INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- In the semifinal round of the Men's Tennis Golden State Athletic Conference Tournament between third seeded Westmont (12-7) and fourth seeded San Diego Christian (6-10), it came down to a number one singles matchup between Westmont's Luke Whalen and Leonardo Urquidi. After being down a set, Whalen won the second set and came back from a 1 to 5 deficit in the tiebreaker of the third set to win the match and clinch the overall victory – the final score was 5-4. With this win the Warriors advance to the GSAC Tournament Finals for the second year in a row.
"For us to beat San Diego Christian three times this year – a team that is arguably as talented, maybe even slightly more than us, shows that our guys are up to the fight and are opportunistic," said head coach Mark Basham. "San Diego Christian played well at every match and I think they gave us their best shot, so we are very fortunate to get through."
The Hawks won at numbers one and three doubles with Aliaksandr Meliuk and Alessandro Moriano defeating Philipp Sibbel and Christian Mathis 8-3, and Leonardo Urquidi and Fabian Daniel defeating Tommy Nightingale and Austin Lee 8-2. At number two, Westmont's John T. Joens and Whalen downed Jan-Erik Isermann and Joey Rivera 8-4.
San Diego Christian led 2-1 going into singles, putting the Warriors in the familiar position of having to win four of six singles matches in order to win the overall match – GSAC Tournament matches end when one team gets to five points. The two previous times these two teams have played each other, the Warriors were in this same position going into singles.
The Warriors scored two points in singles and went up 3-2 when Luke Barnard conquered Nick Bell 6-2, 7-5 playing at number six, and Sibbel defeated Meliuk 6-3, 6-4 playing at number two. Then the Hawks' Moriano evened the score when he overcame Mathis 6-1, 6-1 playing at number three. Then at number five, Westmont's Tommy Nightingale put the Warriors up 4-3 when he came back after losing the first set 1-6 and won the next two sets 6-2, 6-2. San Diego Christian's Isermann evened the score (4-4) with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Joens, at number four.
The fate of both teams came down to the number one matchup between Whalen and Urquidi – with Whalen ultimately winning the clincher in a tiebreaker in the third set.
"Given the fact that Luke has lost to this opponent twice already this year and a couple of other times in years past, for him to clinch this win really speaks to his mental ability," explained Basham. "He showed great confidence and determination to win- especially after not converting on the two match points when he was up 6-5 in the third set, and then coming back after getting down 1-5 in the tiebreaker where Leo was playing really aggressively. For him to come back with that much determination and just get the job done – he is always going to remember that."
"I can't say enough about Luke and how professional he is on the court," continued Basham. "He doesn't overthink and always works very hard - he is probably the hardest working guy I have ever had."
Tomorrow the Warriors will play in the championship match against the number one seed Arizona Christian (15-11) at 9:00 a.m.
Basham shared his thoughts about tomorrow's matchup. "We have lost to them twice so far this season," noted Basham. "Each time we have played them we got taken down pretty hard in doubles, so tomorrow our guys need to go after it and play with a lot of spirit and a lot of aggression in doubles."
"I think we definitely have a good fighting chance and I think a match like todays is definitely going to set us free," continued Basham. "We have never won this tournament so we have nothing to lose and a lot to gain and so as a coach I am very excited about tomorrow."