TACOMA - It was anything but easy, but the Whitman College men's tennis team opened its Northwest Conference season on a successful note Saturday morning, slipping past Pacific Lutheran 5-4.
It was Whitman's 51st consecutive victory in the NWC regular season.
Pacific Lutheran took a 2-1 lead after doubles and at one point led 4-2 with three singles matches left to finish. Whitman won all three in three sets to escape with the team triumph.
Junior Chris Bailey scored Whitman's clinching fifth point at No. 4 singles, where he outlast Pacific Lutheran's Zach Ah Yat 6-1, 4-6, 6-4.
Down 4-2 in the team scoring, Whitman pulled even when junior Etienne Moshevich and senior Christoph Fuchs won two more three-set thrillers.
Moshevich, playing at No. 2 singles, beat Michael Manser 6-1, 4-6, 6-3. Fuchs rallied at No. 5 for a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 triumph over Scott Sheldon.
Senior Jasper Follows notched Whitman's fourth point in singles with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Taylor Dickey.
The Lutes picked off victories at No. 1 singles, where reigning NWC Player of the Year Joel Trudel rolled past Whitman senior Matt Solomon 6-0, 6-2, and at No. 3, where Pacific Lutheran's Justin Peterson rallied for a 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 win over Whitman freshman Jeff Tolman.
In doubles, Whitman collected its only team at No. 2, where Fuchs and junior Quin Miller won 8-2 over Dickey and Ah Yat.
Trudel and Peterson trimmed Solomon and Tolman 8-6 at No. 1 doubles. At No. 3, Follows and sophomore Conor Holton-Burke raced to a 5-0 lead before Manser and Sheldon stormed back for an improbable 9-8 (7-0) win.
"We didn't play very well and had trouble closing out matches where we had leads, but you have to give Pacific Lutheran credit because they did play well," Whitman coach Jeff Northam said.
Whitman, now 2-1 on the season overall, stayed in Tacoma to play Puget Sound Saturday afternoon.