MOBILE, Ala. - Elbowing his way onto the NCAA Division III national tennis scene, Whitman College sophomore Andrew La Cava knocked off Trinity (Texas) senior Max Frey in straight sets Wednesday morning at the USTA/ITA National Small College Championships in Mobile, Ala.
La Cava, the two-time Pacific Northwest singles champ, rolled to an impressive 6-3, 6-1 victory over Frey, who holds a No. 4 national singles ranking.
The match between La Cava and Frey, the Southwest region singles champ, was a play-in match to fill the final berth in the national tournament's eight-man singles bracket.
"I don't think anyone could have beaten Andrew today," Whitman coach Jeff Northam said.
"He played with absurd precision, and his shot making was brilliant."
La Cava plays again at 10:30 a.m. (CDT) Thursday, although he bounces from a rock (Frey) to a hard place in that his first-round opponent is the tournament's defending champion, Dillon Pottish, an Emory University senior.
Pottish, the top-ranked Division III player in nation, helped Emory finish second at last spring's NCAA national championships. He also finished second to a teammate in last spring's national singles tournament.
While La Cava was winning his play-in match Wednesday, the results weren't nearly as positive for two of his teammates, senior Conor Holton-Burke and junior Matt Tesmond.
Holton-Burke and Tesmond, the Pacific Northwest doubles champions, dropped a 6-2, 6-3 play-in match to Frey and his doubles partner, junior Eric DelaFuente.
In his singles match, La Cava lost serve to start the first set but then quickly took charge, rolling up leads of 3-2 and 4-3 before closing out the set.
He bolted to a 3-0 lead in the second set, traded breaks for a 4-1 cushion and then salted away the next two games for wrap up the set and match.
"This is one of the smartest matches I've seen Andrew play," Northam said.
"He didn't serve big, but he stayed back and kept a lot of balls in play. He did a great job coming to the net when the opportunities were there."
After Frey and DelaFuente dominated the first set of the doubles play-in match, Holton-Burke and Tesmond stayed on serve in the second for a 3-2 lead.
But the Trinity duo got hot, winning four straight games to close out the match.
"The Trinity doubles team played really well," Northam said. "They didn't miss many returns.
"This was one of those days when we didn't play our best. The other guys hit a lot of good returns while we had trouble handling their serve."