By Jimmy Chau
Assistant Tennis Coach
WALLA WALLA, Wash. - The Pioneer Men's Tennis program continues to make strides under the leadership of coach Patrick Dreves. With players going further into the annual USTA/ITA Small College Regional Championships than ever before, the Pioneers are poised to improve on last year's team performance that had them on the doorstep of the conference championships.
Leading the way for the Pioneers was freshman standout Michael Brewer. The highest freshman seed in the tournament, Brewer would cruise through his first round match 6-1, 6-0 over Pacific Lutheran's Brandon Bulaclac. Facing the first of what would be three straight Whitman players, Brewer would fight off a very scrappy Alex Noyes, 6-4, 6-4. Next up would be a fellow freshman in Joey Diaz who Brewer would dispatch 6-1, 6-3.
The program's top recruit's run to the quarterfinals would end when he faced #9 seed Steven Roston who also had his best ever showing at the tournament. Brewer started the match going toe to toe with the Whitman junior until poor decision making and fatigue started to set in. Roston would reel off nine straight games to move on to the semifinals with a 6-3, 6-0 win over the Pioneer. Brewer's teammate Morgan Joyce would be the only other Pioneer to make it out of the first round in singles with a 6-1, 6-0 win over Adam Meyers of Puget Sound. Cameron Smith's debut as a Pioneer ended in a nail biter as Chase Stalcup used steady play to upend Smith's tournament hopes in a 6-4, 6-7, 10-4 win. Other players struggled in the windy conditions yet managed to have some good matches against quality opponents.
Kevin Ross lost to Whitman's Atanas Atanasov 6-4, 6-3 and Scott Monismith would fall to Lorne Bulling of Pacific 6-3, 6-4. Daniel Hahm just couldn't get it going against newcomer and #9 seed Brennan Faith in a 6-4, 6-2 loss.
Doubles play also saw a good showing from the new combination of Brewer and Ross. The pair, seeded #5, took care of PLU's Sam Angel and Neal Berg 8-3 in their first round match. Playing well and coming up with shots from all over the building, the Pioneer's came up with a surprisingly easy 8-1 win over Whitworth's #1 doubles team of Drew Brigham and Blake Miller. Kevin Ross' clean winner between the flat-footed Brigham and Miller from midway across the adjacent court drew an ovation from the crowd and players.
Andy Riggs and Roston would prove to be too much to handle in the next round though. The #4 seeds from Whitman got up a break at 6-3 and a late rally from the Pioneers would fall short as Riggs and Roston moved on with an 8-6 win. Joyce partnered up with Hahm to produce an upset win over the #8 seeds from PLU, Sam Stadter and Jake Yanello. The Pioneers would run into a young and talented Whitman team in Petar Jivkov and Diaz in the next round and get eliminated after an 8-5 defeat. Smith and Monismith faced a formidable first round match in the #1 seeds from Whitman. Andrew LaCava and James Rivers are the same pair who made the finals of last year's USTA/ITA Small College National Championships. Smith's big serve couldn't hold off the hard charging Missionaries as the Pioneers fell 8-3.
The Pioneers still have a lot of work to do, but Coach Dreves was encouraged by his young team's performance over the weekend. "There are a lot of things we need to work on, but we've got many things to be excited about. The off-season will be key for these guys as they work towards their goals."