Best Tennis Matches I've Ever Seen!

The WAC men's and women's tennis championships are in the book, a "split decision" between Boise State and Fresno State. The winners automatically qualify for the NCAA National Tournament; the losers have to wait until May 3rd to find out if their season continues. Here's a first-hand review of the excitement at Appleton Tennis Center this past weekend!

No doubt one explanation was Fresno State and Boise State were going at it again, this time fighting for two WAC championships. But the matches were much more. These tennis matches had everything. They were so good, if they were bullfights, the judge would have awarded both ears, all the hooves, and the tails to the matadors, or spared the bulls for courage and excellence.

The matches were about a fantastic crowd of a more than a thousand, wearing the blue and orange, Patton's Army t-shirts and helmets, stomping, screaming, and clapping after every Bronco point won. The crowd was so loud the officials apparently felt Fresno was at an unfair disadvantage. What did they expect? The tournament was in Boise. And the crowd wanted to return the "attitude" the Fresno fans displayed in the rain-out match in Fresno.

At one point a referee stopped a match and asked the fans to find seats. The colorful clothing, he said, mostly orange against the blue sky and white clouds, was a distraction for the players.

Later, the same referee stopped the match again, and told the crowd that NCAA rules did not allow bells and mechanical noisemakers. Somewhere someone was ringing a very small bell. About that time three little kids outside the flagging made off for the soccer field.

And yet again, late in the final deciding men's match, the score tied at three-three, in the third set, another official stopped play. The Fresno player was about to serve his first point. Crowd, you are unruly and must let the players play, he said. Then, to the astonishment of the crowd, and without a customary first warning, he awarded a point to Fresno. Patton was furious and challenged the official's call. The official rudely turned his back and walked away.

Perhaps that incident was a blessing. For the rest of the match, each time Thomas scored, the crowd noise was off the scale. Later it was discovered the fan that caused the problem and the loss of point…was a Fresno fan. As it turned out, both players held serve, and the match went to a seven-point tiebreaker. The first to score seven points, leading by two, wins the match. Thomas Schoeck did just that. He was down 1-3, held on, came back, and won the tiebreaker and the match, 7-4. Boise State won the WAC Championship 4-3.

In case no one knows what the Bronco new guys, Kean, Stanley, and Peter look like, the three a topic of discussion for months, check the linked photo. The Bronco next to Luke behind the "C" in WAC is Kean Feeder. Stanley Sarapanich, hat on backwards, is standing next to Peter Dilaj. Pete has his arm up on the trophy.

Back to the crowd. After the match was over Thomas said, "It was the crowd, our fans. In Germany no one cheers like that. In Germany there are a few polite claps after a point. Nothing like our fans. Our fans really helped me. They pumped me up and kept me focused."

There were many other stories. As the General says, when the Shields brothers win, the Broncos usually win the match.

The Broncos won the doubles point and began to take early leads in four of the six singles matches. Most thought this would be a piece-of-cake to the end. They needed to win three of the singles for the championship. Hey, the Shields brothers always win, and Schoeck at number two could be counted on. Robo and Peter at number four and five may be a question. And Brent Werbeck should win at number six. Toss that script in the can.

Peter won easily at number five. That made it 2-0 Broncos. Then Werbeck and Luke lost! Huh? Whoops. The score was tied 2-2. But Eric "Robo" Roberson came through big time. He won a long three-setter making it 3-2 Broncos. Now all Boise needed was one more point. Clancy was still playing and looked strong. He would do it.

Then the sky fell in. After winning his first set, Clancy re-injured his ankle, took a medical break, re-taped and re-laced, returned to the match and lost! The match was tied 3-3 with one match left to decide the WAC championship. You know the rest already.

Yes, the fans made a major difference in the match. But there was something special about them. The Boise State University sports family was in the crowd in force. The football team was all over the place. The O and D line guys were hooting. I believe Quinton Jones stayed to the end and congratulated Coach Patton. Bush Hamden represented the quarterbacks. Okay…a break from tennis. Can't help it. This writer is impressed with this young man. Now this writer knows why he throws with power. This guy has big, I mean big upper body development. He makes RD look like a little guy. I think the Broncos have a winner in Mr. Hamden should Mr. Z have problems.

The basketball team was there, and kids from the track team. The track team. No one could possibly miss Bronco freshman Eleni Kafourou, a "ten" on anyone's scale, and I don't mean sports. Eleni, competing in her first collegiate season was a double winner at a meet in Berkeley, the annual Brutus Hamilton Track and Field Invitational. She won the long jump with a mark of 19-7.00 (5.97m) and the triple jump with a leap of 41-7.25 (12.68m). Kafourou's triple jump was also the third best outdoor mark in school history.

But back to the rest of the story, the other WAC championship tennis match. The women's match on Saturday was as exciting as the men's match on Sunday. The Fresno State women are a power nationally and defending WAC Champ four years running. Make that five years running now. With the tiniest bit of luck the Bronco ladies would have upset Fresno and been the champion. Boise State actually had two chances, but it wasn't to be…close but no cigar.

The first opportunity... Hadley MacFarlane and Megan Biorkman ALMOST beat Fresno's #4 ranked Kathrin Winterhalter and Lucia Sainz in doubles. An upset win would have meant the doubles point for the Broncos. The ladies were leading 7-4, needing but one more game to win the match. Instead they lost the next five points, the match and the doubles point 7-9.

The second opportunity...Bronco freshman, seventeen year-old, Tatiana Ganzha, had another chance to win the WAC in the last match of the day. She was tied at a set apiece with Fresno's powerful hitting, Lucia Sainz. Sainz was tiring. Tat was not. Then she slowed and her strokes lost power…and the set was gone. Sainz won it 6-2 and Fresno won the WAC Championship 4-3.

No one knew what had gone wrong. Later Tatiana was standing in the breezeway. Teammates were looking at her ankle. It was swollen and dark red. She had pulled a Clancy Shields and badly injured it. There is no doubt in my opinion if the injury hadn't happened, she would have won the match, and the championship trophy would have been in Boise State University's trophy case. After all Tat had won thirty-three singles matches for the Broncos in her first season as a Bronco.

Wait until next year. That goes for both teams. Probably a repeat against Fresno.

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