Wednesday, February 10, 2016

All the info you need for the Whitman Winter Classic

It's almost here!!!! Teams are packing their travel bags, the final practices are happening and I think we've got one of the best DIII events of the year right here in Walla Walla!  I want to extend a huge thank you to the visiting teams and their hard working coaches who make this happen as well as Coaches Maddy and Tom and our training and sports information staff at Whitman who all work so our wonderful players can PLAY!

The teams involved are:
Whitman - host and #22 preseason ranking with #18 ranked recruiting class
Redlands - #18 nationally with #14 ranked recruiting class
Lewis and Clark - #29 nationally
Trinity (TX) - #33 nationally
Linfield - #34 nationally

These rankings are based off last year, but we're excited for all these west region teams to face off this early in the season.  Whitman starts the weekend off with a tilt vs Trinity TX.  Coach Gretchen Rush's Tigers made the NCAA tournament last year falling in a well fought match with #4 CMS.  Saturday brings a rematch of what has annually been a great matchup between Redlands and Whitman.  In my time here, we are yet to beat the Bulldogs, but have had many competitive matches, last year dropping a 7-2 decision on Spring Break in Redlands.  That result along with a gritty win over Tufts propelled Redlands to the top of the 18-25 insanity in the DIII rankings.  Both teams brought in great young players and the first meeting in Walla Walla should be a doozy.  Linfield was one of our top competitors in the NWC last year and they return most of their lineup with some key additions.  This match starts our conference season and will set the tone for our NWC title defense.  The Wildcats have already made a trip to California where they beat CalTech and LaVerne, but lost to Redlands.

All matches will be indoors in the Bratton Tennis Center unless both coaches agree to go outside.  The best chances for outdoor tennis are Friday Whitman vs Trinity and Sunday Whitman vs Linfield.  Indoor matches have livestreaming on the Whitman Website.

You can follow each team on twitter for their updates, for us @coachhein has in match score updates.

If you have any questions about the weekend, don't hesitate to contact me or (509)301-8502.

The schedule is:
Friday Noon: Whitman vs Trinity
Friday 5pm:   Lewis and Clark vs Trinity
Saturday 8am: Whitman vs Redlands
Saturday 1pm: Trinity vs Linfield
Saturday 5pm: Lewis and Clark vs Redlands
Sunday 9am(maybe 8am) Redlands vs Trinity
Sunday 2pm: Linfield vs Whitman

Monday, February 8, 2016

Kicking off a two week homestand with GRIT

Hello and happy post super bowl Monday!

I'll try to keep this brief(ish) because I'll send another blog in the next couple days with a preview of the upcoming big D3 weekend at Whitman, the Winter Classic!  If you're coming to that, keep in touch with me, Maddy or the team for fun events off court as well as up to date match info.

After coming out a bit slow in our first match, the team was determined to set the tone in doubles at 9am vs LCSC.  This was started by Jana and Lindsey at #3 as they demonstrated great energy, shotmaking and teamwork to win 8-4 and put us on the board.  Meanwhile, Jenna and Cello started slow against a crafty team, but quickly righted the ship and from 1-4 came back to win 9-7.  Hanna and Mary keep looking as solid as ever at #1 beating a very good team in a close, fun, high level doubles match 8-6.  The doubles sweep was huge and on court 4, Lori played an exhibition singles and won 8-2.  She is working hard at specific things and it really showed through this match.

In singles, with three dual matches on 4 courts, we started putting matches on while 1,2 doubles went long.  So Allie went on first and did what she needed to to win, managing her big groundies with great defense and some nice transitions.  Lil J stepped up to play #6 and it was so cool for her to clinch the match with the play that we see every day in practice coming out from start to finish.  It was 6-2,6-3, but her opponent really battled and some games were so long but LJ stayed with her plan and fought so hard.  It was fun to watch and if doubles wasn't enough, her performance lifted our fighting spirit and earned her the coaches Whittie of the Match.

