Mike Edles, Chapman College tennis coach, stared blankly into the abyss of his team's 5-4 loss to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in the final of the NCAA Division II team tennis championship and spoke.
"What? I'm sorry. I can't think right now."
Problem was, Edles probably was thinking too much. Thinking about the one that got away in the last match of the day at Cal State Northridge.
Thinking about a final in which eight of the nine matches went three sets.
San Luis Obispo won the championship when the Mustangs' Dale Minney and Jim Rakela defeated Brad Parker and John Kline in No. 2 doubles, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, after the Chapman pair committed three unforced errors in the final game. The final was tied at 3-3 after the singles competition. Chapman's Troy Turnbull and Paul Wakesa lost to Bob Zoller and Paul Landry, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, in No. 1 doubles.
This was unexpected because Turnbull had defeated Zoller and Wakesa had defeated Landry in singles competition.
The victory gave San Luis Obispo a brief 4-3 lead in the match. Brief because Chapman's Olivier Amerlinck and Bis Houssels combined to defeat Tom Slamon and Hal Sweasey in No. 3 doubles, 2-6, 7-6, 7-5.
With the Chapman victory tying the match score at 4-4, all attention turned to No. 2 doubles--at that time tied at 4-4 in games in the third set.
Minney and Rakela broke serve to go ahead, 5-4. Rakela served the deciding game and soon had triple match point, aided by two unforced Chapman errors and a service winner.
Kline and Parker managed to get two points back but another error in the net ended the game, set and match for Chapman and took away its chance of a second straight Division II tennis championship.
The Panthers defeated Hampton last season in the Division II final.
If Edles was somewhat stunned after the match, San Luis Obispo Coach Hugh Bream looked bewildered.
As his team celebrated, Bream strolled away, arm in arm with his wife.
"I don't know what to think," he said. "We've been close before. I guess it takes a little luck to win this."
The Mustangs have been ranked in the top 10 in each of Bream's five seasons at San Luis Obispo.
Last season, the Mustangs entered the championship as the No. 1 seed, but lost to Hampton in the semifinal.
This season, Chapman and San Luis Obispo had split California Collegiate Athletic Assn. matches. Both matches were decided by 6-3 scores.
"This is really becoming a tradition," Bream said. "Chapman and San Luis Obispo play each other so tough. There's a lot of stress out there."
Which brings us back to Dale Minney, 5-feet 4-inches of nervous energy. When he isn't grunting and groaning making shots, he's screaming and yelling at himself and others between points.
"He's the most intense player I've ever had around," Bream said. "He gets the most he can out of his ability."
And his lungs.
During his pivotal No. 5 singles match against Parker, Minney was heard to utter at one point, "Ugh. I'm horrible. That was sickening."
This from a man who says he tries to keep a positive attitude at all times.
Minney's singles match against Parker came with Chapman leading, 3-2, in the overall match. Minney was down a break in the last set but came back to take the set, 6-4, and tie the match at 3-3.
"That was a big turnaround," Edles said. "Instead of being up by two we're tied. I was worried about my guys getting down. I thought they might be disappointed after that match."
The day was not a total loss for Coach Mike Edles and the Panthers. Wednesday night, Edles was named the Division II Coach of the Year at the Intercollegiate Tennis Coaches Assn. banquet at the Warner Center Marriott in Woodland Hills. Troy Turnbull was named the senior of the year. Olivier Amerlinck was honored as the top freshman and Bis Houssels was one of 12 players named scholar athletes. John Kline was a finalist for the Arthur Ashe award, which recognizes players for their contributions outside of tennis.