Monday, February 23, 2015

Home matches, Walla Walla Weather and the Winter Classic

Hi everyone,

So, I was halfway through a post last week about our road trip to Spokane.  As I fumbled with the keyboard and my thoughts on our amazing seniors who led us to victory over conference rival Whitworth, Whitman's student newspaper, the Pioneer beat me to it.  If you haven't already, you can read about our season outlook especially what Morgan, Erin, Maddy and Courtney bring to this team here.

Starting the season with three tough road matches, it was so nice to return home.  We had a wonderful week of February weather with outdoor practices and sunny warm days on Ankeny.  However, the weekend brought a cold snap and an overnight shower Friday so we tried to play George Fox outside, but had to go in for doubles while the courts dried before coming outside to play singles in the sun.  This team can handle anything and we swept all four doubles again with great leadership from the top with Courtney and Morgan, but tremendous play from Seana and Lindsey at #3 to beat a Fox team that is probably their toughest point in the lineup.  At #2, the duo of Maddy and Hanna brought big energy for the sweep and Alex and Jenna G played an exhibition that they swept 8-0.  Moving outside, all three first years got on court and Jenna and Hanna won quickly to seal the match.  Courtney finished next to keep the first years from a 1,2,3 finish, then Lindsey battled through her second set while Allie stayed focused to also win in 2 sets.  This all set up a big third set tie break from Jenna D, who played some of her best tennis when it counted to get the win.  I really like the direction George Fox is going, which is indicitive of our whole conference; we're all getting deeper and more talented, but even more than that they way they compete is with class and great sportsmanship.

Sunday it got even colder, so we agreed to start and stay inside (I hope some of you enjoyed the live streaming, send me feedback if it worked/didn't work or if we can make it better).  Pacific brought a young, athletic team and their big hitting duo of Kaitlyn Lomartire and Jelena Vidovic faced off with Courtney and Morgan at 1 dubs.  This brought out the best of the twins in the young season as they improved both their shot execution and court coverage for a key 8-6 win at 1 doubles.  First off, however were 2 and 4 doubles (exhibition).  Again, Alex and Jenna G (Little J) were solid in scoring an 8-0 win and Erin and Katrina dominated 8-1 to get us on the scoreboard.  At #3, Jenna D and Allie used great serving and big groundies to win points or set up net finishes and put us up 3-0 after doubles. 
Cheering on Courtney and Morgan vs Pacifc

In singles, at #3-6 we got straight set wins from Allie, Erin, Alex and Little J with Allie doing just about everything right, Erin fighting hard when her opponent tried to make a run, Alex dominated start to finish and Jenna fought through some of her own unforced errors to lock down her match.  While Courtney rested, Morgan battled at #2 and while the scoreline of 1-6,2-6 looks daunting, Jelena is a great player who looks to be playing some of the best tennis in our conference right from the start of the season and the second set really could have swung Mo's way early before Jelena came up with some huge shots on key points.  The #1 match was the battle of the day with two big hitting baseliners going at it.  Jenna fought through a tight first set and came up with some huge winners to seal it.  Then, Kaitlyn got it going and was up a break 4-1 in the second.  Jenna stayed focused and got the break back and broke again to win 6-4,6-4.  It was a great match for both players and we enjoyed the level of hitting and athleticism both brought.

But, that was just a warm up for the Bratton Tennis Center.  We'll host the Whitman Winter Classic this Friday through Sunday.  We're talking about so much great tennis all day long in Bratton!  Coming to town are the #38 ranked Whittier Poets and #39 Texas Tyler Patriots to play us, Linfield (#10 West) and Lewis and Clark (#15 West).  The Poets are an up and coming team with one of the top singles players in the West and UT Tyler is always at or near the top of their conference and last year we faced them in the first round of NCAA's scoring hard fought 5-4 win.  The action will start each morning and go until we finish each night, and if that's not enough for you - at the end, Whitworth comes to town for our second of two NWC matches with them.

