Whitman men complete undefeated regular season

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TACOMA — Less than 12 hours after completing a doubleheader sweep against Pacific Lutheran for its 100th consecutive Northwest Conference victory, the Whitman men’s tennis team made the trip to the Cutter Fieldhouse for their final conference match of the season and completed its seventh consecutive undefeated regular season with a 9-0 victory over the Puget Sound Loggers here Sunday.

The Missionaries got off to a good start in doubles where sophomore won a doubles match with his fifth different partner in as many matches teaming with senior Matt Tesmond at No. 2 to blank Daniel Deuel and Jake Peterson, 8-0.

At No. 3, Will Huskey and Atanas Atanasov rolled to an 8-4 win over John Stevens and Michael Tieu.

The doubles match of the day came at No. 1 where Steven Roston and Andy Riggs took on Graham Baker and UPS’ Mike Cutter in Cutter’s final collegiate match. The Logger senior refused to go quietly into the Tacoma night. He uncorked several aces, thundering overheads, and no-look volleys, as he and Baker held their first five games without facing a break point.

Meanwhile, the Missionaries scattered six break points across four different service games, and held strong each time. The Whits finally broke through when a Riggs return winner put Roston and him up a break at 6-5. The Whits held their last two games to win 8-6 and give their team the doubles sweep.

In singles, Cutter and Baker’s hot play spilled over to the singles courts, as the Loggers’ top twosome took it to Whitman early.

At No. 1, Riggs earned a break early in the first, but Cutter broke back with Riggs serving for the set to eventually send it to a tiebreaker.

In the tiebreaker, Riggs finally found a groove on his return and won the first five points en route to a 7-6 (7-2), 6-2 win.

At No. 2, Baker took an early lead on Sam Sadeghi by roping backhand after backhand into the corners. The Whitman senior fought back, however, and eventually sent the set to a tiebreaker, where he outlasted Baker in several long rallies to win 7-4.

With the momentum behind him, Sadeghi cruised in the second set to down Baker by a score of 7-6 (7-4), 6-1.

The Loggers had a harder time competing with Whitman’s depth in the bottom half of the singles ladder.

At No. 3, sophomore James Rivers got his second singles victory of the year under his belt by beating Daniel Deuel, 6-0, 6-2, while Huskey did one game better in a 6-0, 6-1 win over Jake Peterson at No. 4.

First year Alex Noyes went up against an opponent with the same last name, but no relation, at No. 5, where he topped Abe Noyes 6-2, 6-0. Finally, junior Atanas Atanasov rounded things out with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over John Stevens at No. 6.

With the 9-0 victory, Whitman finished their NWC season 12-0 and hosts the NWC tournament this weekend as the No. 1 seed. The winner of that tournament will earn the conference’s automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.

“It’s been a real special year since we’ve had to face a lot of adversity, having James (Rivers) and Andrew La Cava injured, and missing (three-year starter) Jeff Tolman,” Whitman coach Jeff Northam said. “It really shows our great team dynamic to sweep through another undefeated year after facing those obstacles.”

The Missionaries are now 15-6 on the season and boast a No. 15 national ranking. They will conclude their overall regular season with a match against NAIA power and geographical rival Lewis-Clark State (who defeated Whitman 6-3 earlier this season) at home on Tuesday at 1 p.m., before heading into the postseason, where they hope to improve on their streak of six consecutive NCAA appearances.

On Saturday, the Missionaries cruised through the six singles matches to win Whitman’s 100th consecutive regular-season match, 7-2.

In the second match, Whitman swept the doubles en route to a Northwest Conference-championship-clinching 8-1 victory.

Whitman’s last regular-season conference match loss came in 2006 on the road against Pacific Lutheran. It was only fitting that the men’s netters would reach the 100-win milestone against their chief rival and that it wouldn’t come easy.

“It’s one of the more special memories I’ve had coaching,” Northam said on the 100th win. “It’s something I’ve had on the calendar, knowing we could do it against PLU, and something I’ve been looking forward to all season. It represents hard work, not only this year, but also every year for the past seven years. It’s really a special accomplishment that these past seven teams have put together.”

As for earning homecourt for the NWC tournament this weekend, “It’s a great step in the season to be able to host next weekend,” Northam said. “We love playing at home, and we have great fans who give us a major lift. We are also so proud of the women’ team for winning their conference championship. It’s really special that we can host the conference tournament together.”

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