Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fall ITA at Whitman so Plan Ahead

Just a quick note about next fall, we are hosting the Fall Regional ITA tournament Sep 25-27. If you're like Alyssa and ready to swing into action, I'd suggest looking early for lodging. During this beautiful time of year any weekend in Walla Walla will be busy, but it is a reunion weekend at Whitman, which will make the feel on campus that much more exciting, but the competition for rooms that much more intense.

Long term planners, get your calendars out, I hope to see you on campus as we look to start next season off strong.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Big Omission from my last message

In writing up the tennis events of the weekend I neglected to mention the amazing W Club event that we had. Our athletic booster club joined forces with Whitman Alum John Adkinson and his wife Maureen to have a post tournament BBQ at their wonderful home in Yakima. Both teams, parents, alums and supporters enjoyed great hospitality and so I have to send this follow up to thank Cathy, John, Maureen, and Dean for putting this on.

Go Whitman!

Second at NWC Tournament, Lot's of First's

FIRST, the good news.

We finished our 2009-2010 season on a great note at the Yakima Tennis Club playing in the final match against Whitworth while our men's team was right next to us taking FIRST in their draw and advancing to the NCAA national tournament. We had our FIRST win over Linfield since 01-02 in the semi's, we earned two FIRST team All NWC players in Alyssa Roberg and Elise Otto (go Show Pony and Twitch!) and I was voted to my FIRST NWC Coach of the year award, which is a truly humbling honor that is a reflection of the wonderful students that I am fortunate enough to coach.

Now, to the second. In windy conditions that took us a little longer to adjust to than Whitworth, we went down early in #2 doubles and played from a game behind for most of the match at 3. To their credit, our seniors showed their mettle and played the type of doubles that would have won them the match, unfortunately, they were already down 6-1, and ended up losing 8-3. Next, Wolverine and Sabertooth (Kate and Em) could not quite claw and bite their way back into the proset, falling 8-5. Going down 3-0 would have been an absolute disaster and as all of the players and fans descended on the stadium court for the conclusion of 1 doubles, Show Pony and Twitch had just earned a break and then responded to the pressure and crowd by playing their best games of the match to score an 8-5 win. Alyssa was prancing even after spraining her ankle in the Pacific match and she made some huge serves, smart groundstrokes and poaches so big you would think she was over 6 feet tall with all the court she covered. As a team, they had talked about the need to own the net with the windy conditions and Elise's volley game had fans wowing and Whitworth wondering as we pulled the match score to 1-2.

In singles, we had 5 courts at the main part of the Yakima tennis club and a contingent led by assistant coach extraordinaire Katie went to the upper courts a few hundred yards away and completely out of site for the #6 match. At the lower courts, Div put the finishing touches on a stellar Whitman career avenging her only conference losses of the season in straight sets with a smart blend of offense and defensive tennis. I need to do some final counting, but Div has over 130 wins (singles and doubles) over 4 years and might be the winningest Whittie Woman that we have on record (a summer project for me to find out).

Emily was next to her and while her doubles struggles carried through her first set she showed wonderful composure and nearly fought back in the second. Emily had a tremendous sophomore season and is not showing any signs of leveling off as she gets better and better, proving that she is a force in singles and doubles in our lineup.

Hadley and Elise played side by side and the score does not do justice to Hadley's efforts. She will be the first to admit that she can play better, but her opponent deserves the credit as her consistent topspin was a perfect game for yesterday's windy conditions. Like Div, Hadley has accomplished so much in 4 years and I am so proud to call myself her coach, she is such an amazing player, student and person so look for great things from her post-graduation.

With the score overall 4-2, Elise knew we needed every point and was pumped up to be able to provide that spark. What was most gratifying to me, however, was that at the start of the season Twitch and I talked about her goals for the season and without going into the secret details, she absolutely stuck with her plan for the season and it paid off with a conference tournament where she went 3-0 in doubles and 3-0 in singles, doing it all the way she wanted to, which is a testament to her persistence, work ethic and ability.

At 4-3 overall, word had come down from above that Kate lost the first but was super close in the second. Alyssa fought back from a 0-3 first set to be up 6-5, when fellow first team all NWC selection Rachel Burns found a way to fight into the tiebreak and battle out a hardfought 7-5 win. Needing two 3 set comebacks from two freshman, we absolutely were in it as Kate went to a second set tiebreak knowing that her fitness in a 3rd would be an advantage. I didn't see the tiebreak, but Katie told me how well Kate fought and how much of a battle it was. Unfortunately for us, another 7-5 tie break went to the Conference Champions and we halted Alyssa's second set as Whitworth took the match 5-3 and earned the Automatic qualification (AQ) to the NCAA DIII national tournament next month.

This has truly been an amazing season, not only were we talented, hard working and fun, but we showed a level of team spirit, determination and sportsmanship that continually inspired me as a coach and teacher.

