Monday, April 18, 2016

It's Playoff Time!!!

Hello Tennis Fans!

It is that magical time of year when we celebrate what we've done and look to the coming weekend of playoff tennis.  Our journey this year has been incredible as we have come so far and learned so much.  With a challenging national schedule and three D1 matches in there, we have passed many tests to remain in the top 25 nationally in D3 and are building our momentum for the days ahead.

Our final tuneup for the postseason came with two resounding conference wins over Puget Sound and Pacific Lutheran.  We played a terrific match against UPS and fought through a slow doubles start to gut out a 2-1 lead and roll through singles versus PLU to get an 8-1 win.  It was also an incredible experience to play D1 Seattle University on their home courts outside in Seattle.  With families, friends and alums cheering us on, we had a great win by Allie and Lindsey at #3 doubles and Cello and Jenna were right there at #2 while their #1 team did a great job against Hanna and Mary.  In singles it was Allie again getting us a point with a terrific 3 set battle.  But every match was terrific.  Cello and Jenna each had really high level tennis with Cello coming back from 0-4 in the second to push it to a tie break, it was so good seeing how both of them competed and hit their shots so freely.  Mary had a slow start but then went toe to toe with a great player at #2 and the final matches on were battles from the start.  Lil J went up 3-0 before her opponent cut down errors and hit bigger as the battled each set 6-3,6-3.  Lori was last on and after dropping a close first set, found a way to break her big serving opponent for a 7-5 second set and she carried that momentum into the match tie break.

From our previous D1 matches where we competed but couldn't get points, this was a big improvement and shows the hard work the team has put in.  We also couldn't be more excited to play the conference tournament right now where we have wins over two of the teams and from a 2-7 loss early to Lewis and Clark, we are headed in the right direction with a narrow 4-5 loss a couple weeks ago.  We are certainly focused on Linfield who has everyone healthy and is a great team deserving of their national ranking so I hope you can come watch us play in Portland this weekend as we look each day to enjoy the moment and extend our season!

Championship Schedule at Lewis and Clark College

Saturday, April 23 - Semifinals at L&C

10am                 #1 Lewis & Clark vs. #4 Whitworth
Not before 2pm   #2 Whitman vs. #3 Linfield

Sunday, April 24 - Championship Match at L&C
10am                     semifinal winners




Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Saving the best for last....or is it just getting started

Hello everyone,

Today at Whitman is Whitman Undergraduate Conference Day.  If you're not a Whittie and don't know about this event, it is one of the things that makes our liberal arts education so special.  Without graduate students at Whitman, our professors (who are experts in their fields) need help conducting research and value teaching so students do a ton of work at a really high level.  This ranges from senior seminar papers/projects to a senior thesis to research or study conducted by students with professor or student grants etc.

The bottom line is that Whitman students do amazing work and one day a year the college stops classes and the whole campus is involved in presentations of this work.  Today, Jenna moderated a panel themed, "Our town, Our times" and gave a presentation on a project she did titled, "Who's Framing Whom? Critical Analysis of Jay Z and Beyonce Meeting the Mona Lisa"  How's that for an econ major (who has passed her senior exams!!!).  During the all campus lunch, Cello who plays in the Jazz Ensemble performed at the Reid Campus center, so there is music, science, social science and just about everything you can think of students doing...what a day!

Okay, enough excitement about school, last weekend we had a one match and following a great week of practice, we played our last home regular season match vs Pacific.  This is a talented team that we knew would be tough, especially at the top of the lineup and in doubles.  Through the years, I've seen teams go through matches relying on depth or talent and the result is often good, but the goal of our team each day is to use every minute we have together on court to keep improving.  Sunday was an absolute celebration of that attitude.

We got out quickly in doubles sweeping the three counting matches plus the exhibition where Lil J and Jana played brilliant attacking doubles to win 8-0.  All other teams won 8-3 and our habits are really coming out!  In singles, there was no drop, rather we stepped it up with the dangerous 1-3 matches all going our way in straight sets.  I'm so proud of Jenna as a senior to play two brilliant sets in front of friends and teammates at 1.  Mary and Allie were just as good at 2 and 3. Cello and Lindsey rested while Lil J and Lori were efficient at 4 and 5 and Jana started strong, hiccuped a bit in the second set and reset herself brilliantly to take the third set 6-1.  Hanna went inside for an exhibition and was the first done 6-0,6-1.

