Thursday, March 31, 2011

Huge Congrats to Elise, NWC Player of the Week!

While the team trip to California was awesome, it was so wonderful to have Elise step up for some big singles and doubles wins and to get recognized for it by the Northwest Conference.  You can read about her award and the upcoming weekend with her last career home match this Saturday on the official team site here.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Final Spring Break Wrap Up

Big apologies for the delay, but the trip has me so excited about the team that we jumped straight back into our work and I neglected to update the blog.

Many have asked me upon returning to Walla Walla, "How was Spring Break?" and I haven't had one answer.  It was one of the most fun trips I've had and personally I enjoyed so much spending time with the team and also some of our great families and friends who came to watch (and sometimes just hang out when it was raining).  On court, I was really very proud of the team, but I also felt we could have done better at certain things in each match.  It's hard to ask more of these student athletes who already work so hard, but in the end I came to realize that we have such a special team which has been incredibly resilient so my take home message is:


I won't go into too much detail on the matches, but after a great response to rainy weather and a tough Salisbury team, we played pretty well with #15 Chapman and then went out to Redlands where we really had poor days at #2 and #3 doubles and lost a heartbreaker at #1 to go down 3-0.  Not to be dissuaded, our singles effort was incredible with Alyssa battling at #1 against a player who has been to nationals before losing a tight 10-8 match tie break. Elise stepped up again to beat a talented first year player at #2.  Emily, Kate and Lizzy all fought hard but lost in straight sets and at #6 Hannah competed incredibly well and took her match in a 10-7 match breaker.

After a wonderful dinner with the Otto family (thanks guys!), we hit the courts at Claremont for our final match on Saturday.  Honestly, I felt our effort was great in singles and doubles.  We had chances at 1 and 3 dubs and Emily and Kate at 2 played really well but were out served and returned.  What was really cool was playing a #4 doubles with Leah and Hadley dropping an 8-6 decision where both of them moved as a team and played off each others shots better than I've seen all year.  Even cooler was #5 where Olivia and Maggie lost 8-4 but I would love to have a count of how many times Olivia made huge poaches and Maggie covered great shots both at the net and baseline. 

In singles, our effort again was great, but it is tough at the end of a trip down 3-0 in the match to 'get up' for the final round of  singles.  Well, we brought great intensity, but CMS stayed composed and they have a solid lineup with one of the best players in the country at #1.  Elise and Lizzy played really competitive matches and the points up and down were very inspiring, but in the end it was CMS winning the match 9-0 but I was proud to see the team feel good about our effort on this match and through the week.

Competing with three nationally ranked teams in three days taught us a lot and as I said, back on campus, I'm looking at the sun coming out, getting fired up for today's practice and our upcoming matches and just thinking how lucky I am to do this 'job' with such an amazing group of players.

I can't end this post without thanking those of you who came out to support us in California, it was so much fun to share our tennis and off court time with you and you being there for us is huge.

Off to the courts!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Spring Break continues with 7-2 loss to #15 Chapman

Today we were in Orange, CA to play the Panthers from Chapman.  As usual, you can check out the results as written up by our SID Dave Holden at

The match really started with a strange turn as what seemed like a sore wrist for Kate looked to possibly be more serious than we thought yesterday so to play it safe she sat the match out, hopefully, she's in there tomorrow, but not only was it a terrific opportunity to take on the #2 team in the West but this was prime time experience for Leah in doubles and Maggie in singles.

We were able to get 4 doubles in with Elise and Alyssa scoring a really good win at #1 8-5.  More than just the win, their ability to adjust to teams styles and stay with their gameplan is getting more consistent so I was really proud of them, and the fact that they got the result against a great team made it even better.  Leah joined Emily at #2 and they had nice chemistry together but were a bit overwhelmed as we were at #3 with Hannah and Lizzy and #4 with Maggie and Hadley.   Still, while we have a lot of room to grow in doubles, I really like what I'm seeing from everyone and am excited to get back out on the courts tomorrow.

