Friday, April 27, 2012

NWC Championship Photos

Sandy Seaman has shared a ton of great photos and I've uploaded them on Flickr at
Thanks Sandy!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Whit Women Win NWC Tournament Title!

It feels like an instant and also an eternity since Sunday afternoon when we defeated host Linfield 5-1 for the NWC tournament championship and an automatic qualification into the NCAA tournament May 11-13th (site and opponent TBD).

Court, Sara and Had earlier in the season
In the past two days, I've had some time to reflect not just on the match, but on how special this team and entire program are.  The first thing that comes to mind is that even on the road, we had 13 players there all with a singular goal and focused on keeping our combination of support, fun and intense competition that lifts both our tennis and relationships.  I must mention that I decided that staying home to focus on her academics would be better for Sara as an individual.  It is easy to say, but hard to believe and act on all of us being stronger by taking care of ourselves and as much as anyone on the team I am so proud of Sara this weekend for focusing on her studies and constantly keeping in touch with us on the road.  Seeing her proud smile yesterday as a conference tournament champion was just as rewarding as lifting the trophy.  Our focus on team and process provide extra challenges, but in our ultimate pursuit of the NCAA National Championship, it is the trust, support and efforts of every person on the team that make what we do each day so special.

Looking at the tournament matches, our focus as a team was absolutely to continue our championship habits.  Each day in practice, fitness, meetings and matches our team works as if we are national champions.  And, though this is definitely a learning process and we have much room to continue growing, we knew that if we focused on our habits and process that we had the skill to win this tournament.

Morgan's forehand
In the semifinal vs Whitworth, we knew we were facing a deep team with a lot of pride and program history (3 consecutive NWC championships).  As always, we were excited to come out strong in doubles and it was a great display from the start with great teamwork at all three spots.  While the #2 match was the closest matchup in terms of tennis and both teams wanted to be aggressive but had to deal with intense midday sun that made overheads and serves on one end very difficult, Emily and Morgan played brilliantly and were able to pull it out.  Emily was playing amazing all around doubles as usual and and Lil Mo really impressed me with her ability to seize the moment and finish points at the right times.  With one dubs rolling, it was the match at three that I was most impressed with.  Fighting back and forth early, HP and Maddy really came together to play some of their best dubs to pull off an 8-4 win and get the sweep we wanted.

Erin and Hadley 
Maddy getting fired up
Annie and Kate
In singles, we came out fired up in 1,2,3 and on courts next to each other it was a race to finish.  Both Courtney and Morgan played great with Alyssa striking the ball really well and moving well.  Her movement was really impressive because earlier in the week she had a weird injury that kept her from having a full practice until Friday.  For someone who is so meticulous about her preparation, this was yet another sign of her tremendous growth as a player because she really stepped up and was beating a very good player even not at 100%.  The courts were such that Maddy and Kate were next to each other and both were down a set and a break, battling quality opponents who showed that Whitworth is deep in singles.  At 6, it was a tale of two sets with Emily on an isolated court losing the first set 6-0 before finding her range and going up 3-1 in the second.  As playoffs to decision stop at 5 points, when Morgan won to put us up 5-0, matches were halted and our thoughts turned to the Sunday final vs Linfield.  Saturday was such a great day of bright sunny weather (too much sun for many players serves and overheads) and Whitworth is such a classy great opponent with awesome depth of talent and character.  We enjoyed tremendous support from players not playing, the many parents and alums who came out to watch and cheer and had a great dinner together after the match.

Had and Erin take the opportunity to train balance
So, the stage was set for a 10am Sunday rematch with Linfield.  The two big stories going in were that they had swept us twice in doubles this year and that their #3 singles player who plays #2 doubles was battling a wrist injury and it was uncertain whether she would play or not.  These situations can be tough because you're not sure who you're going to play or how much the injury will hamper them.  Our whole team did a terrific job of staying focused on our tennis and our doubles which was key as we went up 2-1.  The way we did it was absolutely typical of great college tennis.  Coming out a bit flat or nervous at one we went down 0-3 and started trading games and playing better tennis before Courtney and Alyssa really stepped up to take control and come back from 3-6 to win 8-6!  Hannah and Maddy almost did the same thing but it was an even fight all the way.  I was so impressed with their match by both teams and many people watching told me that was the best doubles match.  Unfortunately we lost the last two close games but the way we played will win a lot of doubles matches in the future.  Emily and Morgan continued their hot play and I think they would have beaten just about any team that day, but they did also take advantage of the Linfield injury to take a commanding 8-1 win and get us on the board.

