By Giancarlo Santoro, sports writer
You can forgive the Pacific Lutheran University men’s tennis team for feeling like they had déjà vu this weekend on their Northwest Conference road trip to Oregon schools Pacific and Willamette.
The Lutes lost 9-0 against Pacific on Friday, an identical score to the one the Boxers inflicted on PLU in the home opener. PLU was able to rebound with a 7-2 win against Willamette. The Lutes also defeated Willamette on opening weekend following the Pacific loss.
“Our coach said that even though they are a lot higher than us, we still played them pretty competitive,” sophomore Brandon Bulaclac said. “We should take it to heart that we can compete with some of the best in the conference.”
Competing for the top spot in the Northwest Conference, the Boxers dominated the Lutes on all fronts. After sweeping the doubles matches with 8-0 and 8-1 scores, Pacific closed out the day by winning the singles matches as well.
Junior Spencer Herron and sophomore Jake Yanello put up the best fight against the Boxers in the No.1 doubles, but Pacific’s Troy Zuroske and Lorne Bulling powered their way to an 8-6 win.
“We just need to be committed to getting better each match and practice,” Bulaclac said.
With the loss, PLU drops to 2-10 overall and 1-6 in the NWC. Pacific are still fighting for the NWC title and are 9-3 overall, 6-1 in conference.
PLU’s sole win in NWC play came at home against Willamette back in March, and the Lutes made it a season sweep with a 7-2 win at Courthouse Tennis Center in Oregon.
“Getting the win after the Pacific game was pretty important to us,” Bulaclac said. “We only beat them 5-4 last time, so to beat them 7-2 was good. They had one of their top players out too so it was slightly easier.”
The Lutes continued their strong doubles play throughout the match, sweeping the Bearcat doubles pairs.
“Our three doubles teams played some of the best doubles they’ve played all year,” PLU head coach Rocky Poulin said.
Coming off a strong performance against Pacific, Yanello and Herron earned a victory against Willamette’s Will Cooper and Gunnar Lee, shutting them out 8-0.
First-year duo Sam Stadter and James Okubo also won in the doubles round 8-0.
Senior Neal Berg and junior Sam Angel completed the doubles dominance with an 8-4 win against Willamette’s Sam Wexman and Blake Brash.
Stadter carried his doubles victory into the No.1 singles round, and showed good maturity to rebound after losing 6-2 in the first set against Wexman. Identical 6-2 scores in the next two sets gave Stadter and PLU the win until the Willamette Bearcats clawed their way back with victories in the next two matches.
However, Herron, Okubo and Jerremy Marsh did their work in the final three matches of the singles round to earn the Lutes’ second win in conference.
PLU returns to NWC action next weekend at home against University of Puget Sound and Linfield. ◼︎