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May 8, 2012

TIGERS TAKE HOME SPORTSMANSHIP AWARD, 1-2 AT SCIAC TOURNEY

By Michael Wells
Sports Information Director
 

LOS ANGELES — The "program on the move" does so with class. And with the expected promotion of its enthusiastic head coach.

The Occidental College men's tennis team, that made huge strides during its 2012 season to be more competitive with the perennial national powers in its conference, took home the SCIAC Team Sportsmanship Award on May 5. The Tigers went 14-9 overall, a radical turnaround from last year's six-win season.

"Our guys were thrilled to win the sportsmanship award. We worked very hard to conduct ourselves the right way. … And we also call fair lines," said Occidental coach Brian Newhall, who took charge of the program this season for the second time. Newhall became the winningest Oxy men's tennis coach during his first stint from 1986-1993. "Most importantly our guys worked hard every day in practice and didn't back down in a conference that boasts five teams consistently ranked in the top 30. This group was a pleasure to work with."

Oxy ranked 13th in the latest ITA West Region poll released on May 3 and at one point earlier this year, broke into the national top 30 after knocking off No. 24 Brandeis.

The Tigers closed the season with a 1-2 weekend at the SCIAC championships, with a win over Caltech and losses to No. 9 Pomona-Pitzer and No. 25 Whittier. Oxy swept Caltech, got swept by Pomona-Pitzer and lost 7-2 to Whittier.

Oxy's record is deceiving. All nine of its losses were to nationally ranked teams.

"I'm going to gradually upgrade our schedule in the coming years," Newhall said. "Our guys thrive on high level competition."

It was the best team Oxy's produced in 20 years. The difference in 2012, its depth.

"At No. 1 – 6 we were really very balanced. … Almost interchangeable," Newhall said. In the No. 3-6 spots, Oxy was 61-27.

"This team is very close to closing the gap and beating the top programs in the nation," said junior Spencer Choy (Aiea, Hawaii), who was 13-3 as Oxy's No. 5. "This program is still a program on the move. We work hard and we play hard."

Oxy returns all but one senior. Ben Herrington-Gilmore (Stillwater, Minn.), who's respected unanimously by his teammates for his leadership and hard work, is the lone Tiger that will not be back next year.

"Ben, our captain, was instrumental in providing leadership to a relatively young team," said Stephen Perkins (Seattle), a junior who went 14-5 primarily in the No. 4 spot. "We will really miss him next year, on and off the court."