Morgan and Seth 
Very pumped up being up 2-1 instead of down 0-3, we found out that their 3 player was pulled from singles, which didn't change 3,4,5 very much but did leave Emily with a less experienced but tough player at 6.  Alyssa was facing one of the top players in the West and did have a bit of a loss of focus after going up 3-2 to lose the first set 6-3.  This was more like the matches they had played the last two years and honestly I was a bit concerned until I went to Alyssa's bench after she won the first game of the second set and the look in her eyes was so clear and focused, I knew she had her game under control and would win the match.  It's wonderful to see confidence, you can feel it coming from the team and it is contagious among them.  Kate certainly had it as she went up in the first set by a break 4-1, then her opponent battled back and forced a tie break which Kate mixed both big offense and tough defense to win 7-5.  Maddy was the opposite as she started slow before coming back to force a tie break which she lost 7-4.  Both were such good battles going into the second set.  Emily true to form on her little island of court 6 rolled through the first set 6-1.  By the time these second sets were going, Courtney had won 1 and 2 to put us up 3-1 and shortly after Morgan followed with a 6-1,6-3 win to place us at the edge of victory 4-1!  I give so much credit to everyone for focusing and moving around and cheering on Alyssa as she was up in the second with set points and Kate and Maddy who were both early in the second sets of great battles.  It was so fitting that Emily would be at 4-3 just having pulled out a tough game with emotions running high.  As she and her opponent dealt with the nerves of the moment, Em was brilliant, possibly playing her best two games of the match with the final game being a fluid balance of offense and defense but Em always in control and when the last point was won the celebration started!  The other matches stopped and with a ton of respect for a great Linfield team, we enjoyed the fruits of our hard work and dedication.
Emily clinches it and we celebrate

Taking the trophy to Walla Walla
I am so happy for the Whitman Tennis Family of friends, alums, families and fans who all get to celebrate this win and look forward to NCAA's.  The tournament is a 49 team tournament and the sites and draws will be announced May 7th with the first three rounds of play slated for Friday, Saturday, Sunday May 11-13th and the quarters, semis and finals May 21-23 in Cary, NC. Sometimes round one starts on Thursday as they try to accommodate graduations and schools who don't play on Sundays.  Keep an eye on Super SID Dave Holden's articles on the Whitman Web Page.

Thanks so much to Dena, the Websters, Lawless', Annie Kunkel, Liz Bates, and the Rolston's for coming to cheer us on and enjoy the weekend with us, it was very special to have so many fans on the road.

To view photos of the weekend, I'll be loading many that Sandy Seaman took on the flickr page and facebook.  If you have any you'd like to share with everyone, send them my way!

Looking forward to NCAA's!


Monday, April 16, 2012

End of the regular season, here come the playoffs

Layne, Emily and Mary Rolston

First, I meant to do two postings last week, one for the family weekend which included a beautiful day of family tennis after the Willamette match.  We had the Minuth's, Rolston's, Scott's, Palkowitz's out playing with Emily and Layne taking the tie break tournament over a strong Art and Hannah Palkowitz team in the finals; not to be stopped, the team all left and even I couldn't outlast the tennis endurance of the Reed, Megin, Mary and Layne; what fun!

Hannah and Art Palkowitz
This weekend we split the team to finish our regular season with everyone playing counting matches.  We were a little short handed with Emily finishing her thesis and Charlotte preparing for the chorale concert Saturday night.  Still, we had some very good tennis on campus as Spokane CC came down for an exhibition.  Maddy and Hannah lost to a solid team in doubles while Sara and Liv got a win before Liv continued her day with a straight set singles win.  Not finished, she also participated in the evening concert, a rare performance of Swedish music that had never been performed in the US before.  Oh yeah, Liv is an amazing violinist in the student orchestra!  Maddy continued to shake off the rust of a week off and got going in the second set before losing 6-0,6-4 at #1. Sara had a tough first set before shin problems limited her movement and she retired.  Hannah leveled the match with a quick 6-0,6-0 win at #2 singles.  It was just great to get matches in at home with the rest of the team on the road in Portland.

Friday against George Fox, we beat the rain and the Bruins with a great doubles sweep.  The match really turned our way when Maggie and Kate teamed up at 3 and individually and as a team displayed how much their doubles has improved with an emphatic win that pumped up Erin and Morgan at 2 and Alyssa and Courtney at 1.  Hadley lost a tough 3rd set tie break and Kate lost two hard fought sets but everyone else won except Erin who didn't get to finish as the match was decided when the rain came down as she was about to split sets and was playing really well.  So, we came off with at 6-2 win against a good young Bruin team.

Saturday felt almost like a home match at LC in their new bubble.  The Wilsonville HS tennis team came to watch a local college match along with men's tennis alum Kurt Kasad and Kate had a ton of family there;  not to mention three of our most prolific women's tennis alums; Hadley DeBree (2010 Bio and Env Studies grad working on Environmental Education for Americorps in Idaho), Divneet Kaur (2010 Religion grad currently at OHSU med school), and Lynn Greer McKelvy (1988 Math grad, 2004 Whitman Hall of Fame inductee).  All three are members of our Century club with over 100 career wins and Lynn finished as high as #4 in the nation in singles and #3 in doubles!

