The Northwestern women meet Michigan tomorrow at the conference tournament for their 10th straight Big Ten title, an impressive accomplishment. But if the the top-ranked Wildcats win as expected, they will still need 60 more to match the Kalamazoo College Hornets.
I decided to head to Stowe Stadium today, in spite of the cold front that came through last night, dropping the temperatures from the low 80s to the mid 40s. The stiff north wind was an unpleasant reminder of a very long winter here in Kalamazoo, but the sun came out in time for the afternoon's championship contest between Kalamazoo and Calvin College, located an hour north in Grand Rapids.
Kalamazoo, which had already clinched a share of the championship by finishing atop the MIAA regular season standings, had not only sole possession of the title, but also the NCAA bid on the line today. Coach Mark Riley, in his first year at Kalamazoo, knew well the tradition of the streak, having played on the team in the early 80s when George Acker was in charge. But there didn't seem to be any particular pressure evident; and even the Calvin fans, of whom there were plenty, seemed to be resigned to a second place finish.
Kalamazoo ended up winning by a 6-3 score. For those of you who don't follow Division III tennis, the format differs from Division I only in that all three doubles contests have a point at stake. After Hornets Matt Wise and Patrick Boyd won at No. 2 by an 8-5 score and Calvin's No. 1 team of Marcus Zeilstra and Steve DeMaagd had prevailed 8-6, it was down to the threes. K's Joe Unger and Cyrus Jaden had a 6-2 lead, only to see it evaporate, but they won the tiebreaker to give K a 2-1 advantage heading into the singles.
The power that dominates in Division I tennis is rare in DIII players, and the standard baseline game isn't much in evidence either. Getting to the net was the goal, and I saw more approach shots today than I saw all week at the Easter Bowl. For these players, hitting a winner from the baseline is rare, so many of them have adopted a game style that dares their opponent to pass. I saw K's No. 1 Jason Brown make good on that dare often today in his 6-2, 6-3 win over Ricky Tilton, but more often the player at the baseline was unable to put pressure on the attacker, even when the latter had hit an indifferent volley.
Brown's point gave the Hornets a 4-1 lead, with Tim Hubbard at No. 4 having collected the third point, so the Knights needed to take the remaining four matches on court to pull the upset. It wasn't out of the question--they had the lead in three of them--but couldn't finish any of them before Boyd, at No. 5, put it out of reach with a 7-5, 6-4 victory over Mike Goorhouse of Calvin.
Boyd, who makes Roger Federer look demonstrative, gave a small fist pump, and Riley raised both his arms as if signalling a touchdown, but the celebration was decidedly low-key.
I guess that happens when you've done it 69 times before. For all scores, click here.
Marcia Frost is in Iowa City for the Men's Big Ten championships, which finds Ohio State battling Illinois for the title for the fifth straight year. Go to collegeandjuniortennis.com for Marcia's coverage.
And Ken Thomas of radiotennis.com will be in Ojai on Sunday, covering the Pac-10 individual championships. This is a FREE service, so log in and listen to it, streamed live to your computer. I can confidently say that USC will win at least one of the finals as the men's features Kaes Van't Hof against teammate Robert Farah. In fact all four semifinalists were Trojans on the men's side. The women's final has USC's Amanda Fink taking on UCLA's Riza Zalameda. For complete draws, see the Ojai TennisLink site.
Saturday, April 26, 2008