Monday, April 7, 2014

The Second Half Begins. Big Weekend at Whitman Coming Up

Hello friends,

After a wonderful Spring Break trip, it is so good to be back on campus together again.  The joy in this team is the daily work we do and I was hoping we would continue to demonstrate the fruits of that work in our match play.  This is something the team certainly did this weekend at home versus George Fox and Lewis and Clark.

Both teams we have already played with resounding 9-0 wins on the road.  This time, I can't tell you how excited I was to get back into conference play and show that the competitive matches over break have resulted in many players finding a new level in their game.  There were certainly opportunities to play as Friday we rested Courtney to save a match date (she would have gone over from competing in the Fall National USTA/ITA event), Erin was out of town for a family event, and Olivia was taking her senior written exam.

Against George Fox, early rain gave way to mixed sun and clouds and we got to play outside; having 6 courts is a phenomenal upgrade and I still can't get over how beautiful the setting is to play.

No Better Place to Play - the view from the Rose Garden by Maxey Hall

We started out with some different doubles and it paid off in a sweep. Maddy and Tree were focused and aggressive at 1, Hannah and Jenna stayed tough at 2, and our all first year team crushed it at 3!  We carried that momentum into singles with highlights being Maggie stepping in at 6 with her Dad visiting from Maine and taking a solid straight set win!  Allie is back to full strength and is looking great and Hannah also performed in front of her Mom (thanks for coming Tom and Johanna!) with solid wins.  Tree and Maddy showed that moving up in the lineup was no problem as did Jenna who played some wonderful tennis getting a win at the #1 spot, way to go JD!

Saturday was our campus kids day and our young fans were treated to a rematch of last year's NWC tournament final.  LC is not the team they were, but they did get a key player back from injury and it bolstered their lineup especially at 2 doubles where San Francisco natives Katrina and Seana were outplayed to give LC their only point.  It is great to see Tree continue to grow as a leader and confident player; also for Seana I have been chomping at the bit to get her into some bigger and bigger doubles matches.  She has impressed all along and this match is one she knows that on a different day she and Tree have the tennis to win so I'm excited to see her continue to develop.  At one, Maddy and Court dominated and also did things we wanted them to after Spring Break, and at 3, Hannah and Allie outgunned their opponents with solid groundies and aggressive net play to put us up 2-1.

In singles, Courtney was back and dropped one game for a total of 2 on the day; seeing her tennis improve at this point in the season is perhaps one of the most exciting things on our team considering she has been at such a high level for so long.  Jenna took a break and Tree, Allie, and Hannah all kept the focus and efficiently worked through their matches to clinch it 5-2.  On court 6, Seana also rolled through her match, again, something she needed in her game was the composure to play her game against any opponent and when its in the top 6 sometimes people let the moment get to them.  This was a breakthrough for Seana who really stayed consistent mentally and had great energy winning 6-0, 6-2.  The closest match was court 4 where Maddy and her opponent both struggled for consistency in the first set with LC taking it.  Then, Maddy focused and came out strong in the second, going up 4-1 before her opponent stepped up to bring it back to 4-4.  At this point, both big hitting players were finally in their groove at the same time and the tennis was excellent.  Maddy finished off the set 6-4 and took that momentum into the match tie break, winning it 10-4 to give us an 8-1 win and a home sweep!

After the match, we enjoyed a clinic and games with local kids.  It is so much fun to give back and share in the enthusiasm of kids learning the game.  Thanks goes to the ITA and USTA for initiating these events!

We're now 8-0 in conference with 4 matches to go.  This weekend is a huge one as we square off with rival Whitworth who are 9-0 in conference and it marks the first dual match in the Wallin twins careers at their respective schools.

The match is at 2pm Saturday at Whitman and we also have senior/family/alumni weekend.  If you have RSVP'd, I'll be emailing you today with details, if not and you'd like to come, please contact me ASAP and we'll get you involved in:

Friday - Watch practice (4:30pm) and men's match (3pm)
Saturday - Whitworth match (2pm) and Dinner (7pm)
Sunday - Fun Tennis Day (10am)

Happy spring!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Spring Break Recap

Hello out there,

As I write this from the airport so much has happened since I last posted.  First, I apologize, I had a SB2014 preview written up but never uploaded it; I guess having too much fun on court and on our trip is a good thing, but apologies for that.