Courtney and Alyssa in dubs (from TX)
The match again had us switching up doubles and Courtney and Alyssa dominated at 1 while Morgan today teamed with Kate to win at 2 and at 3 Erin and Hadley had a great run of games in the middle and stayed positive and focused the whole way but just couldn't sustain the consistency to pull it out.  So, up 2-1, Morgan went to work and I was so impressed not just with the scoreline of 6-0,6-0, but with how she played her tennis constructed points and finished clinically.  Courtney and Alyssa were on similar paths to efficient wins over quality opponents and they each came off the court about the same time 6-0,6-3.  Again, Kate was battling and had an interesting matchup at #4 which went back and forth before she lost 7-6,6-1, but I saw things from Kate that we've been working on and the score here is a bit deceptive as she played really well in many areas.  Hadley at 5 took Morgan's court and followed her lead with the performance of the day bouncing back from doubles to get the 6-0,6-0 win!  Maggie was nearly there but her opponent at 6 fought through tough deuce games with Mags up 5-0 in the second which gave her some momentum to 5-4 before Maggie finished up with consistency and winners to seal the match.
Maggie returning

Many of us enjoyed getting back home in time to see the concert and enjoy the wonderful Spring weather in Walla Walla.

So, we concluded the regular season at 10-2 in conference with a second place finish, the highest in my 4 seasons at Whitman (3 3rd place finishes) and we go into next week's conference tournament with the second seed and great confidence in our ability to win back to back matches against the best teams in the northwest to earn the AQ for NCAA regionals in May.

The schedule of the tournament in McMinnville is:
Saturday 10am #1 Linfield vs #4 (TBA -probably Willamette)
Saturday 2pm #2 WHITMAN vs #3 Whitworth

Sunday 10am Final match

If you plan on coming and have questions, let me know, we're very excited for this opportunity to play Whitworth again and hopefully earn a spot in the finals.


Monday, April 9, 2012

Final NWC home matches...determining the conference standings


This past weekend at Whitman we had it all.  From the weather to the tennis to the relationships on our team, we experienced so much joy, but also some dissapointment.  First, we were without one of our players and families as Maddy went home to California to be with family, then on Friday morning as we were hoping to play outside as we had practiced all week, a storm came in with snow that turned to rain and then hail so we played indoors vs Linfield.  This was tough for me because after 4 years in the Northwest I LOVE outdoor tennis and as clean as the ballstriking is indoors and as much as I love Bratton, it still feels a bit strange to me to play tennis inside.  The upside is that our fans have such an impact in Bratton crowded against the railings above while down below the players experience the atmosphere of college tennis but still have some distance to focus on their shots and communication.

The Linfield match was a showdown for first, but with a 3-6 loss in McMinnville early, we needed a 6-3 or better win to win the conference and host the NWC championships.  As happened in McMinnville, Linfield jumped out early, this time at all three spots.   After going up 0-40, Alyssa and Courtney could not manage a break and got down 1-0, which became 3-0.  Fortunately, they didn't get rattled and reeled off 5 games for a 5-3 advantage.  Linfield fought to stay in it and with us up 6-5, they edged out two close games and then took the match 8-6.  This proved to be huge as we got way down at 2 before losing 8-4 and three was always chasing the match by the smallest margin.  At both spots, we were playing well and especially at 3, Kate and Sara could have just as easily won 8-2 the way that they played, that is pro sets I guess, though we did learn some things about our doubles.

So, down 3-0, which is a gloomy place to be, playing to 5, the team with the crowd and parents in for family weekend fought back.  Alyssa was phenominal in making one of the best players in Linfield's history look very ordinary in a 6-1,6-1 win.  Not to be outdone with parents and 'sister' Derry cheering her on, Courtney handed Linfield's 2 player her second NWC loss (other one to Alyssa) 6-1,6-0.  Morgan and Kate both dropped the first but Lil Mo came back to take the second 6-2 while Kate down a set and 5-0, chipped away to get the second set to a tiebreak which she won.  In fact, both of Kate's first two sets were tie breaks and they took so long that Lizzy got on court at #6 and won in straight sets and Morgan finished her third set with a barrage of passes and winners from her opponent and Emily got on and off in a two set match that felt like 3 with amazing points and close games all the way but Linfield taking both #3 and #5 to seal the match at 5-3.  Kate then went into another tie break, this one for the match, and with her opponent cramping, she stepped up even more to hit big shots while being super steady to win the super t and the match, making it an agonizing 4-5 loss.  With all that, our spirits were buoyed by the fact that the NCAA birth in our conference is decided at the conference tournament and if we win out, we'll be the #2 seed and will have a chance to play the top teams in conference for the right to get the automatic qualification to regionals.

