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Great coaches and mentors help lead tennis teams to stellar seasons

By Dave Girrard

The men’s tennis team had a record-breaking year, and the women enjoyed their best season in years. Their coaches credit not only outstanding players, but also their coaching predecessors.

“The success isn’t necessarily tied to wins and losses, it’s tied to the experience you’re creating,” said co-head coach Craig Hamilton ’82. “And in some years, for whatever reason, it just ends up being a great year for your team.”

The 2004-05 season turned into one of those great years for the Lute men’s team. As the school year began, Hamilton and co-head coach Jeff Allen ’87 thought they had the talent and potential to have such a season. Several players returned from the 2003-04 team that finished 13-7 and 12-2 in the Northwest Conference. With the addition of two key transfers and an outstanding freshman, Hamilton and Allen thought this could be the best team in their PLU coaching tenure.

In the fall, the coaches got another glimpse of the potential when Ricky Butenko ’06 and Matt Larimore ’06, won the doubles title at an Intercollegiate Tennis Association regional tournament at Linfield College. Butenko is in his first year at PLU after two seasons at Columbia University in New York, and Larimore transferred to PLU two years ago from Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. The pair then competed at the ITA Small College National Championships in Fort Myers, Fla., where they finished fourth in doubles.

As the spring season got under way, Butenko and two of the other newcomers on the team – David Miller ’07, a transfer from Whitman, and Justin Larimore ’08, (Matt’s brother) – were among the top six players on the team.

The Lutes won their first nine matches of the season, including two over NAIA power Lewis-Clark State (Idaho), one over the University of Idaho and six over conference opponents. On the team’s annual spring break trip to California, the Lutes won three of their five matches with the two losses coming to nationally ranked teams.

The remainder of the regular season was a repeat of the start, as the Lutes completed the dual match portion of the conference schedule undefeated then won three matches to claim the conference tournament title. Along with a win over Claremont-Mudd-Scripps to end their California trip, the Lutes won their final nine matches of the regular season to finish with a 21-3 overall record. The 21 victories is a new school record, breaking the mark of 20 wins set in the 1986 season.

The Lutes made it to the NCAA Division III national playoffs, but lost to Trinity University.

Still, Butenko was one of 32 players selected to compete in the individual singles championship at the national tournament, making him PLU's second participant at the NCAA Division III Championships since the university became an NCAA member seven years ago. He and Matt Larimore were named first alternate for the doubles championship. The tournament hadn't been played at press time.

The women’s team, meanwhile, enjoyed the best season in the three years Janel McFeat ’99 has been head coach. The Lutes finished with an 11-8 overall record – the first winning season since 2001 – and compiled a 10-4 record in conference matches. The Lutes placed third at the conference tournament.

The highlight of the season was a six-match win streak, which included five dual-match victories over conference opponents and a first round win in the conference tournament.

The future looks bright for the women’s team, since three sophomores and three freshmen comprised the top six and the Lutes lost just one player to graduation.

The PLU coaches credit longtime coach Mike Benson, for much of their success.

“Definitely,” says McFeat, “because Coach Benson and my high school coach (former Lute tennis player Keith Johnson ’68) were the only coaches in regards to tennis. How you drill and how you work with the girls and how you relate to them, those coaching styles came directly from Mike Benson and Keith Johnson.”

With Benson as coach from 1970 to 1999 the men’s teams won or shared 24 Northwest Conference championships and advanced to the NAIA national tournament 20 times. Benson’s all-time record is an amazing 400-196, including 166-18 in conference matches. His conference record also includes a pair of 60-match win streaks.

Benson also coached the women’s team for six seasons, from 1981-84 and 1998-99. The Lutes won the conference title five times, finished second at the AIAW (Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women) Division III national tournament in 1982 and had a 90-35 overall record under his direction.

“I feel I’m still there,” Benson said. “Craig Hamilton and Jeff Allen and all those guys have made me feel so welcome. We talk often and I see them on spring break. It’s still fun.”

New athletic director brings 25 years of experience

Aan administrator with strong ties to the Pacific Northwest will be new athletic director at PLU. Laurie Turner, senior associate athletic director at the University of California, San Diego, will assume the job July 1.

“The various athletic administrative appointments that I have held, coupled with my sincere interest in developing student-athletes, coaches and staff, have prepared me for this position,” Turner said. “I look forward to working with the athletic department staff and building on the fine tradition of academic and athletic success at PLU.”

Turner has 25 years experience as a coach and administrator. From 1997-2001 she was senior associate athletic director and senior women’s administrator at the University of Toledo. She served as director of Academic Athletic Services and Student Development at the University of

Idaho from 1994-97 and was athletic director at Eastern Oregon State College (now Eastern Oregon University) from 1984-86.

She was women’s head basketball coach at the University of Idaho (1986-94) and Eastern Oregon (1982-86) and women’s head junior varsity basketball coach at Washington State University (1979-81). She also served as head volleyball coach at Eastern Oregon from 1983-85 and was an assistant men’s track and field coach at Eastern Oregon in 1983.

Turner received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Washington State University.

Paul Hoseth is retiring after 37 years at PLU, the last nine as athletic director and dean of the School of Physical Education. He has served as an assistant football coach, head track coach, taught physical education and health classes and was the associate dean of the School of Physical Education prior to being named to his current position.

“It is never easy to determine when is the right time to leave,” Hoseth said. “But I wanted to help move us in the direction of improved funding and fund-raising for athletics and help lay the groundwork for new and expanded physical education, recreational and athletic facilities.”

The position of dean will be filled on an interim basis by professor Tony Evans, director of the Exercise Science and Fitness Program.

From left: Ricky Butenko ’06; Erika Feltus ’08; coaches Jeff Allen ’87, left, and Craig Hamilton ’82 talk with Butenko; coach Janel McFeat ’99 advises Nicole Petrzelka ’07 and Feltus.

Longtime sportscaster Don Poier dies

Sports fans have undoubtedly heard the voice of Don Poier ’74 calling games.

The longtime broadcaster died Jan. 21, at the age of 53.

Poier came to PLU in 1971 from Washington State University. He played football, and as a defensive end, he was a co-captain in his senior season. He was the punter his first two seasons, and in 1972, his 36.2 yard average was second in the conference by one-tenth of a yard.

Poier majored in communication and went on to a sports broadcasting career that spanned nearly 30 years. He worked as program director and sports director at Seattle’s KING-TV, then worked at another Seattle television station, KCPQ, as sports director. He started his own production company and broadcast Pac-10 football and basketball games for more than 20 years. He also did Seattle Mariners and high school football games and reported on the hydroplane races.

In 1995 he was hired as the voice of the Vancouver Grizzlies and followed them to Memphis, Tenn., when the franchise relocated there. He was the radio play-by-play announcer from the team’s inception, switching to TV for the recently completed season.

He was the voice of EA Sports’ NBA Live video game from 1999 to 2003.


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© Scene 2005  •  Pacific Lutheran University  •  Summer 2005

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