YAKIMA - With their respective Northwest Conference tennis titles already in hand, the Whitman College men and Whitworth University women are the favorites to pocket the top prizes at this week's annual post-season tournament.
The tournament, which takes place at the Yakima Tennis Club, started with first-round matches this morning and runs through Saturday afternoon.
In a break from recent seasons, the nine-school NWC based its men's and women's tennis titles this spring on the final regular season standings, rather than on results of its post-season tournament.
What that leaves at stake in the 2010 tournament are the NWC's automatic berths in the NCAA Division III national championship field.
As in past years, seeding for this week's NWC tournament is based on regular season results. Only the top six men's and women's teams advanced to the tournament.
The top two seeds in each bracket get first-round byes as the tourney gets underway Friday.
Whitman is this year's tournament host with its coaches, Jeff Northam (men) and John Hein (women), serving as tournament directors.
Two first-round matches in the women's bracket start at 8 a.m. today.
Third-seeded Whitman (12-4 NWC, 14-8) faces No. 6 Pacific (6-10 NWC, 6-12) in one match while the other encounter pits No. 4 Willamette (10-6 NWC, 11-8) against No. 5 Lewis & Clark (9-7 NWC, 9-13).
The women's semifinal matches follow at noon today. Top-seeded Whitworth (15-1 NWC, 17-4) awaits the Willamette/Lewis & Clark winner in one semifinal. The other pits No. 2 Linfield (14-2 NWC, 15-4) against the Whitman/Pacific winner.
Competition in the men's bracket begins at 8 a.m. today with a first-round match between No. 4 Pacific Lutheran (11-5 NWC, 13-9) and No. 5 Whitworth (9-7 NWC, 9-15).
In the other men's first-round match, which starts at noon today, No. 3 Willamette (11-5 NWC, 11-7) squares off with No. 6 Puget Sound (5-11 NWC, 5-11).
The men's semifinals are set for 3:30 p.m. today. The Pacific Lutheran/Whitworth winner gets top-seeded Whitman (16-0 NWC, 18-4) in one semifinal. The other semifinal has No. 2 Linfield (13-3 NWC, 13-6) playing the Willamette/Lewis & Clark winner.
The men's and women's championship matches are set for noon Saturday.
One consolation match in the women's bracket is slated for 3:30 p.m. today. Teams that lose in the first round will play that match for fifth and sixth places.
Teams that lose in the women's semifinals will play at 8 a.m. Saturday for third and fourth places.
Both consolation matches in the men's bracket are set for 8 a.m. Saturday.