WALLA WALLA — Whitman College plays host to the Northwest’s top small college men’s tennis players during the next four days as it hosts the Fall USTA/ITA Regional Championships.
The tournament, which features a singles field of 64 and 32 doubles teams, will crown new champions who will receive automatic berths to the national championships in October and, also, receive All-American status.
“What’s really exciting about this event is that it is an open draw,” said Whitman head coach Jeff Northam. “You could have a lower-ranked player win the whole event, having the opportunity to play higher-ranked players from other teams. It makes for a really fun and exciting tournament. It’s not just No. 1s facing No. 1s — like in the team season. It’s an open draw. They duke it out and the last man standing wins.”
Whitman’s Colton Malesovas did just that when he won the singles title last year, as did fellow Missionaries Andrew La Cava and James Rivers in doubles. Malesovas enters this years’ tourney as the No. 1 seed in singles.
In fact, the Missionaries inhabit the top three seeds with La Cava at No. 2 and Andy Riggs at No. 3, and the two are the top seed in doubles.
Whitman has won the singles title every year since 2007, and the doubles title every year but once in that time.
Last year, after winning the regional title, La Cava and Rivers went all the way to the national finals before losing to a team from Williams. It was the first time a Whitman team had played for a national title in three decades.
Whitman, as the defending Northwest Conference champions, receives an automatic eight slots in singles and four in doubles. Teams with less glistening portfolios, will have fewer automatic berths and eight at-large bids will be played for Friday evening during qualifying.
The round of 64 begins Saturday morning at 8 am. Two rounds in singles will be played Saturday and Sunday with the semifinals and finals on Monday. Depending on how the draw plays out, the doubles semifinal could be played Sunday or Monday with the finals definitely set for Monday.
The early rounds will see matches played at both the indoor Bratton Tennis Center and the new outdoor facility. All of Sunday’s and Monday’s contests will be played outdoors.
“I am just excited to see them play and compete, as this is the first tournament of the year,” Northam said of the Missionaries. “We’ve got a really good freshman class and a really strong senior class, so I’m excited to see how they do.”