Missionaries best Pirates in NWC playoffs

The Whitworth men’s tennis season came to an end on Saturday after host Whitman College defeated the Bucs 9-0 in the semifinals of the Northwest Conference Tournament in Walla Walla, Wash. “We knew [Whitman was] going to be difficult to beat,” senior Daniel Redfern said. “We were hoping to pull off the upset but it’s pretty impossible to come back at Whitman after going down 3-0.”

Whitman was the No. 1 seed in the tournament and the No. 1 team in the region, and eighth in the nation. The Missionaries won the first five games of the match, leaving the other four unfinished.

“It’s no fun to lose the last match of the season,” senior Ben Hamming said. “Whitman is really tough, a very, very good team.”

Whitworth, finishing the year 8-4 in the conference and 11-9 overall, stayed with the Missionaries in a lot of the matches.

Whitman started out the day by winning the first three doubles matches. Whitworth’s No. 1 doubles team of Redfern and junior Micah Spaun were outmatched by Whitman’s No. 1 team, losing 8-2.

The Pirates’ No. 2 doubles team of seniors Hamming and Stefan Dernbach had a tough time against Whitman’s No. 2 doubles team, falling 8-0. The Missionaries closed out the doubles portion of the match with an 8-3 win in No. 3 doubles against sophomore Dustin McConnell and freshman Chris Engelmann.

“I thought we played well, [the match] was very competitive,” Engelmann said. “We played a good team and even though the score didn’t show it the match was very competitive. Could have gone either way.”

The singles matches were highly competitive, but only two matches were finished as Whitman reached the necessary five wins before Whitworth could mount a comeback.

The two matches that finished first were No. 2 and No. 4 singles. In No. 4 singles, McConnell lost a competitive match, losing 6-2, 6-0.

In the last match of the semifinal, junior Cameron Williams lost a close two-set match, falling to Whitman junior Jeff Tolman 6-4, 7-5.

Of the four matches that were left unfinished, two of them went into tiebreakers. Redfern, playing his last game as a Pirate, was on the losing end of a first set tiebreaker, leaving the match at 7-6 (7-0), 2-1. The other tiebreaker was at No. 3 singles where Spaun’s second set ended in a tie, leaving the score 6-2, 6-6 (4-4).

In No. 5 singles, Hamming, also in his final match as a Pirate, finished his first set against Whitman junior Sam Sadeghi where he was behind 6-2. The No. 6 singles match never got started.

“It’s very different playing outside but we had decent weather,” Hamming said. “There’s wind that you have to take in account for and the depth perception on the ball is a little different, but we were ready for it.”

Redfern, who had his best season as a Pirate after transferring from Skagit Valley College after his sophomore year, finished with 22 wins on the season and 40 in his two-year Pirate career.

Hemming, who was a four-year contributor for the men’s tennis team, finished his best season in a Bucs uniform, compiling 14 wins between singles and doubles this season.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Hamming said. “I’ve enjoyed the team and the coach for four years and I’m sad it’s over. “

This was the second time this season that Whitworth played Whitman in Walla Walla, but the outcome was no different from the March 31 match-up which Whitman won 9-0.

The Missionaries played Sunday against George Fox University and swept the Bruins 5-0 for the Northwest Conference Tournament Championship.

Even though the tennis season is over, there is always hope for the coming years.

“Next year is going to be an uphill challenge because everyone in our conference is young and every team is deep,” Engelmann said. “It’s going to be a dog fight on our team for the last spots in our line-up next year. It’s going to be very competitive, but we’ll be good.”

 

Story by Nathan Webber Staff Writer

Contact Nathan Webber at nathanwebber13@my.whitworth.edu.

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