INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- For the first time since 1997, No. 12 and second-seeded Westmont Men's Tennis (13-7) won the Golden State Athletic Conference Championship after they upset No. 7 and top-seeded Arizona Christian (15-12) by a score of 5-4. The match came down to a number six singles matchup between Westmont's Luke Barnard and Seth Moore. After losing the first set 3-6, Barnard came back and took the second set 7-5, and ultimately won the clincher with a 6-2 victory in the third set.
"This means a ton," said head coach Mark Basham. "All of our coaches and teams at Westmont have done really well in our conference and so just to be able to join some of the other teams that have won GSAC titles, obviously makes me very proud. As a coach you want your team to be able to accomplish these kinds of things and this shows that the guys are working hard and buying into what you are saying."
"I think winning both the semifinal and final matches in a clincher shows that we really wanted it and that we are really learning to compete and fight in big moments," continued Basham. "The first two times we played Arizona Christian, I think they stunned us and intimidated us; this time we had more of an answer and really rose to the occasion."
Arizona Christian beat the Warriors two times earlier this season by scores of 6-3 and 7-2.
The Firestorm won at numbers two and three doubles with Enzo Douillac and Ezequiel Suarez defeating Luke Whalen and John T. Joens 8-5, and Scott Wheeler and Luka Stanivukovic defeating Tommy Nightingale and Austin Lee 8-6. At number one, Philipp Sibbel and Christian Mathis conquered Alberto Lapiedra and Seth Moore 8-6.
"I really wanted us to get at least two out of the three doubles - but we didn't," said Basham. "Even still, I was really happy with how Christian and Philip played in doubles – we had to win that match. So starting a bit behind 2-1, I knew our singles play was going to have to be great."
In singles, the Warriors immediately evened the score (2-2) when Sibbel downed Douillac 6-0, 6-1 playing at number one; then the Firestorm regained the lead (3-2) when Marcelo Balderrama defeated Joens 6-1, 6-0 playing at number four. Each team earned another point when Mathis was triumphant over Suarez 6-3, 6-1 playing at number three, and Wheeler defeated Nightingale 6-4, 6-3 playing at number five.
The Warriors were down 3-4 and in the position of having to win the remaining two singles matches still in play at numbers one and six. Whalen won at number one against Lapiedra 6-4, 6-4 to even the score (4-4) and at that moment, the match came down to the number six matchup between Barnard and Moore, with Barnard closing out strong and ultimately winning the clincher in the third set (6-2).
"It was so cool to see Luke Barnard step up against a guy who really beat him decisively in Arizona earlier this season," explained Basham. "So to see him come back after losing the first set and win the second and then just play lights out, totally in the zone in the third set – was incredible. He was embracing it big time - he wanted it and was doing exactly what I wanted him to do in terms of positioning himself and just playing more down the middle when he was returning serves."
With this win, the Warriors have earned an automatic berth into the Men's Tennis NAIA National Tournament to be played from May 16-20 at the Mobile Tennis Center in Mobile, Alabama.