Down 2-1 going into singles, Alyssa fought well in the first set at 1 but then against a very experienced senior who has done quite well nationally the second set went by quickly and we were down 3-1.  At #3, Emily's score was one of those that is very misleading because she lost 6-0,6-2, but almost every game went to deuce, which I think shows how in it she was, but also shows that her opponent really deserved the win because she came up with big points time and time again.  Lizzy at #4 and Hannah at #5 both dropped their matches in straight sets where, again, many points and games looked great, but the consistency of that level just wasn't what their opponents brought.  For Maggie at #6, it was similar, but I really saw a breakthrough in that some of the things that Maggie has been working on were so good in this match, but against a really good shotmaker with excellent spins and placement she'll learn both what she's done well and can continue to improve.

The singles match of the day again involved Elise (#25 in the West singles) vs Kelly Fox (#11 in the West) and Elise carried her doubles into singles with a strong first set 6-0 where she forced her fellow senior into many errors and came up with some beautiful attacking plays and strong defense.  I don't think Twitch dropped off much in the second, but Kelly definitely stepped up and the score took a complete turn 6-0 the other way.  Elise wasn't worried as she knew she played well and she dug in with several strong holds of serve and a couple big breaks, one that was especially hard fought to get up 4-3.  After a Chapman hold Elise broke again to serve for the match and played a beautiful game full of big first serves to win the third 6-4 and score us our second point.

Hadley and Leah played exhibition sets and Had came out knowing exactly what to work on and Leah really demonstrated a much more complete baseline game so even though they both lost, this will be great experience as we move forward.

Spring Break continues tomorrow at Redlands against the #28 national and #6 west Bulldogs at 2pm.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Getting things going in SoCal vs Salisbury

Hello all, you can read about the match at, but a big part of this trip so far has been just getting on court.  We travel on spring break for many reasons; fun, bonding, go somewhere sunny and warm while Walla Walla transitions into Spring, and mostly for great non conference matches.  Lots of teams come to California so the tennis is great, but with some crazy weather we've had trouble getting court time.  Our first day's practice was cancelled because of rain, and then our 10am Salisbury match was moved to 6pm (but we did get a warm up in the morning), so when we finally hit the first ball, everyone was really ready to play.

This was important as we came out solid in doubles with Emily and Kate bolting to a 6-1 lead at 2 and Lizzy and Hannah at 3 going back and forth but staying up a game to 8-7 before going into a tie break at 8-8.  Salisbury started to bring their level up, but this whole match was streaky for us and the breaker was not the kind of streak we hoped for and it went quickly to the SeaGulls 7-1.  Meanwhile at 1, we started playing well but down a break 1-3 when composure, strategy and great shotmaking all came together for ShoPo and Twitch in winning 7 straight games to put us up 2-1 after doubles with an 8-3 win over a solid team.

Again, in singles, composure was key as Hannah, Lizzy, Elise and Alyssa all got out to first set wins while Emily dropped a close set 6-4 and Kate got down early and battled but lost her first set.  Alyssa and Lizzy built on their first sets and both played really well with great focus to win in straight sets and put the team score to 4-1 for Whitman.  Kate was having long points and games, but couldn't solve the only senior on the SU lineup and lost in straight sets to make it 4-2.  Kate's game has grown so much but this match was a great lesson on doing the little things consistently well and I know she'll learn a lot from it.

Now, the real intensity of the match was taking place because even with a 4-1 lead, up a set in 2 matches and with Emily getting on top in her second set 6-2 to go to a third set, the Salisbury men were playing next to us against NWC Willamette and SU won all 3 dubs but Willamette stormed back in singles to tie it at 4-4 with the deciding match in a third set (credit to Willamette's guys and coach Toby Krauel, but they did end up losing in a third set 7-6(5)). So, we felt the urgency to close it out.

