Westmont seeded 6th for NAIA national tournament

Westmont men’s tennis (12-5) enters next week’s NAIA National Tournament in Mobile, Ala. as the number six seed and will receive a first-round bye. Westmont begins play in the second round on Wednesday, May 18 with the Warriors taking on the winner of the Shorter (Ga.)/Hastings (Neb.) match.

A win  would propel the Warriors into Thursday’s quarterfinals where they  would likely face No. 3 Auburn-Montgomery (Ala.), the 2010 National Champion.

“We are going into nationals with momentum after the success we had at Ojai with Carlos, Bryan and Tiago,” said Basham. “I’m concerned about us putting all the pieces together. We have a couple of guys that are banged up and I’d like to see our number three doubles team step up and play the best they have played all year. If they can do that, it will really be helpful for us.”

The Warriors finished tied for second in the Golden State Athletic Conference which boasts six teams in the top 12 of the NAIA. Westmont has won its last seven matches.

“It has been exciting to see the guys respond well this year,” said Basham. “I think our team has maintained a pretty solid level of competitiveness.”

GSAC teams make up one-fourth of the field of 24 teams. Fresno Pacific (21-2) enters the tournament as the number one seed while Azusa Pacific is seeded at number five (15-6). Point Loma Nazarene (15-8) is the number seven seed. All three of those teams, along with the Warriors, received first-round byes.

Vanguard is seeded number nine and will take on host-team Mobile (Ala.) in the first round on Tuesday. Thirteenth-seeded Concordia will play its first-round game against Bethany (Kan.). The earliest any of the six GSAC teams would face a conference opponent would be in the quarterfinals.

Shorter (12-4), which is ranked at number 11 in the NAIA, finished in second place to Auburn-Montgomery in the East Division of the Southern States Athletic Conference. The Hawks were the runners-up in the SSAC Tournament, losing to Auburn-Montgomery 5-0 in the finals. Like the Warriors, the Hawks received an at-large bid into the national tournament.

As Great Plains Athletic Conference tournament champion, Hastings (13-9) earned a spot in the national championship by upsetting Nebraska Wesleyan 5-4 in the title match. Including their conference tournament run, the Mustangs have won their last nine matches.

Neither Hastings nor Shorter has had a common opponent with Westmont during the 2011 season.

Basham, who was named today as the Golden State Athletic Conference Coach of the Year, will be taking his team to the national tournament for the second time in his brief tenure as head coach. Last year, the Warriors entered as the number eight seed and advanced to the quarterfinals with a 5-4 win over Graceland. Westmont then lost 5-1 in the quarterfinals to top-seeded Fresno Pacific.

“Obviously it is going to be humid in Mobile,” said Basham. “The ball will be heavier and slower. Last year, players struggled with a good bit of cramping.”

Unlike last year, the Warriors will be playing in the mornings. Men’s matches will begin at 9:00 a.m. CDT each day until the championship match which will begin at 10:00. The cooler morning hours should be a help to the Santa Barbara based team.

Results will be posted on the Westmont Athletics website at www.westmont.edu/athletics. In-match results can be obtained via eScores, the Warriors’ text message subscription service.