- 5 Northwest Conference Tournaments (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017)
- 2 All-Americans (Spencer Watanabe, Alex Namba)
A Winning Tradition
PORTLAND, Ore. --- It was quite the weekend for the George Fox men's tennis team, as the Bruins had a program first with an all Bruin singles final between freshman William Leach and senior Spencer Watanabe at the 2017 ITA Regional Championships.
The road to the finals wasn't easy with 64 players eager to show their skills. Leach was matched up against Linfield's Jacob Mangan in the first round, but cruised to a 6-1, 6-3 victory. Leach followed that up with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Aaron Schechter of Willamette.
One of his toughest matches came in the Sweet 16 when he took on No. 1 seed and last year's Northwest Conference Player of the Year Zach Hewlin. The Whitman All-American threw all he had at the Bruins' youngest member, but Leach took the first set 7-5. A back and forth battle continued well into the second set, as Hewlin reversed the score with a 7-5 advantage. In the final set of the match, Leach pulled off the biggest upset of the tournament, beating Hewlin 7-5, 5-7, 6-4.
With adrenaline and momentum on his side, Leach went on to take down Adam Rapoport of Whitman in the Elite 8, 6-3, 7-6, to advance him to the Final Four. In the Final Four, Leach had another superb match with another big win over Daniel Foster of Whitman College, 7-5, 7-5.
On the other side of the bracket, Bruins' Watanabe had a different tale, but similar results. As the No. 2 seed in the tournament, Watanabe showed his ranking with decisive matches in the first and second rounds. He opened the tournament with a win over Will McDermott of Lewis & Clark (6-1, 6-1), and followed that up with a win over John Lutaaya of Linfield College (6-1, 6-2).
In the Sweet 16, he defeated Rajul Chikkalingaiah of Whitman by a score of 6-1, 6-2, and cruised out of the Elite 8 with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Gary Ho. Watanabe met Ben Kirsh of Whitman in the Final Four with his toughest match to date. Watanabe opened the match with a quick 6-1 victory, but fell in the second set 3-6. He sealed his appearance for the second straight year in the Finals with a 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 victory over Kirsh.
With the table set, it was an all Bruin Final in the singles main – a first in the program's history.
The match had all the suspense needed for a Final, as Leach showed some grit against Watanabe. Although the match was competitive, it was Watanabe who came out on top with a 6-3, 6-3 victory. The win gives Watanabe his third All-American honor in his career, and his second back-to-back title in singles at the ITA Regional Championships.
George Fox also had success in doubles with two teams advancing to the Elite 8. Leach teamed up with Payton Namba, as the pair won their first round, 8-5. They beat No. 5 seed Powell and Hindle of Lewis & Clark 8-4 in the next round, but fell 8-2 to No. 3 seed Hewlin and Carter of Whitman. Hewlin and Carter went on to bring home the doubles title.
Watanabe and Alex Namba also joined forces for the Bruins in doubles play, but after their first two wins, they fell to Wright and Katayama of Pacific, 9-7.
What Comes Next:
Watanabe is headed to the ITA Oracle Cup National Championship for the second year in a row. He will compete in Rome, Georgia, Oct. 11-15 at the Rome Tennis Center at Berry College.