Bearcat Men's Tennis Team is Ready to Open the Season on Friday the 13th

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110 and
Andrew Monbouqette, Athletics Communications Student Writer

SALEM, ORE. -- The Willamette University men’s tennis team will be hoping lady luck is shining indoors when the Bearcats play their season opener against Whitworth University at the Courthouse Tennis Club (1339 Madison NW) this Friday the 13th at 7 p.m. (PST). Since the team has been “working extremely hard,” according to new head coach Toby Krauel, perhaps the Bearcats can afford to walk under a ladder or pet a black cat and still start their season with a victory.

Last season, Whitworth defeated the Bearcats twice by 5-4 scores during the regular season. Willamette upset the Pirates in the first round of the NWC Tournament, with the ‘Cats claiming a 5-4 win.

Krauel will be leading the Bearcats as head coach in a dual match for the first time on Friday, and it is something he’s been eagerly awaiting. He joined the Willamette coaching staff last summer. He previously served as head coach of the Gonzaga University men’s tennis team for seven years (1993-00) and was an assistant coach at the University of Portland for one year (1990-91).

Joining him as the new assistant coach is Owen Suagee, a former #1 singles and doubles player at Linfield College. Suagee is the tennis professional at the West Hills Racket and Fitness Center.

Krauel has high hopes for the new chapter of Bearcat Tennis. He said, “We should have an exciting and fun season as we have a great group of guys with a balanced mix of experienced players and youth.”

Leading the Bearcats will be senior Andrew Murakami (Wahiawa, HI/University of Redlands). This past fall, he reached the quarterfinals of the Wilson/ITA Small College Northwest Regional in both singles and doubles. Last spring, Murakami was 9-7 overall in singles.

Krauel has high hopes for the entire Bearcat squad, as he has many players with great potential and a solid work ethic. Noted for being a confident player with “exceptional ground strokes,” senior Alex Sepenzis will play a part for the ‘Cats this season. Krauel also hopes talented junior Micah Mack (Wenatchee, WA/Wenatchee HS) can transfer his amazing doubles skills to his singles game.

As for the younger Bearcats, tennis fans can expect to see four hard-working sophomores in Matt Houser (Vancouver,WA/Evergreen HS), Michael Moore (Seattle, WA/Lakeside HS), Shawn Mahmood (Gresham, OR/La Salle HS), and Jordan Helvie (Boise, ID/Bishop Kelley HS). All four are expected to contribute to the team.

Houser was singled out by Krauel for “his unlimited potential and being capable of beating any player in our conference.” As a freshman, Houser played in all 20 dual matches, receiving much of his action at #2 singles and #2 doubles.

Beginning his Bearcat career is newcomer Cody Ferguson (North Bend, Ore.), a mid-year freshman transfer from Western Oregon University. A very talented tennis player, he is a former Oregon State high school singles champion and was a highly ranked junior in the Pacific Northwest Tennis Association.

According to Krauel the team “has been working extremely hard, implementing what the coaches are teaching and improving day by day.” The Bearcats will be able to test their readiness against another team when the season opens on Friday.

Senior Andrew Murakami is Willamette's top returning men's tennis player.

Senior Andrew Murakami is Willamette's top returning men's tennis player.

Matt Houser reached the quarterfinals in doubles with Andrew Murakami at the Wilson/ITA Regional this past fall.

Matt Houser reached the quarterfinals in doubles with Andrew Murakami at the Wilson/ITA Regional this past fall.