In Yakima this weekend we were so lucky to have our men's team there, they are a huge force as fans and role models as they cheer and compete with intensity and integrity, congrats to Jeff and his guys for winning the tournament and advancing to the NCAA's! We also had such amazing parents; the Kaur's, Rolston's, Rosemary Otto, Mark DeBree, and the Kunkel's were amazing fans and support and kept us fed and happy the whole time. An extra special thank you goes out to Annie Kunkel who Friday night fed BOTH Whitman teams and all the parents and our amazing staff that was at the tournament. It was a feast and also a feat that I don't quite understand, but somehow Annie pulled it off and made it look easy. Being the tournament hosts, we had great fans with Alums including Alex and staff with Dave Holden (our amazing SID), Brooke Kennedy, who did the best job of any trainer I've witnessed at a big tournament like this and she did it all by herself, Dean Snider our AD, and Brett Axelrod, Whitman Alum and Soccer assistant coach who worked tirelessly all weekend to keep the facilities tip top and also got a ton of video and photos that I can't wait to see and share.

And to all those who couldn't attend, but sent your wishes, it meant a lot as we concluded our most successful season since 2002 with the promise of only moving forward in the future.

My next posts will be less frequent but I will keep you up to date with photos, end of season accolades and any other news from the courts and classrooms in Walla Walla.

Thanks for reading and following us!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Pacific and Linfield down, one more to go

Hello from Yakima Washington. Today was the first day of the Conference tournament to decide who goes to the NCAA tournament. I don't want the team to think I'm staying up too late as they should be getting to sleep NOW, so I'll write this and then get some rest myself.

We started the day with a first round match against Pacific. I always talk about how talented and spirited this boxer team is and they gave us a terrific match, but we followed a doubles sweep including an 8-6 win at 3 and a tiebreak at 1 (down 5-7!) to a 5-0 victory when the other matches were pulled. Singles was very tough because as Div rolled, everyone else battled and when Elise clinched it, we were just gaining real momentum with Charlotte having won the first and Kate up a set with Hadley and Emily in tight matches.

After having lunch and a quick rest, we turned around to face Linfield and the opposite of our last match happened. This time after being up at every spot, they stormed back to take 2 and 3 and a huge effort from Alyssa and Elise at 1 against a great team kept us in it. Again, Div was a star, finishing in straight sets to even the match. Alyssa got down a set and went up 4-1 before Abby from Linfield dug in and fought out a win. Now down 3-2 in matches, we needed some huge performances and Emily Rolston was the Whittie to provide the spark, while everyone battled, she took Div's court and was flipping the scorecards faster than anyone else and came off with a convincing win to tie it 3-3. With Elise up a set and a break and Kate and Hadley each down a set, we needed some third set magic. Hadley stepped up to force a third and fought like a champion, but fell 4-6. Meanwhile Elise lost her break, but broke again in a LONG 5-4 game to knot things at 4. With a wonderful crowd roaring, Kate tightened her game up and took the second set. Unfortunately, her opponent started cramping, which can be an advantage, but can also distract lots of players. Not KKP, who stuck to her plan and worked incredibly hard through the third, to stay focused was an absolute rock. As a coach I want our team to be known for our fitness and toughness and to win the deciding match with fitness was so special.

So, my first coaching win against Linfield (as a head coach, that is) and it was sweet as it sets us up for a lunch date with Whitworth for the trip to nationals tomorrow. We play at noon side by side with our men's team who valiantly held off a talented and experienced PLU team.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Finishing Strong

Hello Whitman Sportsfans,

As the close to our regular season we drew two exciting home matches for our Family/Alumni weekend and Seniors final home matches. Before I get into the tennis I would love to acknowledge the love and support of this extended family that this weekend included not only the team and our wonderful campus community but many of you who traveled to Walla Walla.

Yesterday we defeated Lewis and Clark (OR) by a count of 6-3 with the entire DeBree family watching their daughters battle it out in doubles (Hadley and Div getting the W)and only an injury to top Pio Amalia Nilsson kept them apart in singles. But the DeBree's weren't alone with many of our team being cheered on by parents, siblings and fellow Whitties (thanks SAAC for bribing so many students to the courts with Otter Pops).

After the match, we adjourned across the street to Baker Faculty Center, a wonderful old house on campus used for events and receptions. There we enjoyed hanging out, refueling and celebrating the great (and extremely crazy and funny) years of Hadley and Div. One of the hardest jobs I've had this year has been trying not to think of them being gone. It is amazing how attached you get to players and these two, in Zoe's words, have been the heart and soul of this team.

The most fitting way to honor them, besides having a great time and showering them with gifts, was to come out today and earn third place in what has become a much deeper and stronger conference than even a year ago. Standing in our way were the Bearcats of Willamette. Again, anchored by our seniors, we got a 2-1 lead after doubles and again Div was focused from the start to notch her 129th win for Whitman with a 6-0.6-0 victory. Elise followed with a great 2 and 2 win to put us up 4-1. Alyssa, playing the Northwest's top singles player, showed that she belongs right at the top as well playing some beautiful tennis in a losing effort that closed the gap to 4-2. It was fitting that the match was decided by Hadley as she pulled out a straight set win.

Kate was off quickly to extend the lead and Emily gave the fans a final thrill with a 10-7 match tiebreak win. This is the time of year when you want to be playing your best and this weekend was fun and we improved our team score over both of these tough opponents.

