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Tempest in teapot over new playoff format; a rare tennis double

Both hockey and basketball have now adopted baseball's 2-3-2 ``World Series'' format for their own championship finals, but not everyone is happy with the change. In fact, for reasons not really fathomable in this quarter, many people talk as though the new format actually favors the team with the three home games over the one with four. They'd come to their senses quickly enough, I daresay, if someone gave them a choice as to whether their team would have the ``home'' or ``away'' side of the schedule.

The switch, done to cut down travel, clearly doesn't affect the overall home advantage. The only difference from the old 2-2-1-1-1 setup is that if the ``away'' team can manage to split the first two games, it has a chance to close out the series at home in the next three contests.

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This has happened twice now, in fact, in the Stanley Cup finals. In 1984, the first year the National Hockey League used the new format, the Oilers split the first two games against the New York Islanders, then swept the next three in Edmonton to win the series. This year they repeated the process, splitting the first two in Philadelphia and again winning three straight at home.

Meanwhile in the National Basketball Association, where the new setup is in effect for the first time, as soon as the Lakers split two games in Boston, everyone was talking about what a big advantage it gave them to have the next three coming up in Los Angeles.

Well, of course it's an advantage to be tied 1-1 with three of the remaining five games on your home court or rink. But in terms of logic, it doesn't really matter whether your home games are the next three, or Games 3, 4, and 6. The original ``home'' team now has to win one on the road in either case. Meanwhile the original ``away'' team knows it now can win the series just by winning all of its home games. It's just a question of whether this will happen by the fifth game or take until the sixth.

Obviously the whole controversy is a tempest in a teapot. But coaches wouldn't know what to do with their time if they couldn't find something to complain about -- so it might as well be the new format as anything else. Principia wins men's, women's NCAA titles

Principia College, a small liberal arts school in Elsah, Illinois, has achieved the rare feat of producing both the men's and women's national collegiate tennis champions in its division. Sophomore Courtney Allen won the women's Division III title for the second year in a row, and freshman Toby Clark captured the men's crown.

This, in fact, is the first time both NCAA champions have come from the same institution in either Division II or Division III, while the only time it has ever occurred in Division I was a year ago, when Georgia's Mike Pernfors and Lisa Spain won the respective crowns.

The victory by Clark, a 5 ft. 4 in. whirlwind who was only No. 2 on his own team and was unseeded in the national tournament, was obviously something of an upset. But one person who wasn't that surprised when Toby's topspin baseline game outlasted six opponents, including the No. 3 and 5 seeds, was his coach, Larry Gerber. ``Toby just never seems to be intimidated,'' he said. ``He is always tenacious and aggressive. He doesn't have any moods on the court. He only gets more determined.''

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Allen, meanwhile, had to face the pressure which goes with being the defending champion. ``I give a lot of credit to Courtney for getting over the pressure,'' said her coach, Lyn Gerber DeLaney. ``The talk of the tournament was, `Can Courtney do it again?' She was able to come through on the crucial points, and that separates a great player from a good player.''

The coaching combination of father and daughter, both of whom have been prominent players and teachers for years in the St. Louis area, is also something of a rarity. Both attended Principia in their undergraduate days, holding down the No. 1 positions on their respective teams, and Larry was Lyn's coach as she came through the junior tournaments.

Principia players have qualified for the nationals five years in a row, and have reached the semifinals or finals the past three. The school won the women's team championship in 1983, and the women's doubles title in 1983 and 1984 before defending champions Allen and Suzy Verheul came in second this year.

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