Bearcats Edge Whitworth at NWC Tournament, 5-4

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110

YAKIMA, WASH. -- Willamette University won two doubles matches and three singles matches to slip past Whitworth University, 5-4, in the first round of the Northwest Conference Men's Tennis Tournament on Friday, April 18 at the Yakima Tennis Club. It was the second year a row that Willamette dropped two 5-4 decisions to the same team in conference play, only to avenge those losses with a victory by the same margin at the NWC Tournament.

Last year, Willamette lost twice in the regular season to the University of Puget Sound, but defeated the Loggers in the NWC Tournament. This year, the Bearcats fell to Whitworth University twice by identical 5-4 margins before edging the Pirates, 5-4, on Friday.

Willamette, seeded #5 in the tournament, improved to 9-9 on the season. Whitworth, seeded #4, dropped to 13-11. Both teams are ranked in the NCAA Division III West Region, with Willamette at #15 and Whitworth at #13.

In the first regular season meeting between the Bearcats and the Pirates, WU won two double matches, but managed only two wins in singles. In the second meeting, Willamette was victorious in three singles matches, but claimed just one win in doubles. On Friday, the 'Cats put the two parts together to defeat their rivals and advance to the NWC Semifinals.

Willamette will take on top-seeded Whitman College in one of the semifinal matches at 3:30 p.m. (PDT) on Friday. In the other semifinal, also at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Pacific Lutheran University, seeded #2, will take on Linfield College, seeded #3. The NWC Championship match is set for 12 p.m. (PDT) on Saturday, April 20.

Against Whitworth on Friday, the Bearcats built a 2-0 lead with wins at #1 and #3 doubles. In the #1 doubles match, Eric MacMillan (Sr., Twin Falls, ID/Twin Falls HS) and Andrew Murakami (Wahiawa, HI/Leilehua HS/University of Redlands) defeated Brian Elliot and Ed Anegon, 8-3.

At #3 doubles, Willamette's team of Fitz Paccione (Sr., Encinitas,CA/Cathedral Catholic) and Luke Lagattuta (So., Albuquerque, NM/Highland HS) outscored Josh Steele and Colin Zalewski, 8-3. Whitworth stayed close in the team competition, as Scott Donnell and Joe Wales won #2 doubles, 8-4, over Matt Houser (Fr., Vancouver, WA/Evergreen HS) and Micah Mack (So., Wenatchee, WA/Wenatchee HS) of Willamette.

McMillan won the #1 singles match by downing Steele in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4. Willamette also recorded a victory at #3 singles, with Murakami moving past Anegon, 6-0, 6-3. Lagattuta provided the remaining singles win for the Bearcats by easily defeating Henry Williams, 6-1, 6-1.

Whitworth claimed singles wins at the #2, #4 and #5 positions. The tightest match of the day was at #5 singles, where Wales of Whitworth rallied past Paccione, 4-6, 6-3, 10-3. Wales and Paccione played a super tie-breaker instead of a third set.

The Pirates will conclude their season in the fifth place match against 6th-seeded Puget Sound. Whitworth and the Loggers will start playing at 6:30 p.m. (PDT) on Friday.

Friday, April 18
Northwest Conference Men's Tennis Championship

First Round
At Yakima Tennis Club, Yakima, Wash.

Willamette University 5, Whitworth University 4

Singles
#1 - Eric MacMillan (WU) defeated Josh Steele (WHTW), 6-3, 6-4
#2 - Brian Elliot (WHTW) defeated Micah Mack (WU), 6-1,6-4
#3 - Andrew Murakami (WU) defeated Ed Anegon (WHTW), 6-0, 6-3
#4 - Scott Donnell (WHTW) defeated Matt Houser (WU), 6-3, 6-4
#5 - Joe Wales (WHTW) defeated Fitz Paccione (WU), 4-6, 6-3, 10-3*
#6 - Luke Lagattuta (WU) defeated Henry Williams (WHTW), 6-1, 6-1

Doubles
#1 - MacMillan and Murakami (WU) defeated Elliot and Anegon (WHTW), 8-3
#2 - Donnell and Wales (WHTW) defeated Mack and Houser (WU), 8-4
#3 - Paccione and Lagattuta (WU) defeated Steele and Colin Zalewski (WHTW), 8-3

* Tie-breaker played instead of a third set

Records: Willamette is 9-9 overall (8-8 in the NWC in the regular season); Whitworth is 13-11 overall (10-6 in the NWC in the regular season).

Luke Lagattuta won #6 singles and teamed with Fitz Paccione to win #3 doubles, as WU defeated Whitworth, 5-4.

Luke Lagattuta won #6 singles and teamed with Fitz Paccione to win #3 doubles, as WU defeated Whitworth, 5-4.