Rainbow Warriors bound for NCAAs
By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer
Hawai'i will be among tennis elite when it goes to its third straight NCAA Men's Championship.
The Rainbow Warriors, who won their third consecutive Western Athletic Conference championship Sunday, play Pepperdine next Saturday (May 15) at Stanford. The NCAA bracket was announced yesterday on ESPNews. The men's final will be live on ESPNU May 25.
Hawai'i surged to a program-high 37th in Monday's ITA rankings. The Waves, who beat UH in its first NCAA appearance two years ago, are No. 21. Last year, the 'Bows got their first NCAA Tournament victory by upsetting 20th-ranked Oklahoma State in the first round.
Hawai'i (12-7) is in the 33-48 bracket in the NCAA seedings, with Pepperdine (16-10) among those 17-32. The first- and second-round host is eighth-seeded Stanford (18-5), which plays Northeastern Conference champion Quinnipiac (10-6) the first round.
Next Saturday's winners play Sunday to try and advance to the Sweet 16, beginning May 21 in Athens, Ga. Virginia is seeded first and Tennessee second.
The 'Bows are beginning to feel comfortable among the elite. They got their three-peat in what has become routinely thrilling style Sunday, with junior Jeremy Tweedt rallying from a 1-4 deficit in the third set to win at No. 4 singles. That clinched a 4-3 victory over host Fresno State. Tweedt, a junior from Paris who transferred here after two seasons at Tennessee, was a point from being down 1-5.
"He hit an unbelievable stretch volley, then a volley for a winner," UH coach John Nelson recalled. "Then he just started coming back and their guy started cramping up. To his (Tweedt's) credit, even when he was down 4-1 he never gave up.
"It was rowdy there. They had a good crowd that was very supportive. When it was 4-1 and about to be 5-1 they were really loud, but Jeremy handled it the way he should have — he started playing really well and shut them up."
Nelson says the progress for his last three teams has been similar. "The discipline kicking in was similar," he said. "The guys kept learning. They had hiccups along the way, made mistakes, but that's how they learned. The guys were very focused going into the final. I could sense that during the doubles. I was proud of them."
Senior Andreas Weber, who plays No. 2 singles, suffered a strained hip flexor and had to default his semifinal match. He struggled in the final, but Hawai'i handled it by earning the doubles point, then getting wins from Tweedt, junior Dennis Lajola at No. 1 and sophomore Leo Rosenberg at No. 3. The all-WAC trio of Lajola, Weber and Rosenberg have a 43-14 record this season, with Rosenberg 18-1.
The Waves have won 10 of their last 11 and have two ranked singles players in No. 32 Bassam Beidas and No. 70 Sebastian Fanselow. Pepperdine is making its 21st consecutive NCAA appearance, and just won its 20th straight West Coast Conference title.
Pepperdine won the 2006 national championship at Stanford and coach Adam Steinberg calls the Cardinal's Taube Family Tennis Stadium "a mecca of college tennis" and "fun place to play."
It has been for Stanford, which is making its 32nd consecutive NCAA appearance. It is 95-15 in the postseason since the NCAA Tournament went to its present format in 1977. In that time, Stanford has won 15 NCAA team titles, the most recent in 2000.