Friday 2/27
9am Whitman vs Whittier (WC v WC)
1 pm (not before) UT Tyler vs Lewis and Clark
5pm (not before) Whittier vs Linfield

Saturday 2/28
9am UT Tyler v Whittier
1pm (not before) UT Tyler v Linfield
5pm (not before) Whittier v Lewis and Clark

Sunday 3/1
9am Whitman vs UT Tyler
1pm (not before) Whitman vs Whitworth

Live streaming will be through the Whitman athletics website there is either a camera link on the schedule or you click on Multimedia and Live stream to watch all 4 courts!  Scoring will most likely be via twitter, but we're working on if we can get it on the livestream or put up a scoreboard somehow.

Those of you coming to Walla Walla, we'll plan on a team/family/alum dinner Saturday night - I haven't worked out the details so get in touch if you'll be there or would like to help plan!

Thanks for following WC Women's Tennis!


Monday, February 9, 2015

Beyond the scoreline. Our first match of the season

If you read my post last week, you'll know that the team has been working really hard.  One thing about college tennis is that these players have worked so long and hard to develop tremendous skills and lots of players get better in college by putting those skills to the test each day in practice and in weekly matches.  Our team has made a greater commitment to really improve ourselves on and off the court, between points, games, sets and matches.  Growth can be painful and as a program where everyone wants to win every time we step out on the court, yesterday was a bit painful, but also really a terrific step in our growth.

So, we played the Lewis Clark State College Warriors in Lewiston, ID.  Coach Kai Fong does a tremendous job not only having a team that each year is a national contender in NAIA tennis, but he instills kindness, sportsmanship and class in his team.  Yesterday, already 4 matches into their season (against all D1 teams), the Warriors were just sharper than we were and scored an 8-1 win (results here).

We had great match preparation but are still fine tuning our doubles, getting healthier every day and experiencing some slight growing pains in expanding our games.  With all this, plus the fact that LCSC is a great team with some amazing young talent at the top of the lineup and solid depth, our showing yesterday was something we're all proud of.

I am so tempted to give a complete blow by blow of the match, but I think I'll just highlight that our effort and fight was in midseason form even though the precision on our shots looked like the first match of the year.  The scores in doubles do very little to indicate how much of a strength this is for us this year.  We have so much talent in doubles and with matches and fine tuning, it will only get better.  On that note, exhibition matches weren't on the WC website recap and at #4 doubles Seana and Lindsey fought through some early nerves and then built great momentum to take an 8-4 victory.
In Singles, there is a little more time to settle in and each player has been working on individual goals and everyone showed tremendous progress, so the task at hand is to bring it all together as we prepare to play our first NWC match Saturday at Whitworth and then we'll be at D1 Eastern WA Sunday in Cheney, WA.  Our depth also showed up in the #7 and #8 exhibition matches, they played no ad to move things along and Hanna helped out with a quick 6-0,6-3 win at #7.  With Hanna's big game every match she gets is huge in her development and she took some lessons as well as some confidence from this one.  Tree played #8 and while she is still getting back her cleanest tennis, she battled really well in a 4-6,6-4,10-7 three set loss.

Let me know if you'll be in Spokane for the battle of Whits on Saturday at 10am or Cheney on Sunday at 10am, we'd love to have support and its also great for the team to engage and spend time with our families, friends and alums!

Thanks for reading!
Coach John

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

An Amazing Weekend

Hi out there everyone,

As we moved through our second week of Spring practice, the incredible excitement began to build into a confident routine of hard work, fitness and more precise tennis.  This set the perfect stage for a special weekend last weekend.

Though the years are going by and it was longer and longer ago, for me as a college player at UC Santa Cruz, being a part of Slug Tennis was something big.  I was fortunate to build meaningful relationships with so many people.  One of them is Morgan Shepherd.  Mo Shep was the assistant director of my first Nike Tennis Camp I worked at; a fellow Slug who was then coaching at Pomona Pitzer before moving to Boise, ID to work with Greg Patton (shout out to our Tennis and Wine Camp Brother Greg and his amazing family including CPatt who we miss!).  Morgan coached with Greg at Boise State and also ran many programs for Idaho tennis before coming back to Northern California where he lives and coaches privately now.  He came back to get a degree in somatic psychology and I was thrilled we had the opportunity to bring him up to campus to work with the team.

