In the classic movie "An Officer And A Gentlemen", one of the great moments of the film is when a female officer candidate is trying to get over the wall which represents the final challenge of an obstacle course. It is the final week of her training and she must finish the course in order to receive flight training. She has tried and tried to get over the wall, but her struggles have been in vain. In her final attempt to qualify and move on to the next level, she is coming up to the wall at the same time as Zach Mayo, played by Richard Gere. He easily makes it over but again she is struggling. Rather than finish the race and break the all-time record, Gere comes back to help. He demands that she "Walk that wall! You walk that wall!" With his help and encouragement, she slowly climbs up the wall, step by step and puts one leg over the wall. Again, she struggles to get over the wall. With one last plea to "Pull yourself over!" she makes it and is able to move on.
Boise State's tennis team, like its football team, its gymnastics team and its wrestling squad, has already climbed the wall. Like the character in the movie, they have put one leg over the other side to where only the elite get to go. Sunday in Durham, North Carolina, they found themselves still in that position, as the Blue Devils eliminated them four matches to two in the second round of the NCAA National Tennis Tournament.
One individual game was what it came down to. Duke led the battle, three matches to two. With Brent Werbeck's match tied at one set apiece and four games apiece and appearing to be headed for a tiebreaker, the match ended. Piotr Dilaj had fought gamely with Duke's Kiril Dimitrov, and his match was also tied at a set apiece. But a late break of service gave Dimitrov a 6-4 win and the clinching match. Had the game gone the other way, Dilaj too would have played a tiebreaker and given Werbeck a chance to win his match as well. Coach Greg Patton's tennis team would have been able to "pull themselves over" onto the other side. Into the Sweet 16 for the first time in eight years. Into the elite group of tennis teams competing for the national championship next week on Stanford's campus.
But alas, the tennis team, like the aforementioned other teams at Boise State, is still stuck on top of the wall. They've proven year after year that they are among the country's best teams--they've climbed the wall, no question about that. All they have to do is step over to the other side. Once they've done it, the task won't be near as difficult the next time. Instead, they will sit for another year in that uncomfortable and precarious position on top of the wall, one leg over the wall and one still on the other side.
Boise State proved a lot in hostile territory. They had defeated the homestate Wolfpack of North Carolina State 24 hours earlier to advance to the meeting with national power Duke. The Broncos took the fourth seed to the absolute wire. You can't get much closer to winning than Boise State did without actually doing so.
So what happens from here? Well, they have someone with them cheering them on and giving them encouragement--one of the great motivators in the game of tennis. Coach Greg Patton is simply the finest coach in the land. He's there at the top of the wall giving instructions to these Broncos on how to get over that wall. He's been there before and he's succeeded at several levels. The Bronco fans are there too, passionate and excited about the prospects of the Bronco team and what it will mean when they do in fact get over the wall.
Will the Bronco tennis team finally do what Patton wants them to do--step over to the other side? We'll have to wait a year to find out.
No. 5 Duke defeated No. 26 Boise State – 4-2
May 14, 2006
Ambler Tennis Stadium
No. 22 L. Shields/Schoeck, BOISE STATE defeated No. 17 Atas/Stokke, Duke – 8-3
C. Shields/Robertson, BOISE STATE defeated Amritraj/Rodrigues, Duke – 8-5
Samuelson/Walter, Duke defeated Dilaj/Roberson, BOISE STATE – 8-4
No. 5 Ludovic Walter, Duke defeated No. 45 Luke Shields, BOISE STATE – 6-2, 6-0
No. 120 Thomas Schoeck, BOISE STATE defeated No. 46 Jonathan Stokke, Duke – 4-6, 6-3, 6-3
No. 67 Peter Rodrigues, Duke defeated Clancy Shields, BOISE STATE – 7-6 (7-5), 6-1
Joey Atas, Duke defeated Eric Roberson, BOISE STATE – 6-3, 7-6 (7-4)
Kiril Dimitrov, Duke defeated Piotr Dilaj, BOISE STATE – 6-7 (4-7), 6-4, 6-4
Stephen Amritraj, Duke vs. Brent Werbeck – 6-7 (4-7), 6-4, 4-4 (DNF)