I'm incredibly proud of the team on and off the court, we have more fun each week as they get used to the habits or competing together as champions and growing together each day and week.

This weekend we have an exciting weekend in Tacoma/Seattle.  If you're in the area, let me know as we'd love to see you at matches and are working on a team/supporter dinner Saturday night in Seattle.

Saturday we play at 9am at UPS then go to Seattle University for a showdown with the D1 Redhawks.

If you'll be at the matches or are interested in joining us for dinner Saturday night, please email me at heinj@whitman.edu

Sunday we play PLU at Sprinker Recreation Center in Tacoma at 10:30am.

This is the final regular season matches for our team and then we play the Northwest Conference Tournament.  More info after this weekend, but in all likelyhood we will travel to Lewis and Clark where the Pios will host the top 4 conference teams.  We would be slated to play in Portland at LC Saturday 4/23 at 2pm in the second semifinal of the day.  The finals will be Sunday 4/24 at 10am with an NCAA bid on the line.

We hope to see you soon!
John

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Family/Alumni/Senior Weekend in Walla Walla

It was an amazing weekend of tennis. Our Wonderful WhitWomen demonstrated awesome improvement and after a 2-7 score the first time with Lewis and Clark, we had a terrific hard fought, well played 4-5 match that came down to 3rd sets at 5 and 6. Our sophomores showed how good they are with Hanna leading Mary to a strong win at 1 dubs and Lil J and Lindsey fought side by side in gutsy 3rd sets, Linds fighting through cramping to win 6-4 and Jenna coming incredibly close in a tough 4-6 third set.

Our family/alum/senior dinner was so special thanks to the planning by Coach Maddy and the amazing hosting of Christy (Lindquist) and Jay Krutulis. Thanks so so much! The team put together a great tribute for Katrina and Jenna.

The whole crew at dinner..more photos on the flickr site

This team plays such amazing tennis, but it is so special to have amazing support from our alums and families. Thanks to locals Jayne and Jim, Jay and Christy, and Kate KP for coming out as well as the Schuellers (WC superfans and super smart math profs).
Sunday we bounced back in a big way, taking down a very tough George Fox team who we beat 6-3 in February. This time we got the doubles sweep and carried it to an 8-1 win. This team continues to show that they learn from EVERY experience and can apply it to the next match. Cello, Lori and Jana were especially on fire, all winning singles and dubs in convincing fashion. For Allie and Lil J, they also got double wins, which is super tough against a good team the day after leaving every bit of physical, mental and emotional strength on the court the day before before LC. I'm so proud of each and every player, without all of them we would not be the team we are or be in such a great position to continue this special journey together.

Our families who traveled included Jana's dad Heath (sorry, Dr. Miller), the Gilberts, the Wallin's, the Dobrin's, Alice Allick, Val Brodeck. You're all so wonderful and to all those who couldn't make it we missed you!

We're working (well mostly Maddy is) to make this a special event each year, so to have alums Amy K-P, Steven Ly, Seth Dawson, Emily Rolston all come out and share great times with us was so special!

And most of all, anything I'm able to do to help this team improve, learn and have a good time happens because Jen is so loving and supportive.

Thanks everyone.

John

Upcoming events:
1)Sunday 4/10 10am Home vs Pacific

2)Saturday 4/16 9am at Univ Puget Sound
Saturday 4/16 3pm at Seattle University
*Team/Family/Alum/Friend Dinner TBA in Seattle - contact John if you're interested!

3) NWC Championships (Likely at Lewis and Clark if they win out)
Saturday 4/23 Semifinals (probably 2pm?)
Sunday 4/24 Finals 10am
*The playoffs are elimination so this is what we've been working for, to play each match as our last and extend our season into the NCAA's and see how far we can go!




Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Spring Break 2016 – A Full Heart After a Full Trip

It is with such wonderful pleasure that I sit down to write about our Spring Break this year.  I love that in college tennis, as good as one year is, the next is fresh and new as the people on the team change and grow.  Growth has really been the theme of our season this year.  It’s something that I’m really proud of in our program overall, that our players improve so much on court and learn so much as people.  This year’s team has been incredible because of the immense talent that they bring and the strong desire to push themselves to constantly be better and find out how good we can be.  This requires a certain mindset of loving the process of growth.  This process is inherently full of both pain and joy.  After what was an outstanding start to the season through our non-conference matches, the Winter Classic and the first half of our conference season, if there was one thing I wanted from the team it was for them to enjoy how great they are and how far they’ve come in such a short time.  This theme of being fully present in the moment and celebrating success as well as responding positively to failure really came to fruition over this week.

