SAN DIEGO — Hours before Thursday's meeting, where the pairings for this weekend's San Diego Intercollegiate Men's Tennis Championships would be decided, Ed Collins pondered awhile before passing the buck.
"Hey, I told (my players) to decide it by rochambeau, " said Collins, the University of San Diego's men's coach.
For anyone now scratching his head, rochambeau (a.k.a. "rock, paper, scissors,") is the game you might have played growing up, where players are eliminated by these objects via hand gestures. For example: when scissors cuts paper, paper is out of the game.
"It was either that or draw straws," said senior Chris Toomey, one of three USD players who has spent a good part of the young season rotating between second and fourth singles.
The unique format of this tournament awards three singles titles (1-2, 3-4, 5-6) and three doubles titles (1-2-3), rather than the usual single champion.
"It gives players who would otherwise never win a college tournament a chance," said USD senior Dan Mattera, the second player rotating in the 2-3-4 spot.
Rounding out the USD trio is senior J.R. Edwards. All were vying for the second slot in the 1-2 singles division. Sophomore sensation Jose Luis Noriega of Lima, Peru, is the undisputed top seed in that division.
Because all three had played well and worked hard--"Their results were indistinguishable," Collins said--he left the decision in the players hands.
"We had proved ourselves in all positions," Toomey said, "so we drew straws, and I lost." In reality, Toomey and Mattera conceded the spot to Edwards.
"First, it was who really wanted to," Toomey said. "We couldn't all play there, J.R. was playing well, and Danny and I knew J.R. really wanted to play there."
Which Edwards happily did, winning his first four matches before UC Santa Barbara's David Decret stopped him, 6-4, 6-3, in a semifinal at USD on Saturday. Noriega, a 6-4, 6-2 winner over Tamer el Sawy of Cal State Bakersfield, will meet Decret today for the title at 11 a.m.
In the 3-4 singles final, top-seeded Mattera will meet second-seeded Toomey in an all-USD event, at 9 a.m. Mattera was a 6-2, 7-6 (7-2) winner over UC Irvine's Jeff Miyamoto, and Toomey ousted Cal State Bakersfield's Scott Potthast, 6-4, 7-5.
Top-seeded Kevin Bradley, a winner in two sets over Peter Morawiecki of Texas-El Paso, will play for the 5-6 singles title, also at 9 a.m.
Collins finds himself in the unique position of having three players he can realign in the tennis ladder.
"Some players can play up," Collins, "but it's harder for them to play down. They get an opponent who is weaker and they fall apart. I have three players who can play up or down. I like that."
Said Mattera: "No one knows what we're going to do. It's a big advantage because you can mix (the lineup) around without stacking."
Last year, Toomey, a Poway graduate, played in the No. 3 or No. 4 slots. Mattera, of Lomita, and Edwards, of Denver, played primarily at No. 5 and No. 6.
"It's not that Chris got worse," Mattera said. "J.R. and I just improved a lot."
Toomey and Mattera haven't been adversaries since 1988, when Toomey beat Mattera in straight sets in a summer tournament.
"We know each other's game so well," said Toomey. "It should be a real tough match. He respects my game, and I respect his."