WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- The 23rd-ranked doubles team in the country didn't get the win upfront in the Northwest Conference Championship semifinals, but both Gordon Barrows and Brenden Barrows pulled out the needed singles victories in a 5-3 defeat of the George Fox Bruins on Saturday at Whitman Tennis Courts.
The team's victory moves the No. 31 Pioneers into the NWC Championship final on Sunday against top-seed Whitman. Last season, the Blues beat Lewis & Clark in the title match.
Lewis & Clark's doubles victories came from its No. 2 and 3 pairs. In second position, Kei Inoue and Raed Attia combined for an 8-5 victory over Payton Namba and Alex Namba, while Pim Trouerbach and Keane Hindle took the No. 3 match, 8-4, against Keaton Baker and Jonah Wafula.
On the singles side, Gordon Barrows won in straight sets over William Leach, who entered the tournament with one NWC loss. In his first conference championship, Brendan Adams won in sixth position, 6-2, 6-4, over Nick Ekern before Brenden Barrows clinched the dual at No. 5 with a straight-sets win.
"Gordon stepped up against a guy who has given the whole conference a ton of trouble all year long before the wins down low," said Lewis & Clark assistant coach Jimmy Chau. "We came out pretty strong today. Sometimes we start slow, but Kei and Raed set the tone for us with an early break and continued it through the match."
Attia and Inoue improved to 11-2 on the year with the win. Trouberbach and Hindle had only competed together once since Mar. 4 coming into Saturday and improved to 3-1 together this season.
"They hadn't played too much together and really stepped up as seniors and leaders of this team," said Chau. "That set the tone for the rest of the match, which we definitely needed. George Fox did well in singles."
The Bruins, which came in as the No. 3 seed in the tournament and No. 33 nationally, had won or were leading in three of the top-four singles pairings before the Pios clinched. Attia fell in a first-set tiebreaker to nationally-ranked Spencer Watanabe in the top singles pairing in a 7-6 (7-1), 6-2 defeat. Ramez Attia, competing in his first NWC Championship, was defeated by Baker at No. 4. Inoue trailed 2-6, 4-5 when the Pioneers ended the match.
As the second seed in the tournament, the Pios played the second semifinal and won't have much rest coming into Sunday's final. Whitman beat No. 4 Pacific, 5-0, in a match that started three hours earlier than Lewis & Clark's.
The overnight rest will be rather helpful, said Brenden Barrows.
"It was a long and physical match despite it being only two sets," said Barrows of his 6-4, 6-2 win over Namba at No. 5. "We were out there for a couple hours and had some long points, which makes it a lot more mental. So there is a lot of thinking between points. Mentally and physically, it was a tough one out there."
One of five seniors on the team, Barrows believes the experience of making last year's NWC title game will be helpful on the verge of a conference championship.
"We've played them 10-15 times as seniors, and they have a lot of seniors, too. We always have fun out there against them. They're good guys," said Barrows. "Up and down the lineup, we need a contribution from everyone. Last year, first time in the conference finals, we needed to learn a bit, but after that learning experience, we're well prepared for tomorrow."
The Pioneers will face host Whitman for the second consecutive year in the title match. The championship begins at 11 a.m. on Sunday.