Going off to make a racket on the court with the men’s tennis squad

Kevin Ross ’16 lines up his racket and gets ready to whack the tennis ball over the net in a tightly contested singles match. (Image Courtesy LC Pioneers)

The team prepares for its Southern California road trip and the home stretch

By Peter Melling /// Sports Editor

The first act of the Spring season has come to a close for men’s tennis. Throughout the past two months, the team has traveled through the Northwest Conference, played Division I squads and made strong showings against nationally ranked teams. As of March 14, the Pios are 4-5 overall and 3-2 in conference. The Pioneers are prepping for their road trip down to Southern California for a series of games against other Division III teams. This voyage will not only be a chance for the Pios to test their skills against non-conference teams, but also an opportunity to reload for the final push of the season.

After a strong season in Spring 2015 (in which the team received the #13 regional ranking, the highest in program history), the team arrived at the ITA Regionals way back in September 2015 with the intent of building on their momentum.

“We’ve built this program from the ground up and it seems like every year we’re adding a vital piece to the puzzle of making a nationally competitive team that has staying power,” said Head Coach Patrick Dreves, in an interview with LCPioneers.com.

The pieces seemed to come together at the regionals, as the team made several statement wins, with the doubles team of Raed Attia ’19 and Kevin Ross ’16 making the final four of the tournament. Both Attia and Ross have done well in the Spring season, going 3-2 overall and 2-1 in conference. Ross has also maintained a 4-1 singles record (to go along with a 3-0 conference record). He joins other top performers like Harrison Collins ’18 (6-2, 4-1 in conference) and Brenden Barrows ’18 (5-2, 3-1 in conference).

The team’s resolve when playing against nationally ranked teams has also been impressive. During a 6-3 dual loss to nationally-ranked (39th in the country) and NWC-leading Pacific University (Oregon), the Pios managed to pull a rally out in the third set, as Ross, Collins and Barrows clinched singles matches in their third sets, with Barrows rallying from down 9-2 to get an 11-9 victory. The squad has also put up three 9-0 shutouts matches, with two of them coming against NWC opponents  earlier this season (Pacific Lutheran and Puget Sound).

Going into spring break, the Pios are tied with George Fox University for fourth place in the NWC, which would narrowly get them into the playoffs. While they have a win against third place Whitworth University, they have yet to beat either of the top two teams (9-0 loss to Whitman College and a 6-3 loss to Pacific (Oregon)). Spring break will provide the team with an opportunity to gear up for this final push to the NWC Playoffs. On their California road trip, the Pios will face Colby College, Redlands College, Chapman University and a traveling Middlebury University team.

“We have a great spring break schedule, some really tough teams. Hopefully that will prepare us for the second half of the season,” said Dreves. This will be a challenging voyage, one in which the Pios can build momentum for the final stretch of the season.

Once the men’s tennis team gets back to Portland, they will immediately go into crunch time. Following two home matches against Whitman and Whitworth (the latter of which will be senior night for the men’s squad), the team will go on a five-game road trip that will take them all over the NWC’s tennis courts, including a visit to George Fox which could have playoff implications. By the time the final road trip ends, the men’s tennis team will be ready to take whatever the NWC can throw at them, and maybe even make a statement on the national circuit. The squad will serve up their next home match on Saturday, April 2, against Whitman.

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