The fall ITA Regional is one of the most exciting events of the year. There is so much non stop tennis and we love hosting because our facilities and weather allowed us to have not just main, but also first and second round consolation draws in singles and a consolation doubles draw. You can read the final recap here and see draws here.
Fortunately, our team did not need to make use of those extra draws too much as we did damage, with all 6 players getting through their first rounds. While her teammates rolled and fought through second round matches, Lori played a 9 seed first year from Linfield and after dropping a tight first set, loosened up to dominate the second set 6-0 before losing a close match tie break 10-6. Undeterred, she beat a very tough George Fox player in the second round consolation. Lori has come so far in her year of college tennis. Last year, she struggled to find her shots and after a summer full of summer school, she used our fall season and these tournaments to show how far she's progressed. If she keeps going at this pace, Lori will be an absolute force in our lineup this year.
Speaking of forces, Lori played doubles with Lindsey and after a routine first round win, they faced the top seeded team from Linfield. Lindsey has worked on hitting a heavier ball for the past year and wow it showed as she was knocking her opponents back and finishing at net. The score wasn't close, but if you watched the match and saw each game and how good Lori and Lindsey became as a team in just a couple weeks of practice it bodes well for our team doubles and the combinations we can put out there any day. In singles, Lindsey for the first time was seeded and was able to get to day two and the round of 16 (the past two years she faced a top seed early on). Her match with the #3 seed was nothing short of what I expected. The matchup was a tough one, testing Lindsey's ability to be consistent yet still impose her game. By the second set she found this rythym and went up 4-1 before gutting it out 7-5! The third set saw another swing as she dug herself a hole giving away too many free points, but climbed back to make it competitive. All in all, a hard fought 3 set match with the 3 seed is an improvement we can build on. In fact, Lindsey's game has been steadily improving since day one at Whitman and she is a huge part of who we are and our success on the court so it will be incredibly exciting to see where she continues to take us.
Another Whittie with fall ITA history and who I'm so proud of for her steady improvement is Allie. Our lone senior this year, she spent the fall season preparing for the LSAT, rocking her classes, leading on campus with SAAC (our student athlete leadership group which she is co-president of), and building her tennis game. Allie was a terrific leader for Andrea in doubles as they played to their seeding making the quarterfinals losing to LC's #1 team. In singles, after a great first day, Allie started day 2 with a 3 hour war where she held match points in the second set before losing the the eventual champion in 3 sets. Seeing Allie up her game from last year where the same player got her in straight sets is exciting. On a team with so much heart, Allie's compassionate leadership is another huge key to our success going forward.
Her doubles partner Andrea has plenty of time to lead, but isn't waiting around. In just her first year, Andrea has already showed so much composure, maturity and ability to grow and learn each day. She brings a ton of tennis experience to the team and while she came in as the 2 seed and was upset in the quarterfinals, she understands the process of improving. Her shots are fierce and her desire is huge. Perhaps the best thing about Andrea is how fun it is to be around her. She has a delightful personality and enjoys everything in life. Each day brings improved tennis, closer friendships and an excitement for the next one with this one. This tournament will be a terrific learning experience for her that I have no doubt we'll see pay off in her tennis and leadership.
|Hanna (left) and Mary (right) getting things started with first round singles wins|
On our team, everyone is a leader and this year with so much trust in each person to contribute in every way, I chose to have the smallest team I've ever coached. This puts responsibility on each of them to really be accountable to themselves and each other each day. These daily habits are a huge part of Mary's development and to see her embracing improved fitness, practice habits and leadership is incredibly important for us. Mary did awesome work over the summer and is hitting the ball bigger and more consistently than ever. This transition in growing your game can provide some bumps as you adjust to your improved skills and Mary found one in the round of 16 as she got frustrated early and dropped a tough match. What you look for as a coach is not always how a player performs, but how they respond. Mary came back that afternoon in doubles and responded with one of the best college doubles matches I've ever been a part of. She and Hanna in the quarterfinals fought early trading games but then went down a break 3-6. Again, their response was terrific as they gained momentum and played tenacious d while imposing their doubles to gain an 8-7 advantage. After having break points for the match, suddenly they were in a tie break and the excitement was high. The level continued to rise with both teams playing to win and after holding another match point, they faced their first match point against and Hanna came up with a huge forehand winner. The momentum from that carried them to a win and a semifinal appearance. In the semis, they played smart and beat a tough Linfield team to earn a spot in the doubles final.
In that final, playing for all-American status and a trip to small College Nationals, our top team competed with such immense passion and courage. Staying together through rough patches and feeding off each other when they made their plays, this match and tournament for Hanna and Mary as a team and for Hanna in singles and doubles is the template that our team has been looking for competitively since the graduation of four of the best competitors we've ever seen (yeah EBell, Mo, Maddy, Court - I'm talking about you!). We've worked a lot in practice to bring out each players natural instincts and find that fight no matter what is happening with the score, their opponents, their shots, the situation or anything and that is an incredibly hard thing to do as a team in an individual sport. Sunday, Mary and Hanna showed how possible it is and even in losing (which is hard when you prepare and play so well and want and deserve to win), that what matters is how we play.
Overall, the template is there for this to continue to be a special special season. In the spring we will bring our habits of constant improvement, our competitiveness as a team, our mental strength, our depth and our doubles into team matches. We'll also welcome back Cello from injury and Jenna from studying abroad in Spain - two huge additions for us. Just thinking about it gives me chills....I can't wait. But for now, we'll enjoy some time off to focus on school, being a student, taking care of our bodies and minds and then building and preparing for an awesome schedule with a fantastic team.
I'll continue to blog in the fall when we release our schedule - it's almost done I promise!!!! And we will have some special events (spoiler alert, we do play at Mercer Island this year so Tennis and Wine campers look out!), we have two national trips around the country and a conference season that based on the depth we saw from teams last weekend will be up for grabs each week! We also need to set dates for our annual family/friends/alumni weekend in March or April so please look out for that.
Sending tennislove from Walla Walla,