After making significant strides in 2016, the future looks bright for the Linfield men’s tennis program. The 2017 squad features a number of new faces, as well as some much improved veterans, all of whom have come together to create a championship culture at Linfield. Anchoring the team is senior transfer Tyler Linscott, junior Ben McNair, sophomores Trent Prussing, Jake Mangan, and sophomore Nathan Saragoza, who transferred to Linfield at the start of the spring term. They are joined by promising freshmen Luis Rojas and John Lutaaya.
“We’ve improved at each position this year and our depth is a real strength,” said Wildcats coach Ben Belletto. “We have guys who worked extremely hard during the summer and offseason, and the work they put in is paying off.”
The Wildcats have depth in addition to talent. Belletto feels comfortable calling upon senior Charlie Farrenkopf, sophomores Eric Rutherford and Carter Pentz, juniors Liam Spearnak and Grant Barrow, and freshmen Thomas Foy and Alan Warden to all contribute. “Our focus is on creating a culture that allowed us to compete at the highest level of our sport,” said the coach. “That means everyone on the team, top to bottom, has a role to play and shares in the success we achieve.
“In terms of goals, we want to be the best. We want to practice as though we are the No. 1 team in the nation. We aren’t focused on a ranking or number, because that doesn’t define what or how we do. We love the work and the process of becoming great. We are approaching every match the same way. When all is said and done, we can look back at what we’ve accomplished this season. Our ceiling is high, and the guys know that.”
The Wildcats started the season against division I University of Seattle, before jumping into conference play with Puget Sound and George Fox. “We have looked better and more comfortable out there with each match. Our doubles looked tight early on, but the guys are starting to understand what we work on in practice and the results have started to follow.” Against Puget Sound, the team recorded the first doubles sweep and 9-0 victory since April of 2011. The Cats followed that performance by splitting the singles matches against George Fox, the No. 14-ranked team in the West Region.
After traveling to play Division I Portland State, the team returned home to face Lewis & Clark, a team picked to finish second in the conference. While the Cats lost 8-1, the doubles tandem of Linscott and McNair were able to win at the No. 1 doubles spot. The next day, the team was on the road in Tacoma to face Pacific Lutheran. Jumping out to an early lead in doubles, Linfield showed off its depth in resting McNair in singles yet still cruised to a 9-0 win, the team’s second such sweep in a week.
The Wildcats have set their sights on earning a berth in the NWC Tournament in April.