Berg Clinches Conference Crown for Waves
April 24, 2005
All-WCC Teams Release in PDF Format
Complete WCC Men's Tennis Tournament Results
Malibu, Calif. - In a battle much closer than any 4-2 final could indcate, the Pepperdine men's tennis team vanquished the West Coast Conference's second-seeded University of San Diego in the championship match at the Ralphs-Straus Tennis Center in Malibu Sunday. The win puts the 15th consecutive conference trophy in the Waves' hallowed tennis halls.
The Toreros are the only other team since 1973 to have claimed the title, doing so in back-to-back years as they took it south in 1989 and 1990. Realistically eyeing the prize again Sunday, a new generation looked for a piece of history.
San Diego held a 2-1 edge with four matches ongoing. After a one-sided doubles showing where the Waves took 8-2 and 8-5 wins, USD took singles wins at one and four. Robbie Blair was quick in tying the team score at one when he defeated Pepperdine's Richard Johnson 6-3, 6-1. For the match's first lead change No. 11 Pierrick Ysern beat No. 43 Scott Doerner 6-4, 6-1.
The Waves turned the tide with back-to-back wins of their own, led off by 2004 WCC "Player of the Year" Pedro Rico. Up a set, but trailing 2-4 in the second, the junior knew his team needed a point to stay close. Rico responded by taking four straight games to finish off of Nic Beuque for the 6-3, 6-4 point.
"Nic was playing great tennis," said Pepperdine head coach Adam Steinberg, "but Pedro just fought him off and won. It was great not only for the point, but for the other guys still playing." Of Rico coming up big in the clutch, Steinberg said simply, "He's been doing it for three years."
Also on a roll was Ivor Lovrak on court five. After trailing 3-5 early, the junior claimed the set in a tiebreaker. With momentum on his side, Lovrak wasted no time in bringing the Waves back to a 2-2 tie. His 6-0 second set was punctuated with an ace on his second match point.
Steinberg was proud of Lovrak's play, noting his perseverance and heart throughout the tournament. Aside from Sunday's first set Lovrak dropped but one game in his three wins versus Gonzaga, Santa Clara and San Diego.
Pepperdine needing one more win for the match, both the Toreros and the Waves became fans on three and six. San Diego's Mirza Koristovic forced a third set with Jonas Berg, before Alexis Rafidison split with Oscar Plotnik.
As Berg fell behind, Rafidison rolled for the Waves, racing out to a 5-1 lead. Serving for the match at 5-2 Rafidison held a 40-0 edge, but could not capitalize as Plotnik fended off three match points before reaching a game point of his own. Advantage wavering back and fourth, Plotnik kept the Toreros chances alive as he broke serve on his third game point.
As drama unfolded on court six, Berg quietly chiseled away at Koristovik's 1-4 lead. The Swede's assault swung the score to 5-5 before trading service games to force a tiebreaker.
A spotlight was never more focused, as each point elicited an uproarious cheer from one half of the unabashedly partisan crowd. An ace by Koristovic cut Berg's lead to 5-4 and an overrule by the chair umpire brought the drama to 5-5.
With one team's upset dreams weighing in against the other's postseason destiny Berg's first match point would be his last. Ending a lengthy rally identical to the scores before it, Berg's aerial forehand never came back across the net as the Waves reaped a reward more deserved than anticipated.
"This match was the first where Jonas has been in that situation," said Steinberg, "but his game really rose those last four games. It was really good for him and it really lifted the team."
The 21-2 Waves should have the luxury of escalating their 15-0 home record when the NCAA Regional Championships are played May 13-15. No. 7 Pepperdine will await hosting confirmation and official selection until the tournament field is announced on May 4.
Steinberg says San Diego is a great team and he told his players it would be a tough match. Following the match he admitted, "We didn't play our best, but we played with a lot of heart."
In addition to Steinberg's third WCC trophy, he was also awarded with WCC "Coach of the Year" honors. Following his first 20-win season in 16 years of coaching. Steinberg and his Waves laid heavy on voter's minds.
Scott Doerner was named "Player of the Year" and Jonas Berg was deemed "Freshman of the Year" as the Waves swept the awards. His coach says Doerner's award is extremely well-deserved and there may not be any player in the country who has improved over the past year as much as the Aussie junior.
Doerner, Berg and Pedro Rico also made the all-conference singles team, while the Waves took two of the three spots on the doubles team.
Doerner/Rico led the way as the #2 pair in the country, with Lovrak/Berg in the second slot. Pepperdine's third pair of Kevin Borzenski and Richard Johnson was given an honorable mention. The three duos allowed Pepperdine to win all 25 of the teams doubles points in 2005.