SPOKANE, Wash. – The 2013 Whitworth men's tennis season will be in full swing this week when the Pirates host NCAA Division I foes Idaho and Gonzaga on Saturday at the Scotford Tennis Center.
The Pirates have already had matches against NCAA Div. I Eastern Washington and NAIA Lewis-Clark State. Whitworth hopes that the tough early schedule readies the team for another strong run at the Northwest Conference tournament.
Once again this year the NWC tournament will include the top four teams in the conference standings at the end of the regular season. Whitman is the defending regular season and tournament champion, but head coach Mike Shanks believes his team has every reason to expect a return to the tournament as well.
"While Whitman is still a notch above the field, we should fight it out with Pacific, George Fox and possibly Willamette for those other three spots," Shanks said. "Linfield, UPS, and PLU and Lewis and Clark are rebuilding and hoping to move up."
Whitworth has a strong blend of veterans and incoming players on the roster this season.
Cameron Williams, an All-NWC first team honoree in 2012, is one of the key veterans and is slated to move into the #1 singles spot. He is expected to be joined by fellow returnees Chris Engelmann and Micah Spaun in this year's starting lineup. Another veteran, Dustin McConnell, could work his way into the top six once he joins the tennis team after basketball season.
Some newcomers made a strong showing in the fall ITA tournament, led by Drew Brigham who has played at #2 singles twice this season. Blake Miller has also appeared in the starting lineup in the first two matches. Like McConnell, Drew Adams is expected to make his presence felt in the starting lineup when he joins the tennis team after the conclusion of basketball.
"We have a perfect fit of veterans and new blood," Shanks said.
Williams and Brigham have paired up to play #1 doubles in both matches so far, and that Pirate pair took their LCSC counterparts to a tiebreaker last weekend. The other two doubles positions will continue to shake out as the season develops.
Following this weekend's action, Whitworth will begin Northwest Conference play on February 15-16 at Lewis & Clark and George Fox.