Contact: Mark Albanese, Director of Sports Communication
TACOMA, Wash. -The Pacific Lutheran University men's tennis team opens up the 2017-2018 season tomorrow, making the trip south to Portland for the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Northwest Regional.
The four-day tournament hosted by Lewis & Clark College is the first of two competitions in the fall for the Lutes before beginning the main portion of the season in February and will serve as an early litmus test for the team.
"Obviously I'm very excited to see the guys get out there and compete when the lights are shining bright. We've had a good couple weeks of practice getting to know each other, and really getting in tune with the expectations that I see for the future of this program," said first-year Head Coach Matt Look.
Anchoring the returners will be sophomore Niko Convento who tallied eight wins in singles play last season, including five in Northwest Conference play at the No. 2 position. Convento additionally competed at the No. 2 doubles position with fellow returner and team captain Justin DeMattos.
"Niko's got a forehand that feels like you're trying to hit a bowling ball back to him. He's improved his feel around the net, so he'll be a factor in the doubles as well."
DeMattos spent the bulk of last season at the No. 4 singles spot while Chan Thourk returns after spending a majority of time at No. 5 singles and No. 3 doubles last season. John Woelfel is the fourth Lute returning after seeing significant action last year, playing almost exclusively at No. 6 singles.
"Our captains are Chan Thourk and Justin DeMattos. These guys are essential to building a team of great leaders. Our core philosophy asks that we are coachable, work hard on the court and in the classroom, support each other, and have a passion for tennis. Chan and Justin have done just that, and earned the right to be named captains this year."
Look, who joined the Lutes after two seasons as an assistant with Division I Seattle University, has been impressed with the veteran leadership on the team through the early portion of fall.
"John Woefel has been a vocal leader at practice, and has tremendous variety in his game. He can hypnotize you with his spins, then pop up at the net out of nowhere to finish you off."
In addition to a solid nucleaus of returners, the Lutes boast a core of incoming players to bolster the lineup.
"The first-years Jake Kim and Branson Near bring some experience from the junior circuit. They'll contribute right away, and have fit right in with the rest of the guys. Alex Richter is new this year as well, showing tremendous improvement in the last couple of weeks, and looking more comfortable and confident every day."
This weekend's ITA Regional, spanning from Thursday to Sunday, will be contested on the Rock Creek Campus of Portland Community College with all nine Northwest Conference institutions taking part in the event. The Lutes will have six days off before hosting Willamette University on Oct. 7 in a non-conference match at the Lakewood Racquet Club to close out the fall.
"The ITA tournament is a great showcase for our conference, and an opportunity to get valuable match experience. Steel is forged in fire, and we're going to feel the heat of competition this weekend."