SPOKANE, Wash. – After a three-year absence, Whitworth University is back in the Northwest Conference men's tennis tournament in 2016 and the Pirates are hoping for a chance to shock the Division III tennis world. Whitworth will take on top-seeded and 19th-ranked Whitman in Saturday's first semifinal at 10:00 am.
The winner of this weekend's event will earn the NWC's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III tournament next month. Click here for a link to the NWC tournament website provided by Whitman College. It includes a tournament schedule and links to live results.
Tournament Format: As the regular season champion, Whitman is the #1 seed and host of the four-team event. The Missionaries will take on 4th-seeded Whitworth in Friday's first semifinal at 10:00 am. Second-seeded Pacific (Ore.) will play #3-seed Lewis & Clark in the second semifinal at Whitman on Friday at 2:00 pm. The winners will meet in the tournament championship game on Sunday at 10:00 am.
Tournament History: Whitworth has returned to the Northwest Conference tournament for the first time since 2012. In 2011 the tournament changed to a four-team event hosted by the regular season champion. Prior to that it had been an eight-team tournament played at a neutral site in Yakima, Washington. Whitworth last won a match in the NWC tournament in 2008 during a 5th-6th place matchup with Puget Sound. The last time the Bucs played in 2012, they fell 5-0 at Whitman in the semifinals.
The Pirates: Whitworth is 12-7 overall and 8-4 in the NWC under 17th-year head coach Mike Shanks. The Pirates had a six-match winning streak in late February and early March that helped them vault into contention for the conference playoffs. Then the Bucs earned their first win over Lewis-Clark State College since the 1980s near the end of the regular season.
Drew Brigham and Blake Miller have held down the top-two spots on the Pirates' singles ladder this season. Brigham, who was a First Team All-NWC honoree in 2015, finished 11-7 overall and 8-4 against NWC opponents as the #1 player this year. Miller went 8-10 overall and 6-6 against the NWC at #2.
Brigham teamed with Drew Adams to form a strong #1 doubles pair. They went 9-9 overall and 6-6 in league matches this spring. Shane Sandlin and Caleb Hughes have posted a 16-3 doubles record at #2 on the ladder for the Bucs.
The Opponents: Whitman has claimed nine straight NWC regular season men's tennis titles and ten conference tournaments in a row. The Missionaries are ranked 19th in Division III and are 17-8 overall. They went 11-1 against the NWC this season, losing to a Northwest Conference opponent for the first time in nine years. Zach Hewlin is 11-4 as the #1 player on Whitman's singles ladder this season.