By Giancarlo Santoro, Sports Writer

The Pacific Lutheran University men’s tennis team sent the Willamette Bearcats back to Oregon after claiming a 5-4 win Saturday at the Sprinker Recreational Center.

Junior Spencer Herron defeated Willamette’s Gunnar Lee in the final match of the weekend in three sets to earn PLU its first victory of the young season. The win improved the team’s record to 1-3 overall.

“Of course it’s always nice to get a win, but it’s even better to get some of these hard-working young players some of their first victories of the season,” PLU head coach Rocky Poulin said. “We can build on this.”

In addition to getting the team headed in the right direction, the win proved to be especially significant for Herron, as it was his first singles match in two years.

“I like the pressure,” Herron said. “When you are the last one playing you have a good audience, it makes for an exciting match.”

Willamette kept it close throughout with some good tennis, but with the loss, the Bearcats fall to 1-5 overall, tied with PLU in NWC play with a 1-3 record.

Herron’s teammates, first-year Sam Stadter and sophomore Jake Yannello, also claimed their first singles victories of the year, outlasting Willamette’s Will Cooper and Devn Abney respectively.

“It feels really great to get the first win under my belt,” Stadter said. “I was a little nervous, but I knew I could beat him [Cooper]. I need to improve on my focus when I’m on the court, though, because it’s hard keeping that concentration for a long period of time.”

The end of the contest was almost soured for the Lutes after losing their first doubles match to Cooper and Abney, but Herron and Yannello, as well as Stadter and first-year James Okubo, rebounded to win the final two matches.

PLU will be back in action March 14 when they play Whitman College at Sprinker.

John Tveter contributed to this article.

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