With the match decided there was no let down as Jenna came back from down a break to win 7-5,6-4 at #1 showing her senior savvy making nice adjustments in both doubles and singles.  Mary was terrific up a set and 5-2 before her opponent who is really talented and athletic upped the level to battle into a tie break.  Shaking it off, our Iowan found another gear for herself and looked terrific in the tiebreak.  In fact, first year Whitties coming through in tie breaks became a theme as Cello was forced into a first set tiebreak before winning 7-6,6-2.  Cello has really done an amazing job giving and getting from the team and the improvement of her daily habits is showing in matches as she is always eager for any challenge and each week she is more and more ready for them which is a huge testament to who she is as a person and player...very impressive.  Speaking of impressive, Jana played our only three set match of the day.  Wow, this kid (young adult, but she has the enthusiasm of a playful child and the discipline of the most professional adult), has so many tools on court and is using her shotmaking, athleticism and intelligence really well.  Using the first set to figure out her opponent, she came back to control the second set and in a long hard fought match tie break, she was determined to play her game and it gave her the win and Whitman the 9-0 sweep.

After lunch while Idaho played LCSC to a 7-0 (D1 rules) win, we came out looking for more matches for everyone and switched up the doubles lineup.  Hanna and Mary were looking great up 3-2 then lost the break on a no ad point and each game was a battle.  The 3-6 score is respectable, but also fuel for this team who knows it could have been 6-3 Whitman.  We've been trying different combos and Allie and Jana after a some great practice dubs, played outstanding in a 3-6 set at #2.  The energy was big and positive and they showed their skills are right there with some bigtime teams.  At #3 Lil J and Lori were also right in it 2-6 and as Lori plays more and more doubles she just gets better and Jenna showed her leadership and consistent big level throughout, keeping them on track start to finish.

The singles were a great competitive and learning experience as Idaho is almost all foreign players on full scholarships who play really solid tennis. Everyone battled and got experience seeing that we can play at that level, but there are some subtle but significant things to keep improving to get there.  I was happy for the way JD, Cello, Jana and Allie played.  Just the same I was bummed for Lindsey who rested during singles vs LCSC then came out so pumped and ready but up 3-0 her opponent needed to rest an injury and retired.  Not every player would have forced her at less than 100% to feel she couldn't compete, but Linds took it to her.  At #6, Hanna showed her commitment to singles is paying off as she learns more and more how to blend offense and defense.  Her hard work was really fun to watch and if she keeps this going, she'll be a force in singles as well as doubles.

So much for being brief! I'm too excited about yesterday and can't wait for practice tomorrow.  As I said, I'll send a separate preview for the Winter Classic this weekend when we welcome 4 nationally ranked D3 teams in our friends from Linfield, Trinity, Lewis and Clark and Redlands to Walla Walla.

Coach John

Monday, February 1, 2016

This past weekend we played our first match of the 2016 season at Eastern Washington University in Cheney.  Our first two weeks of practice have been outstanding, but as great as our practice mentality is, there is no substitute for dual match play.  The Eagles were very sharp in their 6th match of the season and in the shorter D1 format (no ad scoring, doubles to 6 games), they came out strong sweeping the 3 doubles and taking the 4th in an exhibition.  I like what we can do in doubles as the skills and competitive fire were there, just a few too many mistakes in our first set of the season.

The team supporting Lori and Lil J in their #4 doubles match
Singles was a totally different story up and down.  At #1, playing the same player she lost to 6-0,6-0 last year Jenna played an incredibly composed and competitive match losing 4-6,3-6.  Next to her, the improvement in our team was also tangible as Mary played a 5th year senior who played #1 the last time we saw her and beat Courtney 6-2,6-1.  Mary's first set was rough but she got it going in the second set finally going down 6-0,6-4, but not before showcasing her baseline skills and determination. 

#3 was the match of the day with Cello having a slow start, then coming back to make the first set close before stepping it up a notch in the second set.  This was where you could feel the first year's on the court start to feed off each other and really fight together and the spark today came from Cello's heart during the match, but also her commitment to having great habits in practice that are paying off.  With the overall match decided, the third set was a match tie break and getting down big, Cello again fought back to make it close before the final score of 7-6,2-6,10-8.