So, it was back to work on Saturday against Willamette.  This time the weather was predictable and we were outside on a beautiful spring day, but Willamette's health was not predictable as they had 6 players traveling and 2 got very sick and had to default.  My main concern then became, "how do we keep focused on this win while enjoying the day and weekend where so many families came to watch the team play".  We had a meeting and set our lineup with as many people playing in front of their families as possible (fortunately, this team is not only amazing in character, but also talent so I was confident in our ability to win).  Alyssa was gracious to sit out and support her team while Morgan and Courtney played really solid doubles and HP joined with Emily (I don't know if they've ever even played together in practice) and both teams won convincingly playing great doubles with both offense and good defensive fighting.  Meanwhile, we  set up our remaining 8 players in exhibition matches against each other (thanks to Willamette for allowing us to do this), and the senior duo of Lizzy and Charlotte got out early and edged the freshmen Sara and Erin who were on a comeback when time ran out while Kate and Maggie won a terrific match over Liv and Hadley where it seemed every point I saw had all 4 players at the net!

So, with the match decided, Courtney went to work on their #1 player and its hard to tell from the scoreline, but I really thought this match was a good one for Court because she was really in the moment playing her tennis the whole way.  At #2, Morgan carried her third set struggles from the day before into a tough 4-6 first set loss and then things clicked and she won the second 6-0 and rolled through the match tie break.  Lizzy was again quite impressive in two tough sets winning both and staying positive the whole way.  In the last match (we only played 4 singles), Erin went out and played one of the best sets I've seen from her winning 6-2 with Willamette's player playing really well and Erin holding serve efficiently and fighting intensely for both breaks she got.  Her opponent showed great resolve and the second set was a struggle as she got down a break and then two before losing 2-6.  In the match tie break, she was again down big and ended up losing, but her focus and attitude were so good it was really a breakthrough and I couldn't be more proud of her effort.  If she keeps this up, her game will continue to translate into a crazy amount of fun tennis and Whitman victories.

Following the match on Friday we enjoyed a meal with families and friends on campus and I sincerely thank all of you who were there for coming out to Walla Walla to see us and share your time and support, it is priceless.  On Saturday, our Family weekend finished up with some fun time in the warm sun playing tennis and having a parent/daughter doubles tourney which I'll report on later...

Thanks to all and I look forward to everyone playing this weekend as we have matches on the road Friday at 3:30 vs George Fox and Saturday at 10am vs Lewis and Clark as well as a scrimmage at home on Saturday at 2pm vs Spokane CC.  It means we have to split up, but also that some players get to stay home and get extra things done (school as well as Charlotte in Chorale and Liv in the Orchestra) while still getting a match in which I'm super excited about.

I'll try to get pictures posted soon from the weekend so if you were here and took any great ones you'd like to share, send them my way!

All our best,


Sunday, April 1, 2012

WC Wins at Whitworth

The Whitworth Pirates have had very solid teams in my four years here at Whitman.  They have talent, depth and compete hard every time out which has led to them claiming three straight NWC Championships and leaving them as the only team from the conference in my time here that we had't won against.  Until now that is.

Yesterday, we were on the road in Spokane and a rainy morning forced us into the three court bubble they have.  The momentum we built on spring break definitely carried into doubles as we came out very strong in all 3 spots and then while 2 and 3 won convincingly, Whitworth's 1 team mounted a charge which Alyssa and Courtney held off to complete the doubles sweep.  At 2, Em and Morgan moved really well and played smart aggressive doubles and at 3 Hannah and Maddy did a great job adjusting in the first few games before imposing their tennis on Whitworth.

Getting right back to work, Alyssa, Courtney and Morgan all won is straight sets to clinch the win and put us up 6-0.  At that point; Kate, Maddy and Emily went out and though we dropped each of these matches, each of them gave their all and I am so proud of them and know with certainty that being in these close matches will help us going forward.

We were also able to get in some exhibition prosets outside as things cleared up, so Hannah, Maggie and Charlotte all got matches in with Hannah winning hers.

It is an exciting week here as we prepare to avenge our only NWC loss of the year against Linfield at home Friday at 11am and then take on Willamette, who we edged 5-4 on Saturday at 10am.

It is Family/Alumni Weekend, which is morphing into mostly Family weekend as I haven't heard from any alums coming back and I know several families are coming (including my parents, who have never seen the team play!).  More info to come on our schedule for the weekend, but if you're coming get ready for some great tennis, a fun dinner with the team on Friday and bring your rackets for Saturday afternoon family tennis!

Happy April everyone!