- 5 Northwest Conference Tournaments (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017)
- 2 All-Americans (Spencer Watanabe, Alex Namba)
A Winning Tradition
RIVERSIDE, Calif. --- For the first time this season, the George Fox men's tennis team took down an NCAA Division II opponent, outlasting William Jewel in a grueling 5-4 battle with temperatures over 90 degrees.
Fresh off of the 9-0 victory over Pacific Lutheran Saturday afternoon in Portland, the Bruins picked up where they left off taking two of the three doubles matches over the Cardinals. The All-American duo of Spencer Watanabe and Alex Namba got things started downing the Cards' No. 1 team of Timo Kiesslich and Bjorn Myers, 8-5. After a narrow 8-6 loss at No. 2 doubles, freshmen Jacob Farmer and Matt Biggi pulled out a 9-7 win in the pivotal No. 3 doubles match.
Heading into the singles up 2-1, the young Bruins knew a tough task remained against a Cardinal lineup with several talented international players. The feisty Bruins drew first blood with junior co-captain Tristen Lerma winning at the No. 6 line 6-1, 6-3, giving George Fox a 3-1 lead.
"With Matt out for singles, we needed someone to step in, and Tristen stepped up big time," said head coach Neal Ninteman. "He played terrific and pulled out a huge win for us. We would not have won the match without his contribution today."
The Cardinals answered with wins at No. 2 singles (6-1, 6-2), No. 3 singles (6-3, 6-4), and No. 4 singles (6-3, 7-5) to take a 4-3 lead, only 1 point shy of the clinching 5th point.
"The scorebook doesn't capture what a significant role Alex (Namba) and Ryan (Malinowski) played in winning the match," added Ninteman. "They both faced strong opponents, but they battled their hearts out and their energy and emotion strengthened their teammates."
With their backs pressed firmly against the wall, the Bruins hopes fell on Farmer and Watanabe, who had both dropped their first sets and were fighting to push their matches to a third set.
Farmer responded first, fighting off the effects of severe heat exhaustion to pull out a gritty 3-6, 7-5, 6-0 win at No. 5 singles. With the match now knotted at 4-4, the outcome fell squarely on the shoulders of the Bruins' captain Watanabe, who had pushed his match with the Cardinals top player Timo Kiesslich to the third set after pulling out a gutsy 7-6 tiebreaker in the second. The two titans traded blows as the match approached three hours in the brutal 95 degree conditions and Kiesslich jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the deciding set. With the entire Bruin team rallying behind him and cheering him on, Watanabe dug deep to claw back and tie the set at 4-4. Unleashing a flurry of huge serves and pounding groundstrokes, Watanabe closed out the set 6-4 giving the Bruins the hard fought victory. Swarmed by his teammates, Watanabe collapsed in their arms in tears, overcome by the emotion of the whole experience.
"This is what it's all about," said Co-Head Coach Steve Robertson. "We call it a heightened sense of living."
"What can you say," remarked Ninteman. "It's just another great day in the life and story of George Fox tennis."
What Comes Next:
The Bruins will take that momentum into Saturday, March 18, when they face Northwest Conference foe Pacific University at 1p.m.