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February 17, 2011

Lutes Open Conference Schedule On Road

THIS WEEK:  In the exciting opening weekend of play, the Pacific Lutheran University mens tennis team will be heading south to play Linfield College and Pacific (Ore.) University.  The Lutes will look to repeat their success against the teams from 2010, as they defeated both teams last season.  The Lutes have yet to play a match this spring season, but will look to finish in the top four again this season.  Returning only one senior to the team, PLU will rely on their youthful exuberance to lead it through the season.  After a 10-5 record in conference in 2010, the Lutes will hope to continue their success and make the Northwest Conference playoffs once again.  

ABOUT LINFIELD:  The Lutes will visit McMinnville, Ore. this Friday to take on the Linfield College Wildcats in NWC action.  Though neither team has played a match this season, the Wildcats look prime to compete for the conference crown in 2011.  After a season that saw them take second place in the conference (13-7 overall, 13-3 in NWC) behind only the undefeated conference champs, Whitman, the Wildcats return a strong core of players to their arsenal.  Mark Magdaong, Linfield's #1 singles player from last season and a NWC first-teamer, returns for the Wildcats after his 12-8 singles season in 2010.  The Lutes and Wildcats split last season when they squared off, with the Lutes getting the 6-3 team win late in the schedule.  The matches will be at 4:00 p.m. on Friday.

ABOUT PACIFIC:  Saturday will see the Lutes travel to Forest Grove, Ore. to match up against the Pacific University Boxers.  The 2010 season was a roller coaster for the Boxers as they went 6-12 overall and 5-11 in NWC play.  Pacific does, however, return it's top two players from last season.  Senior Michael Okada and junior Spencer Hing went 1-2 for the Boxers, yet only Hing was able to take a match off of the Lutes in 2010 (a 3-6, 7-5, 10-7 win over Justin Peterson).  The Lutes won both team matches in 2010, 6-3 and 5-4 in back-to-back matchups.  Pacific has already played a duel match in the 2011 season, defeating the College of Idaho 7-2 last Sunday with all but one of the Boxers' singles matches being wins.  The matches between the Lutes and Boxers will be played at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday.  

SEASON OUTLOOK:  Entering the 2011 season, the Lutes have holes in the top spots where seniors Justin Peterson and Joel Trudel occupied in the past four years. Peterson and Trudel, each NWC First Team honorees the past several seasons, accounted for 27 singles wins and 17 doubles wins in the 2010 season. With their noticeable absences from the team, there will be ample opportunity for the youth of the team to step in and replace these important pieces.  Leading the Lutes into the coming spring season will be senior Scott Sheldon, who was 12-11 in singles matches in 2010 and 15-9 in doubles matches. His experience and maturity on the court will be vital for team success. Joining Sheldon in the older ranks for the Lutes will be Taylor Dickey and Kyle McKee. As the only other returners for the young Lute squad, the sophomores will be asked to shoulder more responsibilities as the team looks to regain the NWC title.  With seven freshmen joining the team in 2011, the Lutes will rely on the mixture of youthful excitement and experience from the returners to lead them to victory. In their way will be a tough NWC field, highlighted by Whitman College. Yet, if the Lutes are able to overcome the losses of key seniors, there will be a high likelihood of reaching the NWC playoffs and competing for another crown.