For others, the team loss at Regionals signaled the end of the tennis season (and for some the school year was done as well as they'd finished finals). We said goodbye to HP in California and upon return to Walla Walla, each day more players finished exams and either enjoyed camp Whitman or left for summer break. Emily and Morgan did a great job helping Alyssa and Courtney prepare for individual nationals and everyone on campus enjoyed seeing Seth, Lizzy, Charlotte, Emily and Zoe graduate.
Then, for Morgan and I along with Alyssa and Courtney, the trip to North Carolina was an exciting first for this era of Whitman tennis. I'm incredibly proud to report that these two represented the team, Whitman, our conference, and the West region amazingly well at nationals. Last year, only one of 8 west singles players made it out of the first round and two doubles teams won a match. This year, as a region, we had two singles semifinalists - one who Alyssa has beaten and the other she's gone to a first set tiebreak with- so we know we're right there to not only compete, but win championships going forward. Still, in this draw of 32 singles and 16 doubles, there are no easy matches and while both players played great in competitive singles, earning respect from coaches, players and fans across the nation, it was our doubles that was even more impressive.
|Coin toss vs Emory|
After a very "not our first nationals" type of performance to move to the quarterfinals (note - the West had 3 of 4 doubles teams move to the quarters and one to the semis), we ran into an ultra talented and athletic team from Emory University. This Eagles duo played terrific doubles, attacking the net, changing formations and being very aggressive with both their offense and defense. Still, Court and Shopo played brilliantly, showcasing their teamwork, great returns and outstanding net play. Down 0-5 in the first, we had several deuce games and the combination of big serving (lots of well placed - heavy first serves to set up volleys) and incredibly athletic overheads and defensive volleys by Emory had us down a set. Still, confident from how we were playing, we got up 0-40 in their first service game of the second set, only to see more big serves and a couple chances slip away to go down 0-1. Fighting back to 2-2, the rest of the second set looked a lot like the middle of the first set with both teams playing great doubles but EU somehow getting the close games and stretching their lead until they finished off the match 6-2,6-2. This is a team that I thought would win the tournament if they could play like this, and they did make the finals and got up a set on another great team from Amherst, but a combo of great Amherst play and fatigue from Emory who had one player play an incredible amount of physical tennis in hot humid weather to win the singles championship left Amherst with the title.
|Warming up vs Emory|
Still, knowing that right now, we're right there among the best doubles teams in the country but also identifying ways we can improve has me feeling so great about this season as well as eagerly looking forward already to next season when Whitman tennis will continue to grown and improve. Morgan, Alyssa and Courtney will bring back both confidence from seeing how close we are and motivation about how we need to improve that will help the entire team this fall.
I must also say that while Alyssa's mom had to cancel her trip (we missed you Arlene and will work to get to Kalamazoo next year!), thank you so much to Andrew and Jeff from our men's team for cheering on our doubles to the last ball, you guys are the best. And also to Mark and Sandy for you support, for sending Morgan out to share this experience, for all the photos Sandy took, for great dinners (yes, steak for the Texans), and also introducing another family member to the excitement of Whitman tennis in the twins uncle Johnny. What great families and fans we are blessed to have!
So, as I transition to summer, I will keep in touch as there is still more news to share from this season as well as some of our off season projects to grow Whitman Tennis through alumni connections, facility improvement, fundraising, recruiting, and planning for next season. As the players love to say after a big service break or awesome shot....LET'S GO!