Elise after playing beautifully in the first and taking advantage of many forced and some unforced errors was down a break 3-5 in the second when she reasserted herself, dug in to break twice and hold to serve 6-5.  It was a really intense match with great sportsmanship from both players as SU broke to get it to a second set tiebreak.  Meanwhile, Emily is up early in the third and on the end court Hannah has been absolutely fighting a mental battle against a very fired up SU player who was playing with a crazy amount of emotion on every point.  After having chances to get us the doubles sweep and then I think having a match point or two at 6-5, this one also went to a breaker at the same time as Elise.  Our SquirrelMissionaryOnion team spread out to support these two and Hannah being a bit flustered went down 0-3.  To her absolute credit and for me, what made her the Whittie of the match (among many tremendous performances) was that she got back to playing her tennis and was the more composed player from here on out and it paid off in a 7-4 tiebreak win to take the second set, the match and seal the team match for Whitman.  Go HP!

Almost at the same time, Elise won a 9-7 tiebreak that I didn't get to watch being down on HP's court and minutes later, Em rolled to a 6-0 third set to seal the 7-2 win.  SU only had 7 players traveling from Maryland so Leah was able to play an exhibition set and the support she, Olivia, Maggie and Hadley gave throughout the match was key to our success.

We're off for two days now, its a bit chilly here but the sun is out today and this team just has so much fun that we're really excited to spend more time together and to get some practice in.  We'll hit the match courts again at 2pm Thursday at Chapman in Orange, CA then it's 2pm Friday at Redlands and 11am Saturday at CMS.

It was wonderful to see Johanna Palkowitz and the Webster's, thanks for braving the rain to come out and see us and also thanks to Pomona Pitzer and Claremont Mudd Scripps for graciously letting us use their courts.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Spring Break in California

Hi all,
I wanted to send a quick update/test as I think these posts have not been getting out to the email list.
We also have our next match scheduled for 10am Monday vs. Salisbury University from Maryland.  We're set to play at Pomona-Pitzer Colleges on the Rogers Courts on 1st street between College and Mills Avenues.
The weather is not looking great for us though, so we're hoping for clearing so we can get the match on without too much delay, I'll use twitter to update throughout the day on Monday.

Here is a link to download a pdf of the Pomona Campus map

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A great Start to Spring Break in Portland

Hello out there,

First, I'd like to quickly say that I was just informed that those of you who receive these blog posts as emails have not been getting them the past month.  I'm sorry for that and am working to figure out what is going on as it looks like the settings are right.

Ok, now to tennis.  In a bit of a whirlwind, the team finished up classes for our two week spring break and immediately hit our home courts for a NWC match with PLU.  Led by first year Leah Newell, the Lutes had a lot of fight in this 6-3 Whitman victory.  This year with so much youth, I'm looking to get as many matches for everyone as I can and in this one Leah teamed with Lizzy to notch a win a 3rd doubles where they really started to move and play as a team.  In singles, Maggie stepped up to #5 and scored a solid straight set win and at #6 Hadley played tough while still working on her shots and footwork that she logged some extra hours on in practice this week, it was great to see.

After the match, Katie was off like a shot to pick up burritos and we hit the road for Portland.  By the way, good Mexican food was a MUST on my list when first came to Walla Walla on my job interview.  The drive to Portland was good and with a 3pm Saturday match against Pacific we had plenty of time to sleep in and enjoy the wonderful hospitality of Leah's family for brunch, thanks Kris, Mike and Nathan!

