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James Hill | | May 23, 2014

Hill: Claremont-M-S, Wood go strong in singles

  Out of the three Stags who made the semifinals, Warren Wood was the lone one to advance.

CLAREMONT, Calif. -- Top-seeded Warren Wood of host Claremont-M-S will meet No. 2 Joey Fritz of Amherst on Saturday for the singles title of the NCAA Division III championship.

The final is slated for 1 p.m. ET at the Biszantz Family Tennis Center.

In Friday's semifinals, the C-M-S Stags boasted three of the four competitors. Wood beat teammate Joe Dorn 6-3, 6-0; while Fritz bested the Stags Nikolas Marino 6-4, 6-1.

It marked the second time that C-M-S head coach Paul Settles claimed an NCAA singles finalist. Ten years ago, John Michael Cham-A-Koon lost to two-time NCAA champion Matt Seeberger of the UC Santa Cruz.

Having three players in the semis was also a joy for Settles.

"That's a coach's dream," said Settles with a smile. "I can sit on my hands when that happens. We are excited and delighted, and it validates the depth of our program."

On Wednesday, Amherst won the NCAA team championship with a 5-3 victory against C-M-S. The clincher occurred at No. 1 singles, as Fritz beat Wood 6-2, 3-6, 6-2.

Wood and Dorn, the tournament's top-seeded doubles team, were upset in the first round Thursday by Byron Balkin and Jake Humphreys of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

Wood spoke about playing his doubles partner in the singles semifinals, and meeting Fritz in the final.

"It's tough playing teammates," said Wood, a junior from Del Mar, California, who is an economics and psychology major. "He is a good friend, on and off the court. Joe came out firing away, and I was a little bit tentative. He got a little bit tired, and my shots started falling. But, we had fun out there. I do want revenge against Joey [Fritz], after he beat me in the team tournament final."

An interesting fact about Wood is that he also played high school varsity soccer. In addition, he is an avid surfer on the Southern California beaches.

Soccer and surfing aside, Wood's coach is impressed by his competitor's style of play.

"He has an awesome all-court kind of game," Settles said. "He's a shot-maker and can hurt you from anywhere on the court. He has that quick muscle-twitch athletic style."

Fritz was earlier named the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Senior Player of the Year.

In Thursday's doubles quarterfinals, Fritz and Justin Reindel were victorious against David Konstantinov and Chris Schommer of Whittier 4-6, 7-5, 6-4. The Amherst duo will take on the Bates team of Timmy Berg and Pierre Planche. The fourth-seeded tandem of Eric Klowitter and Chris Krimbill from Case Western Reserve are paired against the No. 2 pair of Jeremy Bush and Ross Putterman of Washington (Mo.).

The doubles semifinals are scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday, and the championship will be played at 5 p.m.