#4 and #5 were really good matches that despite both being straight set losses, show the mental toughness, fight and ability to grow on our team.  Jana at 4 was rock solid from the start, using her weapons and blending offense and defense brilliantly.  So steady and so tough, even when her opponent found another gear, JKM was in every game fighting for every ball.  She came this fall with some of the best variety on the team and seeing her integrate even more options into match play has us thrilled to see what is next from her.  In the same way, Lindsey has been working to expand her game and it showed more on court than on the scoreboard in a 6-2,6-2 match.  It is incredible to see the physical maturity of her game as her work in the weightroom showed in having some incredible extended rallies with a counterpuncher who likes the points to go as long as possible.

Allie played #6 Saturday and coming off limited practice I knew she was striking the ball well, but wasn't sure what to expect as she competed.  Well, she picked up where she left off in 2015, managing herself and using her offense and defense intelligently.  She also served great against a big hitter and lost a tough 7-5,6-4 match that could have gone either way.  We got a couple exhibitions with Hanna playing a proset that Eastern won 8-3, though after a slow start, Hanna got comfortable continues to grow with each singles opportunity.  Lori got a one set match and it is awesome to see her transition to college life in the states.  She is more comfortable and has worked really hard in the gym so her power and shotmaking was incredible in a 6-3 loss.

Overall, this match was an opportunity to beat a D1 team and we could feel the intensity of that, but mostly it was an incredible testament to the leadership of Jenna, Allie and Tree for bringing the underclassmen along and showcasing their skills and support.

For her leadership in everything we do, Jenna was voted Whittie of the Week this week by the team and for her courage and great play on court, Cello was named by the coaches as the Whittie of the match.  Thanks to Maddy and Tom for awesome work prepping the team and on court.  We can't wait to get back to work at practice and look forward to a nice home stretch.

Our next matches are this Sunday at 9am vs Lewis Clark State College (ID) and then at 5pm vs University of Idaho.  We'll get the livestreams in Bratton up and running and will make a better effort to tweet out scores (I thought they were going out, but in the end my phone must have swallowed them all - sorry).

If you haven't seen this teams energy, togetherness and tennis, you're in for a treat!

Bye until Sunday,

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Tis the season. The season for Tennis

Sorry for the writing hiatus, but classes and practices have been back on for a week now, and I'll be blogging regularly as we have a jam packed season.  So, without further we go!

I have to start with this team.  WOW, what an incredible group of individuals who are really figuring out ways to come together as a team.  It was obvious that their off season was well spent as there is a visible strength and confidence you can see from the first day of practice.  So much of this is due to the great leadership of Jenna and Allie organizing the fall, making it fun but still allowing for the valuable time off that is built into D3 tennis.  This is overall the most talented and athletic group I've coached.  They are driven to succeed and mentally tough and if the fall is any indication of our trajectory, we're going to have a great ride this year.

We hit the ground running with one practice and fitness session before welcoming back longtime friend Morgan Shepherd for a 4 day workshop with the team.  Without giving away the details of what Morgan does blending somatic psychology and tennis while he works on publishing it, I will say it is subtle on some levels, but what I do know is that he's able to define and cultivate the key areas for players and teams to make significant improvements.  The team worked really hard over this time doing individual lessons, team practices and fitness all with a focus on implementing the core concepts Morgan introduced in the fall. 

One detail I can happily share is that the team voted on who contributed the most this week and Jana is our first Spring 2016 Whittie of the Week!  Jana is always ready and focused on improving her own game and after a semester in college, her teammates say she's opened up a bit and they love her personality - passionate, honest and fun loving, her effort and attitude earn her this weeks award. Congrats Jana!

On court, we're playing some great tennis and are very excited to open up our match schedule this Saturday at 3pm at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, WA. 

Coach John

Looking ahead:
Thanks to alums who have volunteered to participate in mentoring program, we are working on that!

Sun, Feb 7th - Home double header vs LCSC and U of Idaho

Fri Feb 12th-Sun Feb 14th Whitman Winter Classic with Trinity, Redlands, Linfield, Lewis and Clark

Fri Feb 19th - NWC kickoff in Portland vs Lewis and Clark