The Pacific match was definitely the most epic part of our weekend.  With spirits high being on break and traveling together, we arrived early to hit as we'd never played on their new courts (3 are outside and 3 are outside and covered, but the sides are open so lighting is different depending on how sunny it is).  We got adjusted and were ready to go when the weather cleared so we started outdoors with doubles, though the first ball wasn't hit until after 3:30 so we'd already been there a while.  Up in 2 and 3 and down a break but gaining momentum at 1, the rain started falling.  With Pacific serving a couple of solid first serves as the rain picked up we were down 0-30 moving to the covered courts.  Elise and Alyssa really stepped up and fought to get the break back before being broken again against a team playing really well at the net as well as defending from the baseline.  Fortunately, 2 and 3 won with Hannah back in the lineup at 3 so we were up 2-1.  Still, it was an eerie feeling going into singles.  Emily and Elise jumped out to easy first set wins while Alyssa was in a battle at #1.  With many distractions both players elevated their tennis, but it was Cat Goya from Pacific who found a way in each set to pull out a win while Elise rolled to a 6-0, 6-0 win at #2.  So, the match was 3-2 Whitman and Em had been up a set and two breaks serving for it, when the Pacific player who can be very dangerous found her A game.  Emily didn't play poorly but now close games were going the other way and she lost the set in a breaker.  The third set was super close as both players looked for an edge with it finally going to Pacific 6-4 to tie the match at 3-3. Now, with Kate up a set at #4 and Lizzy up a set at #5 with Olivia warming up at 6, things looked good.  Kate managed a straight set win in the cold of the evening and Olivia played close but was down a set and 5-1, or 5-0 maybe.  Meanwhile, Lizzy had dropped the second and was quickly down 3-0 in the third so we needed a hero to step up.  For a while it looked like we might get two as Olivia found her shots and started to scratch out some momentum to get it to 2-5 and Lizzy re-focused and rolled back to 3-3.  After dropping a game where her opponent played well, Lizzy got right back to it to win three straight and clinch the match.  Olivia smiled and relaxed, hit some more winners to get to 5-5, but then lost a couple of close games to lost 6-3,7-5.  I'd like to say it was a great performance, but really it was more a testament to the resiliency and fight that this team has up and down the lineup.  Some people played well, others struggled but we still found a way against a dangerous team, it was tough to witness, but coming out the other side, I couldn't be more proud of each one of these young women as they handled adversity beautifully with effort and sportsmanship.

This is the kind of match you want to learn from and build on, and luckily we had the chance to do just that the next day against George Fox. With Hannah resting and Leah back at 3 dubs, we scored one of our more fun and consistent doubles sweeps and it felt like Whitman tennis again.  This carried over into singles where again I had a chance to get some more match experience for our young players and because Leah and Lizzy finished quickly at 3 doubles with solid play together, we started with Maggie at #5 and Hadley at #6.  While Maggie lost her match, she learned a lot that I know she'll carry into the rest of the season.  Hadley's match was one of the highlights of the weekend for me.  Not only did she get her first college win, but the things she did well against PLU were super consistent and she dominated the first set 6-1.  A great effort by her GF counterpart had her working hard to close out the second and she did it with more quality play and movement shot after shot, I'm so excited for Hadley!  At #1-4, we also had great performances from all and I was really proud of how everyone played tactically, using their strengths and finding plays that worked.  Overall the score was 8-1 and the way we played was focused and fun like we strive for each day.

The culmination of our trip was a neutral site match indoors in Vancouver, WA (just north of Portland) against the Cowgirls from Hardin-Simmons who came out from Abiliene, TX for a spring break trip in the Northwest.  This is a good team (#11 in the West, while we are #8) and I was happy to play them during our break when we are focused on tennis and had been playing matches every day.  This preparation proved valuable as we got out to a strong start in all three doubles with Elise and Alyssa getting a break to go up 6-3 against the #8 team in the West before closing it out with a break and hold to win 8-6 in a strong comeback after dropping the Pacific match.  At 2 Em and Kate played with great confidence and won 8-3, while Hannah and Lizzy stepped up to win 8-5 at #3.

In singles, #1 pitted the West's #4 ranked player Lisa Mertz, a very solid and experienced player against #12 Alyssa.  After some ups and downs in the first set, ShoPo tightened things up and came away with a big straight set win 4,2.  Twitch continued her steady blend of offense and defense at #2 and really stepped up her serving to win 2,2.  Emily waited for a court while Kate won 2,3 even though throughout the match, her opponent seemed to get more and more comfortable and was playing better and better.  Hannah was at #6 and seeing her in singles and doubles was a great sight as she competed her way to a 2,1 win.  Lizzy had the closest match with a 7-5 seesaw affair in the first set followed by dropping the second 6-2 where she got a bit frustrated before calming down for the match tie break which was probably the best tennis by both players with Lizzy edging it out 10-8 by hitting big shots and staying really focused.  Em being last on had the tough task of staying focused and intense as the end of a long weekend was upon us, but she handled that well and played some great tennis, but just ran into a really good player at 3 who played a very nice match to win 3,1.  Still, Emily was in nearly every game and I'm really pleased with how much her shots have grown as well as her ability to compete at a much higher level than she's been asked to in the past two seasons.  Olivia got an exhibition singles with her Mom watching and there were signs of what she can do, but still she is getting great experience that I know will help her continue to grow as a player.  She brings such enthusiasm to the team and we'll continue to see great things from her I know.

