LAIE, Hawaii – Heading into Saturday morning, the 13th-ranked Whitman men’s tennis team was desperate to end a three-match losing streak.
The Missionaries managed to do just that with a comeback victory over the BYU-Hawaii Seasiders, 5-4.
The Missionaries hoped to get a different result from Friday’s 8-1 loss to Washington University by tweaking their lineup, but the doubles competition offered more of the same disappointment.
After going 3-1 in the first three matches of the spring break trip, Whitman’s Andrew La Cava and Colton Malesovas stepped into the top spot only to meet with the same fate as their predecessors.
Playing the 15th-ranked doubles team in Division II, the Whits got broken early and fell to BYU-Hawaii’s Martin Chojnacki and Yevhen Zakharov, 8-5.
Steven Roston and Sam Sadeghi leveled things by jumping out to a 7-3 lead on Isaac Hadley and Jordan Barlow before holding on for an 8-6 win.
With the lead on the line, a bizarre No. 2 doubles match set the tone for the insanity to follow.
Whitman’s Andy Riggs and Matt Tesmond dropped an early break to the Seasider’s Peng Dai and Wei-Feng Lee and trailed 6-3 before playing a brilliant return game to recover the break and even the match.
The two teams held the last five service games to send the match to a tiebreaker.
Riggs and Tesmond reeled off four straight points to start the breaker before eventually earning five consecutive match points at 6-1.
The Seasider’s upped their game from there and took advantage of some uncharacteristic Whitman errors to knot the breaker back up at 6-all.
Whitman earned another match point immediately after the changeover, but Dai erased that with a lucky net-chord dribbler.
From there, the two teams traded one-point leads for ten more tense points before Dai finally railed two enormous backhands to seal the match for BYU-Hawaii, 14-12.
Trailing 2-1, the Missionaries were devastated heading into singles, faced with the daunting task of winning four singles matches against a ranked Division II opponent.
As usual, Whitman relied on their depth to mount a charge.
Riggs moved up into the No. 4 spot where he continued his torrid play with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Barlow to tie the match.
At No. 3, Lee beat Sadeghi by the mirror score to put the Seasiders back on top.
Whitman’s Will Huskey tied it back up immediately with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Peng Dai. In that match, Whitman’s big-serving junior served his way to a 5-4 lead before breaking to win both sets.
Moments later, Roston put Whitman on top with an unusual victory over BYU-Hawaii’s Andy Xing. He and Xing played a marathon first set, which saw Xing hold a set point with Roston serving at 4-5.
Whitman’s lefty erased that with a big serve, held, broke, and held for a back-breaking first set triumph.
The dramatic first set shattered the will of Xing, and when Roston broke early in the second, the Seasider retired with a knee injury.
Whitman’s lead was short-lived, however, as BYU-Hawaii’s Yevhen Zakharov utilized several unexpected drop shots and broke Malesovas late in the second set to complete a 6-1, 7-5 victory.
Once again, all eyes fell on La Cava’s court with the team match tied at 4-4.
La Cava had previously broken Chojnacki late in his first set for a 6-4 lead before battling back from a 1-4 deficit in the second — saving multiple set points in the process — only to lose in a tiebreaker.
Despite the disappointment of the tiebreaker, La Cava stormed out of the gate in the third set.
He won his service game in four points before breaking Chojnacki at love, causing the Seasider to jettison a ball over one fence, hurl his racquet over another, and retire, giving Whitman the 5-4 win.
The Missionaries take on No. 26 Whittier today before testing themselves against No. 4 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps on Tuesday to round out the spring break trip.
Whitman 5, BYU-Hawaii 4
Singles — Yevhen Zakharov, BYU-Ha, def. Colton Malesovas, Whit, 6-2, 7-5; Andrew La Cava, Whit, def. Martin Chojnacki, BYU-Ha, 6-4, 6-7 (4-7), 2-0 def.; Wei-Feng Lee, BYU-Ha, def. Sam Sadeghi, Whit, 6-1, 6-2; Andy Riggs, Whit, def. Jordan Barlow, BYU-Ha, 6-2, 6-1; Steven Roston, Whit, def. Andy Xing, BYU-Ha, 7-5, 3-1 def. (inj); Will Huskey, Whit, def. Peng Dai, BYU-Ha, 6-4 6-4
Doubles — Chojnacki/Zakharov, BYU-Ha, def. La Cava/Malesovas, Whit, 8-5; Dai/Lee, BYU-Ha, def. Riggs/Matt Tesmond, Whit, 9-8 (14-12); Roston/Sadeghi, Whit, def. Isaac Hadley/Barlow, BYU-Ha, 8-6.