We had a two-part spring break this year.  Starting in Portland, we faced the task of coming off of midterms, driving and playing teams we’d already played.  Against Willamette, who we previously beat 9-0, the challenge was to start with great energy and focus and not take them for granted.  We did exactly that, winning 9-0 again, rotating our lineup and playing really solid tennis. 

This effort spilled over into the next day as we completed our home and home with Linfield.  After a really great home win 7-2 in February, we took 2 of 3 doubles to start strong, but Linfield looked hungry taking all three first sets (match on 3 courts indoors at Linfield) at #1,2 and 3.  The positive response from our team was incredible, with Allie and Mary both fighting back to win in 3 sets and with our depth, even though JD lost, being up 4-2 with three matches to go was huge for us.  Jenna’s journey this year has been an incredible one that continues to inspire and motivate us all.  Coming into the year, she and I may have been the only people who really knew what she would face as our #1 and the hunger and excitement JD brought to that challenge propelled her to the best tennis of her life.  After rehabbing a mild injury, Jenna was not at her best this day, but used the match to rebuild her game and by the end, she was firing at a level that could beat anyone in the country again.  Our depth was truly on display as Cello, Lil J and Hanna all won in straight sets.  The ability of the sophomores to step up at this point in the season has been so huge for us because it’s allowed our talented first years room to develop at a pace that can be sustained and built on continuously all season and throughout their Whitman careers.

In the end, it was another 7-2 win, this one on the road after midterms was even more impressive to me and it gave us a great boost before heading to California to run our win streak to 5 straight matches.  I also can’t thank enough the parents who cheered us on, kept us fed (thanks Val and Ken!) and the Farrell and Whittaker families for hosting us. 

After the Linfield match, there was time for a quick shower, a hello to super alum/fan/W Club board member Lynn McKelvey, and of course a trip to Portland wouldn’t be the same without Salt and Straw ice cream!  Then it was on a plane to California!
Salt and Straw in Portland

Love our personality on and off the court!
Our week in California started with fun times with the Webster’s in Long Beach and with a trip to the BNP Paribas pro tournament at Indian Wells with the Greenberg’s.  If you’re a tennis fan, you have to go to Indian Wells at some point, what a terrific event and memorable experience for our team.  We capped off our two days off with a practice at USC’s new facility thanks to Maddy’s longtime coach and friend Peter Smith and then had an amazing dinner with the Dobrin’s.
Enjoying practice at USC with Peter

At the BNP Paribas in Indian Wells
We then hunkered down in Claremont for 4 exciting matches.  We started off with one of our best team efforts of the year, playing a terrific match to win over #36 UT Tyler 9-0!  I was so proud of the doubles energy and great efforts especially from Hanna and Lil J who each played really good dubs and then had to battle in long singles matches; the grit on display was tremendous from all, especially these two.  It was a great day for both Allie and Lindsey.  Allie really being the captain we needed in dubs and then rolling with great confidence in singles and Lindsey winning the first singles point by finding her game early and not giving the Patriots any room to comeback.  These two really know and trust their games and that really propelled us in doubles and singles.

Team support is key for us and here is the team supporting Jana vs CMS
The next day we played #4 CMS on their courts.  This was a great measuring stick for us as the Athena’s really utilized their talent and athleticism well and made very few mistakes.  We felt right with them, but also learned a lot in a tough 9-0 loss.  It was a match that will help everyone build on their mental toughness as we just gave away too many free points.  Lori came away with an exhibition win and JD and Mary battled one of the nations best 1-2 combos incredibly well in competitive matches.

