MORAGA, Calif. -- A historic month for the Saint Mary's men's tennis team earned kudos from the West Coast Conference Tuesday as the conference named Tuomas Manner its Singles Player of the Month and Joakim Norstrom and Jesse Kiuru as Doubles Players of the Month.
On the singles side, Manner started October with a run to the quarterfinals of the Aggie Invitational at UC Davis. A transfer from Illinois State, the native of Pori, Finland established right away his promise for the season to come.
That promise turned to historic results at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Northwest Regional. Back on his home court in Moraga, Manner earned straight-set victories over Portland's Jackson Martin and Cal's Wyatt Houghton to reach the round of 32.
He was just getting started. A win over No. 12 seed Jamin Ball of Stanford pushed Manner through to the round of 16, where he took down Pacific's Alex Golding, again in straight sets.
The real work began in the quarterfinals, as Manner found himself down a set to No. 7 Ilya Osintsev of Santa Clara. After scoring a tense 7-4 win in a second-set tiebreaker, Manner turned up the heat to win the third set 6-0 and become the first Saint Mary's men's tennis player ever to reach the semifinals at an ITA Regional.
In the semifinals, Manner fought gamely, but dropped a 6-3, 7-6 (5) decision to the eventual champion, Cal's Ben McLachlan.
While Manner was making his mark in singles, Kiuru and Norstrom were doing the same on the doubles side.
They also started at the Aggie Invitational. In their first tournament as a team, the duo defeated a team from Stanford in the quarterfinals, took out a pair from Cal in the semifinals, and landed a spot in the championship match.
A loss to Stanford's Jamin Ball and Trey Strobel did little to dampen Norstrom and Kiuru's momentum, instead providing a bit of foreshadowing for the upcoming ITA Regionals.
Back in Moraga, the Gaels duo continued their impressive play. Wins over teams from UC Davis and Stanford landed Norstrom and Kiuru in the quarterfinals, where they squared off with the tournament's No. 1 seeds, Robin Cambier and Jeff Mullen of Oregon.
Unfazed by their opponents' lofty seed, Norstrom and Kiuru notched a convincing 8-3 win to advance to the semifinals. They weren't done yet, defeating Cal's Campbell Johnson and Mads Engstad 8-6 to become the school's first men's tennis players to reach an ITA Regional final.
Ultimately, Norstrom and Kiuru lost their final 8-6 to Cal's Riki and Ben McLachlan. But, in much the same way as Manner, the new pairing gave plenty of hope for what's to come when the Gaels kick back into action this spring.