That's a lot of tennis to recap, and we're just getting set for more, but first the team has some time off before heading to California for our Spring Break matches against Salisbury, Chapman, Redlands and Claremont.

Friday, March 11, 2011

In the thick of things

Hi everyone,

It's a busy time for tennis teams and we're no different, as the ladies finish their classes for our two week Spring Break, we immediately hit the courts out by Ankeny today at 2pm, followed by a series of matches the next three days in Portland.  Dave Holden has written up a preview:

Then, after some well deserved time off, we reconvene our break in Southern California in a week for some non-conference DIII matches with Salisbury, Chapman (#13 in nation), Redlands (#29 in nation) and Claremont (#28 in nation).

This week Alyssa was honored as the NWC student athlete of the week for women's tennis, which you can read about at  Congrats Show Pony!

Hope to see you at some matches!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Whittie of the Week

Hi folks,

For the past couple of seasons we have done a weekly team vote on which Whittie has contributed the most to the team that week. We come up with nominees and the team votes and the winner is our WoW for that week.  Our men's team does a kind of similar thing called the yellow jersey, and Coach Northam puts it out on his blog and I like to steal..excuse me, borrow ideas from Jeff (who is a great friend and wonderful colleague and mentor) so I'll be posting future WoW awards on the blog.  The first one you can see is last week and it was Lizzy so check out the link on the blog.

If you're just getting these posts as emails, the web address is:

Lizzy and Leah playing #3 dubs vs. UPS

Monday, March 7, 2011

Wrapping up Family and Alumni Weekend

To all of you who made it to our matches and events this past weekend, thank you so much for your support and sharing time with our team.  This annual event really came up fast this year because the conference schedule (and our awesome two week spring break) left us without a full home weekend in April, which is what I shoot for in organizing this.
Leah and Mike Siegel...We also celebrated Leah's Birthday this week!

So, at the start of March, with a great set of matches on tap and a team that has really committed so much to the process of being a top DIII team, we welcomed family, friends and fans to Walla Walla.
Divneet Kaur Class of 2010 

Friday, after a short week of practice, we took on UPS in the Bratton Tennis Center.  The support from the fans was great and right from the start of doubles, we brought a terrific composure and excitement to our play.  We had three doubles on with Elise and Alyssa putting together one of their cleanest performances of the season at #1 winning 8-0 quickly.  At #2, UPS had a pair of tough freshmen who we'll continue to see good things from for 4 years, but once Em and Kate got rolling, they didn't look back in winning 8-3.  Emily has been one of our best doubles players for two seasons now and more and more, we're seeing not just teamwork, but also Kate really taking charge with her improved shots and this was a case where they both got going at the same time.  At #3, Hannah was still rehabbing her ankle and Leah stepped in with Lizzy and they came out really strong going up a break 5-2.  At that point, UPS really stepped up and while we had chances, they stormed back for an 8-6 win.  Meanwhile, Olivia was getting some great exhibition singles in, dropping an 8-4 proset that our talented Jan start will no doubt learn from.

Singles was great as we swept the 1-3 matches with Emily blending offense and defense beautifully and Elise and Alyssa demonstrating the hard work they've put in to elevate their games.  I was super proud of Kate at #4 for gutting out a first set in a tiebreak and then continuing her solid play to win in straight sets.  Lizzy fought back from down a set to win in a match tie break, again showing great composure and athleticism and while Hadley played the same player Olivia played in an exhibition, Maggie got her first shot at a top six singles match.  The 6-2,6-2 score gives credit to a smart match from UPS first year Marissa Friedman, but seeing Maggie handle the occasion and keep consistent focus throughout the match was really special.

It wasn't mid April, but it is Walla Walla, so after overnight showers dampened the courts, the sun came out and let us play outside.  With Ankeny field and the library right at the heart of campus with our courts, it is an active place and our fans and students combined with the rematch of last years NWC tournament final made for a great atmosphere for a big match with Whitworth.