This season is so exciting for us on the team.  I really see us having turned a corner in how our program goes about our business.  We strive to maintain the family atmosphere, support, sportsmanship and FUN that are hallmarks of WC Tennis.  After two amazing seasons earning a national ranking and competing in NCAA's, we could have sat back and been satisfied or pushed on to see just how great we can be...guess what we chose.

Of course a group of talented, hard working, competitive young women would set our sights high.  It's exactly what I want as a coach of a program that is pursuing the national championship.  So, after showing our depth in conference rotating lineups, we were honored to get scheduled with some of the best programs in the country.  On the trip we went 1-4, posting a convincing win against NAIA Biola, dropping three lopsided matches to top 10 teams but feeling so close that we can taste that level, and then having one knock down drag out match against a team at a very similar level to us with #30 Denison coming out ahead 6-3.

The match recaps can be found on our school webpage thanks to the outstanding work of Jordan Paden and writing by Roy Elia.  What I want to share with you from this trip is a little insight into our family.  I call it family because not only is the team family, but our parents, siblings, friends, aunts uncles, alums and everyone who is a part of our lives becomes a part of our team family.  Our experience this week was amazing, we competed incredibly hard, played outstanding tennis, learned many lessons and had a ton of fun together.  It would not have been nearly the success it was without our families.  Thank you Annie and Bob Webster for unreal hospitality and match support.  We also made a day up the coast and had so much fun with the Dobrin's, who also really brought the positive vibes to our matches.  Anne Bell, Alice Allick and the whole Palkowitz family you guys were all amazing giving us a lift each day and making it feel like home on the road.

To walk you through the week, we finished midterms and powered our weary minds through two NWC victories on our lovely outdoor courts.  With a day off we flew to California for a match with #7 Bowdoin.  The Polar Bears were tough and deep, winning 9-0 with a huge highlight being Jenna's first set against a top 50 player.  She couldn't quite pull out the tiebreak, but with Morgan out, Jenna stepped into the 2 spot and Erin into #3 and both played wonderfully.  Maddy was our Whittie of the Match with intense high level doubles and great maturity and smarts in singles; she is also our most vocal supporter and we love her energy on court as much as her big shots.

After a day off, we started the first Hen Athena Classic in Claremont.  Huge thanks to the CMS and PP coaches and players for opening up their facilities not just for dual matches, but for a tournament of dual matches.  So, while there were not brackets and a ton of teams played over three days, there was a fun evening of food and coaches doubles (CPatt stepped up and we had so much fun playing) as well as sportswoman of the day awards and a championship for the team with the best winning percentage over the weekend.

We started with Denison on Friday.  What a battle!  We could have come out stronger in dubs, but they were really solid and Erin and Tree saved us a point at #2 to keep us in it, then spread out with the 6 singles and plenty of exhibitions, we started clawing our way back (pun intended) as CLaw took her match in straight sets to make it 2-2.  Erin's opponent stepped up and put DU back up 3-2 with a straight set win and Allie was right in both sets losing 6-4,6-4 putting our backs against the wall 2-4.  So, with Morgan, Jenna and Maddy each splitting sets, we knew we had a chance, but needed all three.  The tennis on court 2 with Jenna was incredible and back and forth, Morgan looked strong to start her third going up 4-1; unfortunately, after an amazing second set from Maddy, Denison came back strong and clinched the match at #5.  The remaining matches were split giving DU a 6-3 win.  The match took almost 5 hours of hotly contested tennis.  I hate to lose, but love these intense matches and am so impressed not just with the heart and character of our team, but also with the level of tennis!  Lil Mo was awarded the sportswoman of the day for her amazing effort, playing through pain to win the longest match of the day, all while exhibiting the class and respect that we see each day. Congrats Morgan who was also our Whittie of the Match for her inspiring performance.

Saturday morning was a different story.  Amherst is ranked #4, but is absolutely one of the top teams in the country.  They were clinical in executing in both doubles and singles and it was a match we learned a lot from because we saw in them a more polished version of ourselves which will be motivating as we enter the home stretch of the season.  Bouncing back from a tough day, Erin demonstrated amazing composure both with Tree in doubles and in singles not just fighting but starting to be able to change gears in matches but also trust her usual plays.