Not knowing exactly what Mo would bring to the table, I'm so proud of the way the team approached the weekend with open minds and hearts.  Morgan became part of our team and worked with us together on our practice and match play as well as individually with each players game.  It was an incredible experience with a great tennis mind sharing his knowledge, research on the mind-body connection and love of tennis with us.  Thanks Mo Shep, we'll carry forward many of the lessons you gave us.

We also got to name another Whittie of the Week and Lindsey was voted by her teammates to have contributed at the highest level.  She's always working really hard and this week with a lot of focus on playing singles and doubles to get our groove back, everyone was impressed with how as an opponent she brought out their best and as a partner she was so positive, supportive and uplifting.  What a week for everyone and I'm sure our first year from Bend will keep building on what she already does so well.

FINALLY, we were able to add one more match to our schedule!  Get our your calendars because we'll head over to Lewiston, ID this Sunday for a 9am season opening dual match with the NAIA top 20 Warriors!  I'll be tweeting updates @coachhein and @whitwomentennis so we hope you enjoy the energy of our first match against a great opponent.  With both teams shorthanded, we defeated LCSC this fall on the grass courts at Baker City, but Coach Kai Fong with his full squad will pose a tough challenge right off the bat that we can't wait to engage in.

Okay, one more thing...sorry.  But, since you're looking at your calendar and our schedule, you'll notice we have all our home matches between February 20th and March 14th when we leave for Spring Break in California.  We aren't setting a specific family/alumni weekend, but we hope if you're planning travel you'll let me know so we can enjoy your company and support and plan some activities around the matches for you to interact and get to know this amazing team even better.

Allright, its time for practice, I'm off to the courts!

-Coach John

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

2015 Season Preview

Dear followers, fans and families,

After a fall away from the blog using my email list (email me at heinj@whitman to be added for updates including new blog posts), I'm getting back to the blog as a way to share weekly - if not more often what we're up to here in Walla Walla.

After one of the most fun and successful seasons in program history, it's safe to say that what we have now is a "program".  As a team, we continue to build on our strengths and push the envelope to find new ways to grow together as individuals and a team.  If you got my fall emails, you know how incredibly excited I am with our new players.  Alex has made a wonderful transition from Art School in Vancouver, though moving away from such a tight family and support system at home has it's challenges.  That's what the team is all about though, channeling that love of tennis into a true family at Whitman.  Hanna, Jenna G (or Little J as we call her) and Lindsey have met every expectation I had of them (and I thought A LOT of each of them) in recruiting and are all making huge contributions daily.

In fact, the depth on our team is a fun problem to have, and it really is fun because the leadership from so many places on this team is off the charts so we're really enjoying our court time together and looking forward to competing together.  I couldn't tell you (well, I could but that might spoil the surprise, and I could be proven wrong in the next couple weeks of practice), what our lineup is because we're having the most competitive practices full of upsets, tight sets and a really high level of play coming off of the fall and a long winter break.

We're excited to welcome in fellow Slug Alum Morgan Shepherd this weekend to work with the team on honing our practice habits and then we hit the road for back to back weekends:

Feb 8th at Lewis Clark State College (Idaho) 9am
Feb 14th at Whitworth  10am
Feb 15th at Eastern Washington University  10am

Then, we have a wonderful month of home matches up to spring break with conference matches on the road after break.  We will be planning alumni/family/fan events in Tacoma and Portland so let me know if you'd like to help in the planning of that.

I feel like I'm missing tons, like our fundraising camps with Emily Rolston, our awesome Spring Break schedule in California, a stellar academic fall for the team.....I'll have to do more posts and if you're not already, I encourage you to get involved and like us on facebook for more frequent updates, photos, videos and also so you can all interact.

For now I'll say I couldn't be more fired up for today's practice, so I'm going to go get ready and I wish you all the best in 2015.

Coach John

Future Posts:
-WC Winter Classic
-Whittie of the Week Updates
-2015 Recruiting Commitments - meet our incoming Whitties