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PLU Making Final Push for NWC Playoff Berth

Taylor Dickey

COMING UP: Pacific Lutheran, 8-5 overall and 6-1 in the Northwest Conference, hosts Puget Sound at 3:30 p.m. Friday, then hits the road for a 1 p.m. Saturday contest at Linfield.

WHERE THEY STAND: With five Northwest Conference matches still to be played, the Pacific Lutheran men's tennis team is in pretty good position to earn one of four NWC postseason tournament berths. Still, there is plenty of work to be done. In PLU's favor is that four of the five remaining matches will be played at Sprinker Tennis Center, the Lutes' home venue.

CONVOLUTED NUMBERS: The Northwest Conference schedule includes 12 matches for every team, or a round-robin-and-a-half. When the Lutes play an opponent just once during the conference season, the winner of that match earns a team point. So far this year the Lutes have earned three points for wins against Pacific (5-4), Willamette (5-4) and Lewis & Clark (6-3), while getting nothing for a loss to George Fox (9-0). All four of those are PLU's single-match opponents. Against teams that the Lutes meet twice in conference play (Linfield, Puget Sound, Whitman, Whitworth), a point is awarded for a sweep of that opponent, and in the case of a split, the point is awarded to the team that wins by a larger margin (for example, PLU gets the points if it loses to an opponent 5-4, then beats that same opponent 6-3). In the case of a tie, no points are awarded (for example, PLU beats an opponent 5-4, and loses to the same opponent by the same 5-4 margin). At this point in the season the Lutes have an 8-1 home win over Linfield, a 9-0 road win against Puget Sound, and a 6-3 road win at Whitworth. The Lutes would fail to get team points only if they lose to those opponents by the same score, or by a greater margin. PLU has yet to face conference power Whitman, which it will do twice on April 13, the final day of the regular season.

PUGET SOUND MATCHUP: The Loggers enter Friday's match with a 2-10 overall record, including a 1-7 mark in the Northwest Conference. The first time that PLU played Puget Sound back on March 6 at the at the UPS Tennis Pavilion, the Lutes beat the Loggers by a 9-0 score. The win was the 42nd in a row for the Lutes over the Loggers dating back to the 1992 season. Two of the three doubles matches were close. Jason Bower and Taylor Dickey held off Graham Baker and Michael Cutter 9-7 at first doubles, and Luke Olson and Sam Angel beat Jake Peterson and Daniel Deuel 8-6 at second doubles. Third doubles went to the Lutes duo of Brandon Bulaclac and Mitch Yannello, 8-4, over John Stevens and Abe Noyes. Pacific Lutheran won all six of the singles matches in straight sets. Bower beat Cutter at first singles, 6-4, 7-6, Olson took down Baker at second singles 6-4, 6-0, and Angel topped Deuel at third singles 6-3, 7-6. In the final three singles matches it was Yannello over Noyes 6-2, 6-4, Dickey over Peterson 6-2, 6-2, and Bulaclac over Stevens 6-4, 7-5.

REMATCH OF SEASON OPENER: Pacific Lutheran opened its 2013 season back on Feb. 15 with an 8-1 win over Linfield at Sprinker Tennis Center. The Lutes started out with a sweep of the doubles action and then won five of the six singles matches. Sam Angel and Luke Olson went to a tie-breaker to defeat Zachery Lyons and Micah Roos, 9-8 (3), at first doubles. The other two doubles matches went in straight sets as Josh Bower and Taylor Dickey defeated Joel Trousdale and Lukas Kleinman, 8-4, at second doubles, and cousins Mitch Yannello and Jake Yannello topped Tim Hawkins and Alex Mangan, 8-3, at third doubles. The Yannello cousins, both freshmen, dropped the first three games before rallying to win eight in a row. In singles play, Bower defeated Lyons, 6-3, 7-6 (3), in the featured match. Linfield picked up its only team point when Roos topped Angel, 7-6, (2), 6-2, at second singles, but the Lutes closed out Linfield in in convincing fashion in the remaining matches. Olson beat Trousdale , 6-3, 6-0, Dickey beat Kleinman, 6-3, 6-3, Mitch Yannello stopped Hawkins, 6-1, 6-0, and Jake Yannello topped Mangan, 6-0, 6-0. Linfield enters Saturday's contest winless in nine matches this season.

LUTE NOTES: The Yannello cousins have played well during their freshman seasons, and statistics bear that out. Jake has a 7-1 record, all at No. 6 singles, while Mitch comes in with an 8-5 mark, including 6-3 at No. 4 and 2-2 at No. 5. When the cousins play doubles together they are 5-5, all at No. 3. Mitch is also 2-1 while playing with Brandon Bulaclac. Senior Taylor Dickey is the only other PLU player with a winning singles mark. He is 7-6 overall, 2-2 at No. 4 and 5-4 at No. 5. Dickey and doubles partner Jason Bower are 7-6 overall, including a 3-5 mark at No. 1 and a 4-1 record at No. 2.

LUTES WILL TRY AGAIN VS. SEATTLE U.: The Lutes were scheduled to play a non-conference match at Seattle University back on March 16, but inclement weather postponed that contest. It has now been rescheduled for 3 p.m. Tuesday, April 16, at the Seattle U. outdoor courts.

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