Sunday against Pomona Pitzer, we knew we were facing one of the top teams in the West who will challenge anyone in the country and had already defeated Bowdoin 5-4, Redlands 5-4 and #6 Middlebury 8-1.  Undaunted, we came out with intensity and played a match that was much closer than the 8-1 score would indicate.  Certainly, PP plays terrific doubles and carried that momentum into singles, but the tennis was so competitive and was highlighted by a wonderful match at #1 that Courtney pulled out in a third set match tie break.  Seeing Courtney play her tennis is always so much fun to watch and this was a day where she wouldn't have gotten the win without really stepping up and she did that by executing the plays she has worked so hard on in practice.  Courtney was our Whittie of the Match and Jenna was named Sportswoman of the day by the tournament committee for her high level of play, wonderful fight and unwavering positive and respectful spirit in intense situations.  I'm so honored to have so many players who exhibit these qualities daily and to play with opponents who do the same.

The week was a great success and we are proud of what we accomplished but also remain hungry to improve and earn more matches with top teams because we know the breakthrough on the scoreboard is coming.

Thanks again to all of those who supported us from near and far, the families who helped keep us fed, housed and happy and the opponents who shared such wonderful competition with us.

We are off for a week and then host two home weekends and have one more road trip in our quest for a NWC title and to host the conference tournament (we are currently 6-0 in NWC play).

Best wishes to all!
Coach John

Monday, March 10, 2014

Rolling along in Conference and Getting Ready for SB 2k14

We have had a wonderful start to our conference season.  The Northwest conference has definitely gotten tougher and deeper over the 6 seasons I've been at Whitman.  When I assistant coached at UC Santa Cruz from 1999-2003, Linfield was tops in the NWC with Whitman, Whitworth, UPS, PLU and Willamette all close behind.  So, if you could get a match with one of them and beat them, you pretty much stayed above the NWC.

Now, it's great to see our teams winning out of conference, improving our regional rankings and representing at NCAA's and in the national rankings.  Last year was a wonderful ascencion to the forefront of the pack and as we fought our way into the national top 20 and have stayed there (currently #16 after close losses to #5 CMS and #14 LaVerne), the team is really taking each match as a challenge to be a top team nationally in every respect of the game.  So, if that is losing a tough but wonderfully intense and well played match vs LaVerne, coming out on top of a thrilling 5-4 match with Linfield, or playing the ultra dominant tennis we did against a solid George Fox and a rebuilding Lewis and Clark team a week ago, we work hard to maintain our attitude, focus and intensity.

I can't say enough how hard it is in athletics when you're up on the scoreboard or the match is decided to do this, and the way we've practiced and played our 4 NWC matches (4-0 baby!), I couldn't be prouder of the weekly improvement this team is showing.

So, we thoroughly enjoyed a weekend off while our men hosted a wonderful quad of dual matches with #4 CMS, #8 Trinity (TX), #12 UC Santa Cruz.  Hats off to all these great men's teams for demonstrating not just a high level of tennis but also wonderful sportsmanship and comraderie in combining intensity with respect the way sports are meant to be played.  Huge kudos to our Whitman Men on taking down my alma mater UCSC today, hanging tough with arguably the best team in D3 (CMS) and going down to the wire in a 4-5 barnburner with Trinity.  Coach Jeff Northam is a wonderful guiding light for all Whitman athletics and we are proud to share courts with him and his guys, what a terrific weekend Jeff.

The guys also warmed up our BRAND NEW outdoor courts with the first dual matches there, beating NWC contender Pacific and playing CMS in front of our wonderful home fans who line the courts with the great energy that flows from the Whitman community.

We hope to continue building that energy this weekend as we take on regional #17 PLU (5-0 on the season so far!) Friday at 4pm and then regional #16 UPS (3-1 so far) Saturday at 1pm, followed immediately by a tilt with Bellevue Community college.

It's a terrific opportunity to get tough conference matches and set our minds towards Spring Break in CA where we have our best schedule possibly ever, and it will also allow us to give everyone meaningful matches so I couldn't be more excited.

Enjoy the week and thanks for supporting and following WhitWomen's Tennis!

Coach John

Friday, February 28, 2014

Matches in Portland This Weekend

Just a quick note that we have two matches in Portland this weekend!

Sat 3/1 at George Fox in Newberg 11am (if dry) -
*if wet we will start at 12:30 at Tualatin Hills Parks and Rec on Walker Road in Beaverton

Sun 3/2 at Lewis and Clark College 10am

If you're in the area, come on out (or in) and show your Whittie pride!  If you're in Walla Walla, watch some baseball or enjoy our #1 nationally ranked women's basketball team in the NWC tournament final vs Whitworth as they look to qualify for NCAA's!