The Lewis & Clark Pioneers begin regular spring competition this weekend, with the women trying to defend a championship and the men seeking to improve upon a conference semifinal last year.
Last season, the Pioneers claimed the Northwest Conference title through an undefeated season and three wins over Whitman, which had won 39-straight NWC matches entering the 2015-16 season.
The success started in the fall of 2015 when Lewis & Clark had three competitors earn All-American status through wins at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Regional Championships. Continuing the streak of success for the Pioneers, senior Wiktoria Plawska qualified for the ITA Oracle Cup this past fall, but lost her play-in match, which ended her run at the national tournament. To qualify, Plawska defeated Ella Riddle of Linfield, the No. 1 seed, at the regionals in October. Plawska, the No. 4 seed, also earned All-American status because of the victory.
For the Pios, Plawska's success hopefully sets the tone for NWC play, where Linfield and Whitman seem to be the Pioneers largest competition this season, based on the NWC Preseason Coaches Poll, which has Lewis & Clark picked first. Lewis & Clark is currently ranked No. 18 in the Oracle/ITA National Team Rankings.
Head coach Patrick Dreves returns for his sixth season leading the program. Last season, Dreves earned NWC Coach of the Year and his second-straight ITA West Region Coach of the Year.
In the fall, the Pioneers added Caroline Hennes, Tash Hood, Chloe Sermet, Josie Legarza and Caitlin Jones. Legarza showed up as an immediate contributor, as one of the three Pioneers in the semifinals of the ITA cup, before teammate Plawska defeated her, 6-1, 6-7(1), 6-3, in the semifinals. Kacey Incerpi made it to the quarterfinals before losing to Riddle, 6-2, 6-2. She also paired with Plawska to make the doubles semifinals where they lost 8-1 to Elsa Harris and Riddle.
Assistant coach Jimmy Chau says the Pioneers will be playing around with doubles pairings this season, looking for perfect matchups.
Look out for the changes as Lewis & Clark starts the spring season at home Feb. 18 at 5 p.m. against Willamette.
Last season, the Lewis & Clark Pioneers ascended to No. 39 in the Oracle/Intercollegiate Tennis Association's National Rankings. The spot on the list was one of the several highlights from the 2015-16 season.
Lewis & Clark defeated Northwest Conference opponent Whitman to end a nearly nine-year regular season winning streak by the Blues within the conference. The Pioneers qualified for the four-team NWC postseason tournament, losing in the semifinals. This year, Whitman was selected first in the NWC Preseason Coaches Poll, followed by Lewis & Clark and Pacific, the team that ousted the Pios from the 2016 NWC tournament.
In the fall, the Pioneers added four freshmen, Brendan Adams, Ryan Hayes, Will McDermott and Jackson Powell. Powell helped the Pioneers to their continued success at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Regional Championships hosted by Whitman College last fall.
Lewis & Clark put eight of its 10 singles entries and four of its five doubles teams into the second round, which is the most ever for the program. Senior Michael Brewer made the singles semifinal and juniors Brenden Barrows and Gordon Barrows were in the doubles semis, only the second pair in the history of L&C men's tennis to accomplish this feat.
Brewer defeated two-time defending singles champion and the current national No. 5 Zach Hewlin in the quarterfinals before falling to George Fox's Ben Kirsch in the semifinals. Powell and Keane Hindle were the other Lewis & Clark duo to advance the furthest, losing in the quarterfinals to Jake Hoeger and Robert Carter of Whitman. Gordon Barrows, who entered the tournament as the No. 4 singles seed, lost to Kirsh in the third round, 6-3, 6-2, while Raed Attia, the No. 5 seed, was ousted by Gary Ho, 6-4, 7-5, at the same point. Brendan Adams, Ben DeLuca, Kei Inoue and Powell also advanced from the first round in singles. The pairs of Attia and Inoue and DeLuca and Brewer were first-round winners in doubles.
Lewis & Clark started out their regular season with an outdoor match at Willamette on Jan. 29. Ranked No. 32 in the Oracle/ITA National Rankings, the Pioneers swept the singles and doubles matches, earning a 9-0 win in the Northwest Conference opener for both teams. The Pios are now 1-0 on the season and 1-0 in NWC play.
The Lewis & Clark men compete Saturday at Pacific before debuting at home on Sunday.