2 D1 opponents only be benched against a good team!
The doubles switch had nothing to do with Phil/Zach but everything to do with Petar/Jake. In the couple matches they played together they looked good and I wanted to see how they would respond playing #1 against a good team. For perspective Jake/Petar had played twice before in the year: against George Fox (#2 doubles) they went down 0-2 before winning 8 straight games then the following day beat a good Lewis Clark team 8-0 (meaning they had actually won 16 straight games together which is REALLY hard to do in doubles). Against Cal Lu the duo raised their level of play winning 8-1! Great stuff from both of them and I absolutely love how well the complement each other on the court. Our other doubles teams weren’t far behind as Robert/Adam won 8-2 at #2 doubles, and Chase/Gary won 8-3 at #3. After the doubles Phil came up to me and gave that same wry smile and said it looks like he and Zach lost their doubles spot.
In singles we continued to roll. Even without Robert in the singles line-up (I pulled him after the doubles) we didn’t drop a set…check out these scores:
#1 Zach 62, 61, #2 Phil 63, 60, #3 Chase 62, 60, #4 Petar 62, 62, #5 Adam 62, 61 #6 Gary 62, 61
Whitman 9 Cal Lu 0
Sunday was the big match of the weekend as we matched up with #30 Swarthmore. We knew this was a very good and very talented team. A week prior they narrowly lost 4-5 to #20 Stevens Tech. This match came down to the wire with the #6 singles going to 3 sets. All week Coach Colton had been preaching that this was a trap match and the team needed to be prepared for a tough match.
Luckily we came out with some strong doubles to sweep Swarthmore gaining a 3-0 advantage. At #1 Phil/Zach bounced back after “the benching” to win 8-5. Even though they didn’t play their best tennis it’s amazing how these two compete and work with each other to overcome difficult situations. At #2 Petar/Jake continued their strong play winning 8-1. Just let me say these two are playing well. And at #3 Robert/Adam were up 7-2 before closing out the match 8-4.
I mentioned it was fortunate that we swept the doubles and it was also fortunate that we played outdoors so we could play on 6 courts (versus 4 courts indoors). The top 4 singles matches were all battles and we dropped the 1st sets at #1, #2, #3, and #4! Fortunately for us both Robert and Adam won in straight sets to give us the 5-0 win.
The top 4 matches turned out to be fantastic matches. At #1 Zach dropped the 1st set 1-6 before rebounding to win 6-3, 6-4. Very good win for Zach as his opponent recently defeated the #10 player in D3. At #2 Phil had an incredibly streaky match – he was up 5-1 before dropping the set 5-7 and then he won the 2nd set 6-1, and since the team match was done they played a match tiebreak which Phil dropped 11-9. Interesting match because Phil played some of his best tennis of the year but just couldn’t close out the first set. At #3 Chase really showed great composure. After dropping the 1st set and I think being down in the 2nd he rallied to win 4-6, 7-5, 10-4. At #4 Petar had the longest first set of any of the matches. In fact, his first set was still going by the time #5 and #6 had finished! Great battle from Petar - he lost 7-6, 6-3
One other note from the match. Since Swarthmore brought 12 players we were fortunate to be able to play 6 doubles matches and 12 singles matches. Over all in the 6 doubles matches we won 5 of them. And in the bottom 6 matches we took the top 3 matches (Gary, Nishaant, Alex) and lost the bottom 3 (Trevor, Jacob, Azur).
Whitman 7 Swarthmore 2
This was certainly an important match for us to get through. I thought we played well against a good team that had their sights set on defeating us. Also one of those matches where we don’t have much to gain but a lot to lose (in terms of rankings).