As the 3 seed at conference, this Friday in Yakima, WA we will play #6 Pacific at 8am, with the winner to play Linfield in the semi's in the afternoon. There is a W Club event Saturday evening at the conclusion of the tournament which should be a lot of fun as they've done tailgates at basketball and soccer and now its Tennis time!

Hope to see you in Yakima,


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Another nailbiter in McMinnville

Well folks, Happy Easter (and KKP Bday) to all who celebrate it. If you were following Zoe's twitter updates, you know the excitement and drama we went through yesterday must have rivaled that of the NCAA DI final four basketball.

We suffered a narrow 5-4 defeat (scores) at the hands of a hot Linfield team. On Friday, while we played a very solid match to beat a spirited and talented Pacific team 9-0, Linfield swept doubles and went on to beat the defending conference champion Whitworth who were previously undefeated in conference play this year.

That made our doubles play all the more satisfying, going up 2-1. At #1, we got down a break and in her final home match of an illustrious career, Linfield Senior Sallie Katter served huge and partner Abby Olbrich was solid all over the court to hang on for an 8-5 win over Elise and Alyssa who never quite found their rhythm as a team. At #2 dubs, we absolutely created our own rhythm with seniors Div and Hadley playing with unrelenting focus and fun to win 8-2. The closest match then became #3, where Emily and Kate hung tough and worked their way to an 8-6 victory to put us up 2-1.

The momentum was quickly regained by Linfield on their 3 indoor courts as their top two players played very smart and clean tennis. Abby Olbrich at 1 switched from offense to defense at all the right times and it was not a good day for Alyssa to be a little off in a 6-4,6-2 loss. As in doubles, a ton of credit goes to Sallie Katter for playing great tennis at #2 against Elise. It wasn't a great day for either of our top two, but in those spots everyone is so good that we know we have to bring our best every time and being a little off will quickly be exploited as it was yesterday.

At #3, Hadley played brilliant tennis, which is the norm for her, but she was just not consistent enough to come out on top and she lost by scores of 6-3,6-4 in a closely contested two set match.

So, from up 2-1 feeling great, we send out Div, Em and Kate needing a sweep in the final three. An even bigger hole was dug as Kate pulled out a long first set 6-4, but Emily and Div each dropped their first sets, so we needed some 3 set efforts.

As in doubles, Div was the first to do her part as she recovered from a quick 0-3 hole in the first set to come back to 4-6 and carry that momentum into the second, winning it 6-3 and showing why she is such a tough player to play against. Just as Div gained the momentum and was really feeling it for the split, Emily was now down 3-5 in the second. With the match on her racket and her back against the wall, she found an extra level of focus and fought off at least one amazing match point where she had to hit multiple overheads and finish with a drop volley. That kind of composure pulled her to 4-5 back on serve as Div went for some water before the third. As was so frustrating all day, Emily again went down, this time 0-40, and again she fought back 3 match (team and individual) points to get the game to deuce. Somehow, wildcat Sarah Watanabe found a way to lock down two points and the win for Linfield leaving us disappointed in McMinnville.

Then, with incredible fortitude, Div was able to control her match tie break 10-4 and Kate repeated her first set for a 6-4, 6-4 victory to pull us back to 4-5. It was a great match to be at and I give Linfield a lot of credit because if they play like that, we (and any other team) will need to really step up to get them at the conference tournament in Yakima in two weeks.

This weekend is our final match weekend and also our Family and Alumni weekend where we will play Lewis and Clark on 2pm on Saturday and Willamette at 9am on Sunday. The weekend will also include a dinner Saturday, so please contact me if you are coming so I know who will be here as we look to lock down 3rd place in conference and honor our seniors as well as enjoy each others company around some great tennis.

Thanks for reading,

Friday, April 2, 2010

Change of plans...same result

Today we drove to the Portland area to play Pacific. I was so excited to see their new tennis facility, which includes 3 covered courts which normally withstand a rainy day, but today was not a typical rainy day. There were drizzles, intense rain and wind, hail, and bright warm sunshine. The end result was we pushed the match to 7pm at Green Meadows Club in Vancouver, WA, just across the state line.

Our team responded to the change beautifully, coming out with a strong doubles sweep including 8-0 at #1 doubles. First off in singles was Elise with a very strong win at #2 followed almost simultaneously by Kate then Hadley. Emily pulled through next, but it was 1 and 4 that were most interesting as Alyssa had gone three sets in her win the first time we played Pacific, while Div fought out a 7-6, 7-6 win. Again, each prevailed, but this time Alyssa displayed her tremendous ability to focus and down 2-4 in the first broke back to go up 5-4 and then pull the set out 7-5. The second set she jumped out to a 3-0 lead and rolled through to a 6-2 win. 4 singles was another great match, but Div pulled away in each set to get a very impressive 6-3,6-3 win.

It is so nice to see measured progress as a coach.

Tomorrow we travel to McMinnville to take on Linfield who today was the first team in two years to notch a conference win over Whitworth so we'll certainly have our hands full.

Until tomorrow...