As with UPS, Alyssa and Elise played really solid doubles, winning 8-3.  Unfortunately, I think Kate felt some of the growing pains of having improved so much so fast as she and Em were so close to starting the match off with a break.  Actually had any of the first few games gone our way, they were playing well enough to win, but Whitworth really played a steady match and rolled to an 8-1 win.  At #3 doubles, HP was back and showed a lot of heart and with limited mobility, she and Lizzy battled to a 4-8 defeat so we entered singles down 2-1.  Meanwhile, Leah and Olivia lost 8-4 in an exhibition at #4 where they played the kind of doubles I think they need to, which will benefit them both a ton in the long run.

Just like Friday evening, it was Show Pony racing out to grab us some momentum.  I'm not sure she lost a point in the first 3 games against one of the better #2 players in the conference.  After being up 3-0 she found out why Ally Marshall is so good and had to battle to take the first 6-4 but tightened things up in the second to win 6-4,6-1.  Next to her, Emily's doubles struggles carried over just enough into singles where Erica Bosman presented a great challenge as she has been playing very well at #2 and #3 this year for Whitworth.  Em fought hard, but her tennis wasn't flowing like it has been recently as she lost in straight sets.  Elise also lost in straight sets at #1, but the 6-3,6-3 score doesn't tell you what kind of a battle was going on.  These are two of the best players in the conference and in my mind two of the best sportswomen as well.  It was special to see the fans continually respond to the high level of tennis, sportsmanship and effort provided by these two seniors.

Whitworth is a deep team and both Lizzy and Maggie as well as Olivia and Hadley found that they are right in these matches and they all came to me after with eager attitudes about what they can do to learn from these matches, which combined with the 100% effort I saw, makes me so happy as a coach.

Allright, you've read this far so I'll give you a little background on #4 singles.  Both Kate and Katie Staudinger of Whitworth are from Yakima, WA.  That they ended up playing each other in this match was really exciting for Kate because they both are fierce competitors who make me wonder what is in the water in Yakima that breeds such amazing athletes.  The first set absolutely lived up to expectation with Kate clawing her way to serve 5-4 only to have Katie battle to 5-5.  The seesaw continued and Kate went up a break 6-5.  Serving for the set a second time, Kate was incredibly confident and not only served it out but continued her strong play in the second set to win 7-5, 6-0!  This concluded a terrific weekend of singles for Kate and had us right in the match, but if you've read Dave Holden's article (thanks Dave!) or have done a little math, you'll know that the defending conference champs left Walla Walla with a well deserved 6-3 win.

Family and Alumni Dinner
Meanwhile, the Missionaries headed to a wonderful dinner with several families, some superstar alums and some great Whitman tennis supporters.  The atmsosphere was fun and excited about all the great things this young team has accomplished so far and the promise of what lies ahead for us as we look towards spring break in a week with both conference and non-conference matches lined up in Portland and then down in Southern California.

Stay tuned for more from this awesome group and thanks to everyone who supported us this weekend.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Family and Alumni Weekend Starts tomorrow at Whitman!

Wow, the season is flying and with a 2-1 conference record we welcome all families, alums and supporters to Walla Walla for the weekend.  Here is the basic itinerary:

Friday 3/4 - 4pm in the Bratton Tennis Center: Whitman vs. University of Puget Sound
     Whitman looks to work towards earning a place in the NWC tournament against an improved UPS squad.

Saturday 3/5 - 1pm match outdoors if dry, in Bratton if wet: Whitman Vs. Whitworth
     A rematch of last years conference final and the current #8 in the west region Whitties vs the #7 Pirates

Saturday following the match (6:30/7pm estimated food time): Dinner in the Glover Alston Center across the street from Bratton, veggie and meat eaters alike, come enjoy a meal with the team and celebrate a great group of student athletes after these matches. 

Sunday 3/6 - 9am to 2pm; Bratton Courts are reserved for Family and Alums, sign up for Family and Alum doubles at dinner on Saturday or just hit with Coach John.