OPENING SERVE: Pacific Lutheran kicks off its 2013 men's tennis season this weekend with Northwest Conference home matches against Linfield at 3:30 p.m. Friday and Pacific at 1 p.m. on Saturday. PLU home matches will be played for the second straight year on the indoor courts at Sprinker Tennis Center located at 14824 C Street in Tacoma (Parkland area).
ABOUT THE LUTES: Coming off a season that saw Pacific Lutheran finish 7-10 in duals, including a 5-7 record and fifth-place finish in the Northwest Conference, the 2013 Lutes roster features seven first-year collegiate players, one senior and three sophomores. It is a young and mostly untested group, but head coach Rocky Poulin is hopeful of good things happening during the season. Anchoring the Lutes is veteran senior and tri-captain Taylor Dickey, who has been a top six singles player throughout his career. Dickey split time between first and second singles as a sophomore and between second and third singles as a junior. Over the past two seasons he has played first doubles, mostly with two different partners. Sophomores Luke Olson and Sam Angel are also captains and team leaders. Olson was 5-7 in singles last year, most of that in the fourth, fifth and sixth slots, while Angel was 5-4, mostly at sixth singles. Mid-year freshman transfer Jason Bower comes to PLU with lots of playing experience and will contend for a top spot as a first-year collegiate player, according to Poulin. Cousins Mitch Yannello and Jake Yannello have emerged as top six singles players and "bring strong games and great attitudes," Poulin said, who added that Hayden McCartney and Brandon Bulaclac also add some youthful depth and athleticism to the top eight.
ABOUT LINFIELD: The Wildcats finished 2-10 and tied for seventh in the conference standings a year ago, one season after finishing 5-7 in the conference. Prior to that, Linfield had outstanding seasons in both 2009 and 2010, finishing 13-3 and placing second to perennial power Whitman in the NWC standings. The Wildcats return six players, including four of their top players, from the 2012 season.
ABOUT PACIFIC: If ever there was a rags-to-riches story to tell in Northwest Conference men's tennis, Pacific Boxers men's tennis is it. A program that for most of the past decade had trouble winning sets let alone matches against conference opponents, Pacific rose all the way to a second-place finish in the NWC standings a year ago. The Boxers were 11-1 during the regular season, second only to Whitman, before losing a 5-4 decision to third-place George Fox in the conference tournament. Pacific loses three of its top six singles players from a year ago, but returns several standouts - two-time first team All-NWC selection Troy Zuroski, and second team all-conference picks Giancarlo Battaglia and Bandon Schlack.
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