by Nathan Webber
The Pirate men’s tennis team clinched a spot in the Northwest Conference Tournament over the weekend after claiming two key victories over Willamette University and Linfield College on Friday and Saturday.
“Winning these two matches was huge,” junior Cameron Williams said. “Willamette was a very tough team and we clinched the post-season with the wins so it was a huge confidence booster for us.”
The Pirates, who improved to 7-3 in the Northwest Conference and 10-6 overall, only lost three matches all weekend and have won five of their last six conference matches.
“We had a great trip,” head coach Mike Shanks said. “We pulled out a great win versus the No. 2 team in the conference last year, Willamette, and got into a good rhythm today against Linfield. It was a very satisfying trip.”
The match went back and forth on Friday but the Pirates finished strong as the bottom three singles players took the last three matches, finishing off the Bearcats.
After dropping the competitive first doubles match of the day, the Bucs took the next two to gain an early 2-1 lead.
Williams and sophomore Dustin McConnell made quick work of the Bearcats’ No. 2 doubles team, winning 8-1. Seniors Ben Hamming and Stefan Dernbach broke the 1-1 tie in doubles with an 8-3 win in the No. 3 slot.
After Willamette junior Joshua Wong helped defeat senior Daniel Redfern in doubles, Redfern returned the favor in No. 1 singles by beating Wong 3-6, 7-5. Wong retired before the conclusion of the third set, giving Redfern the win.
“My opponent started cramping and it just got really bad so he had to retire,” Redfern said. “We got out to a good start in the match though, which was huge. It’s nice to know for sure you made the post-season.”
The Pirates dropped the next two match ups, tying the match at three. The No. 4 and No. 5 singles matches each went into three sets but the Pirates pulled out both of them, sealing the victory.
In the No. 4 singles match, Hamming beat Bearcat sophomore Will Cooper 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 and in the No. 5 singles match sophomore John Talbot overpowered Willamette sophomore Will Agnew-Svoboda for the 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 win.
Freshman Chris Engelmann added one more win to the Pirates total, defeating Willamette freshman Jack Schreiber 6-1, 6-1.
“We had four of our six singles matches go into three sets,” Williams said. “They might have had the upper hand but we regrouped after the rain delay and pulled out the victory.”
Saturday the Bucs fought through some close matches to claim the 9-0 victory over the Linfield Wildcats.
Redfern and junior Micah Spaun got Whitworth on the board with an 8-4 win in No. 1 doubles and No. 2 and No. 3 doubles followed suit as the Bucs swept the Wildcats doubles teams.
Redfern added another win on the board as he beat Linfield junior Zach Lyons 7-6 (7-5), 6-2. This was Redfern’s 12th singles win of the season and 20th win overall.
Williams had a similar match as he defeated the Wildcats No. 2 singles player 7-6 (7-5), 6-3.
The rest of the singles matches went smoothly as no other Linfield player won more than three games in a set.
“This was the last road trip of the season for us so it was great to end it like that,” Williams said.
Whitworth will have two non-conference games April 9 and 10 against the Community Colleges of Spokane and Lewis-Clark State College before playing the last two conference matches at home April 13 and 14.
Contact Nathan Webber at email@example.com.