SPOKANE, Wash. – Several new faces will dot the Whitworth men's tennis starting lineup as the Pirates embark on a new season in 2012.
Coming off of an 11-10 record in 2011, including an 8-4 mark in the Northwest Conference that landed the Bucs a spot in the four-team conference tournament, Whitworth hopes to continue to trend of improvement that has existed over the last few years.
"Since we graduated 5 last year, I love the challenge this team presents," said head coach Mike Shanks, who enters his 13th year leading the team. "We may have lost a little on the pure talent side, but we have not lost anything on the work ethic and heart side. We all know we have a long way to go, but we also are all willing to roll up our sleeves and all head in a common direction."
Two starters return for the Pirates. Daniel Redfern was a First Team All-NWC honoree last season. He posted an 11-5 record in #1 singles matches in his first season on the team, including an 8-3 mark against NWC opponents. Cameron Williams had the best overall singles record of any Whitworth player last season, going 11-3 combined in both the #3 and #4 singles spots. Those two are the only players assured of starting singles positions this season. Every other spot will shake out over the next couple of weeks.
"It looks at this point that one of the new players is totally capable of moving into the top six," Shanks said. "At the same time the depth of last year's team is now asserting itself. We were so equal from #5 - #9 that moving up into the starting lineup will be a great reward for all of last year's hard work."
Shanks hopes to get a better result from doubles play this season after the Pirates went 30-33 in doubles matches last year. Those pairings are also working themselves out in practice.
Whitworth opens the season on Sunday evening at home against NCAA Div. I Eastern Washington University. Next weekend the team will play a pair of matches against NAIA foes Lewis-Clark State and College of Idaho (both in Lewiston at LCSC).
From that point the team will have a three-week break before opening Northwest Conference matches at home on February 24 and 25 against Puget Sound and Pacific Lutheran. By that time Shanks hopes to have his singles and doubles line ups set for the duration of the season.