Because the Northwest region is probably the least interesting to write about, I’ll start off this post with a brief DIII tennis history lesson. Some of you younger readers might be thinking to yourselves, “Wait, why are there 9 regions?” The more inquisitive ones will have noticed that each region represented in the ITA rankings has two regional tournaments except the West, which has three. From there, it’s pretty obvious that the West has three regions because it is more geographically diverse than any of the other regions. How the hell were they supposed to combine teams from Texas, the Pacific Northwest, and the California coast into two regions? Well, they couldn’t.
Initially, the California schools got together and said (and I’m paraphrasing here), “Look, we can all drive to each other, so we’re just gonna make a regional here. You red necks and hipsters figure it out.” What ended up happening was that every other year, the teams from the Northwest Conference would fly down to Texas, and vice verse. At the time, three teams from the Northwest were very good: Pacific Lutheran, Whitman, and Linfield were all in and out of the top 30 (PLU was actually the best team in the Northwest for a while. I think they topped out around 10 in the country). Between Trinity, Texas Tyler, Whitman, PLU, and Linfield, the Texas/Northwest regional was easily one of the toughest in the country. After a few years, coaches got fed up with spending thousands of dollars every other year to fly 2000 miles for an individual tournament, so they struck a bargain: split the regionals and have the champions meet in Alabama to play a play-in match the day before the real tournament begins. Back in the day, the Trinity/Tyler and Whitman/PLU/Linfield regions were probably both stronger than today’s Midwest region, but the other Northwest teams have disappeared and Tyler has swooned leading to an annual Trinity/Whitman date in Mobile. Fun stuff. Let’s get to the analysis.
Whitman has dominated this regional so completely in the last couple years that it makes my job here quite easy. In fact, last year, Whitman held 7 of 8 quarterfinal spots in singles, and all four semifinal spots in doubles. Anyways…
Jeff Tolman (Whitman)
The Whitman senior has had an up-and-down career so far. He started off playing #2 singles as a freshman before dropping to #4 as a sophomore and jumping back up to #2 as a junior. His junior year was his by far his best, however, as he picked up wins over Koenig and Whittier’s Carregha. Perhaps he will be inspired in his last chance to win this regional, and finally win one. He’s already been to the finals and semifinals once each.
James Rivers (Whitman)
The sophomore Fighting Squirrel had an unbelievable winning percentage last year, but he was playing #4 singles, and that doesn’t mean he’s ready to compete at the top of the lineup. Still, Tolman will be playing with the pressure of being a senior, and La Cava will be playing with the pressure of trying to win his third title. It’s a long shot, but it’s possible.
Sam Sadeghi (Whitman)
Sadeghi is another Whitman senior, and, even though he played behind Rivers last year, he has already semifinaled in this tournament once. The idea that a former #5 singles player is one of the contenders is ridiculous, but history has shown Whitman’s 4th best returning player is probably the 4th best player in the tournament. Plus, he got to the semis last year.
The rest of Whitman’s roster
What else do you want? I’m grasping at straws here.
Andrew La Cava (Whitman)
This is a no-brainer. To be honest, I would be really surprised if La Cava didn’t win this tournament. Coming in as a junior, he’s already won this tournament twice, only dropping one total set on the way to the two titles, and he was playing his best tennis at the end of the year. At individual nationals, he topped Depauw’s Miles before pushing Pottish in the second round.
I’m just going to remind everyone that I really have no idea how the coaches here will decide to put together their doubles teams. Yeah…
Assuming the La Cava/Tolman team stays together, some combination of these three players will probably be the second best team in the tournament. Tesmond has already won this tournament once, Sadeghi is a former doubles finalist, and Rivers semifinaled with Sadeghi last year. I don’t know how they will come together, but two of these guys will make a good team.
What team do those guys play for? Yeah, that’s what I thought too. This is the sort of in-depth research I bring to this site. This team actually beat Tolman/La Cava in a dual match last season, and Pacific is hosting the tournament. What else can I say? Anything can happen in a proset.
La Cava/Tolman (Whitman)
La Cava and Tolman were easily of the best #2 doubles teams in the country last year. They lost 12-10 in a third set tiebreaker in the finals here last year, and they won every DIII match they played together except a tiebreaker loss to Trinity and the aforementioned loss to Pacific. This doubles team is really the only possible combo in this draw that has been able to consistently win doubles prosets against good competition. I’d say that makes them the favorite.