Watching the Whitman Men play #2 CMS - did this fan base lead Phil and Zach to a win at #1 doulbes....
Friday was our third match in 3 days and though Vassar has had some tough losses to drop them out of the rankings, they are a very good team and we found ourselves in an intense battle from the start. A huge win from Hanna and Mary kept us in it after dubs down 1-2.  Allie is so often at the heart of our success and is so central to who we are as she demands incredible sportsmanship and support from herself and the team; and she went to work winning in straight sets and displaying her leadership and improved calm under pressure to tie things up.  Lindsey never really got into her groove, but gave everything a coach could ask for in her match so we were down 3-2.  The other straight set matches had Lori (who has steadily been displaying outstanding performances to earn a big top 6 match) blitzing through the first set 6-0, then fighting her way through a second set tie break 8-6 for a straight set win.  JD on court one battled in two long close sets but lost so with Mary and Cello in third sets, we needed them both.  I was on the bottom courts so didn’t see Mary’s match, but the cheers of our team and our Men’s team who all came to watch told me, she was winning in the third.  Mary has been so solid for us and every week, we see the payoff for her hard work at practice as her habits get better and better and keep her in matches until her natural instincts take over.  
So it came down to 4-4 with only Cello’s match on.  In team tennis, you have to have awareness of the whole match but somehow stay focused on the points you are playing.  Cello lost her first set 0-6, but maintained a positive attitude and belief in her game which propelled her into a third set which she led from the start.  Midway, her opponent played two great games to retake the lead and serve for the match at 5-4.  Undaunted, Cello combined offense and defense to break and hold and then she fought for one last break to win 7-5 in the third and clinch us the match.  5-4 matches that come down to the final set can be terrifying, or as I see them, super fun.  It means on this day the two teams are neck and neck and the final match is a closely contested one.  This day, it was an incredible match where both players played well, were composed, had great sportsmanship and it came down to a couple points here and there.  I’m so happy for the team and for Cello in fighting this match out, applying the lessons learned in previous matches and really going after it when it counted.  The way she played this match was more important than the win, but the win for the team is huge in continuing to have confidence and believe in all scenarios.


The match was over, but Lil J still battled at #7 and the team still supported in yellow!
With three great matches under our belts we had a light practice and day off before fishing vs #14 Chicago.  This is a team I’ve never coached against, but they are a very talented group and I couldn’t wait to play them.  In this test, at the end of a long trip, against a higher ranked team I am so happy that the match was such a battle.  We ended up losing 8-1 with another impressive performance from Cello, but JD and Mary went three sets and we won the 7 and 8 matches with Lori and Jana winning in straight sets.  These two matches were huge for us as Lori continues to grow and need challenges so we can figure out just how good she is right now - this was a great indication that her steady, positive diligent work is coming through on court.  Jana’s match was especially gratifying because she has been a model team player while working to adjust her style of play.  The work she’s putting in is starting to show up more and more consistently and this was a big time affirmation of that – so look out for this incredibly talented super athletic Whittie. Allie played another good match losing to a great player who had a great day and Lindsey got her rythym back in two well played sets while Lil J also played her best match of the week, nearly fighting it into a third set.  Our doubles is really coming around and it didn’t show on the scoreboard, but Mary and Hanna continue to improve at 1, Cello and JD are sitting at the edge of a huge breakthrough and the Allie/Lindsey and Lil J/Jana teams are both finding their identity and provide us with great doubles depth.  All in all, this match could have swung the other way and it shows that we’re in a terrific place heading into April and our final three weekends of conference play.

I’ve done a lot of team trips and they are all special, but this one felt like such an amazing team experience on and off court, where each day was truly meaningful in providing wonderful tennis, great times together, and an appreciation for the amazing support we have.  I love coaching this team. In particular, the constant growth keeps me so hungry to get back on the court together, to learn, improve, and mostly to enjoy every moment playing together.

Thank you so much to the team for your outstanding character and attitudes, to our families and friends for beyond incredible support and to our men’s team for getting us through the Vassar match and being such an awesome team to share this experience with.  Most of all, this would not have been near the trip it was without the superhuman efforts in all areas from Coach Maddy.  Seeing her grow from a player and leader on court into a seasoned coach gives me joy beyond what I can express in writing.

We’re now in the midst of a week off (YES, IT IS NOT JUST A GREAT RECRUITING TOOL TO HAVE A 2 WEEK SPRING BREAK, BUT A NECESSARY BREAK IN THE LONG COLLEGE TENNIS SPRING), and I can’t wait to practice Monday and get ready for our senior/family/alumnae weekend April 2-3rd when we rematch #19 Lewis and Clark and up and coming George Fox at home.  If you plan to be there, please let me or Coach Maddy know, we’d love to share the good times and some special events with you.

With tennislove from Walla Walla,

John