Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Fall ITA Regionals Recap

Hi everyone,

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,
Coach John

Monday, September 26, 2016

Short but sweet, it's Fall ITA Regionals Week

Hello out there!

I'm trying to get a post out weekly and this past week we had a week of recovery, learning and training after the WC Fall Invite.  The team is diligently working on schoolwork to get ahead for the coming weekend and have kept up their fitness and tennis with some really solid practices.

We look to up the intensity this week as we get ready to host the Fall Oracle ITA Regional this Fri, Sat, and Sun.  It is a phenomenal event with all of our conference teams bringing singles and doubles players.  Winners are automatically all-American and get into Fall Small College Nationals!

In terms of running the tournament, coaching and keeping everything going, it can be hard to update results, but I will do my best via twitter @whitwomentennis and on the WC Website on our schedule page.

The schedule (if dry) is to play on all 10 Whitman courts outside and inside

Friday 9am until done - 2 singles rounds followed by 2 doubles rounds
Saturday same as Friday
Sunday - singles main and consolation semis and finals, doubles final.

Looking forward to some great tennis!


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

It has begun! WC Fall Invite Kicks off Whitman's Season with Excitement

Our fall season always consists of great practices, team building and often one tournament, the Fall ITA Regional.  This year we hosted the first annual WC Fall Invite, a singles and doubles tournament with top 20 NAIA Lewis-Clark State (ID), and D1 Eastern Washington and Seattle University.  It was a fantastic weekend of tennis with all four teams very close and competitive, which is exactly what we needed to continue our growth.

We set up 2 flights of singles and 2 flights of doubles to get each player 3-4 singles matches and 2-3 doubles matches in 2 days.  Saturday, we had rain all day and enjoyed the brand new blue and yellow surface in Bratton and it was phenomenal!  Everyone played great with big wins, close losses and so much great intensity.  As we grow, we need these experiences to push us forward.

In the yellow flight, our depth shined on day one with Linds and Lori teaming up for a first round doubles win and a thrilling 5-7 no ad set loss to eventual champions from EWU.  Both players have worked so hard on doubles and Lindsey demonstrated tremendous leadership which will give us so many great doubles options this year!  On the singles side of the yellow flight, it was a first round Whittie sweep with both Lori and Linds rolling through their first round before intense tough nighttime losses that each will learn from and use for fuel going forward.  Our final player in the yellow draw was Hanna who worked hard over the summer and it showed as she rebounded from a 5-7 first set to win 6-3,10-6 in the super tie break over a D1 player from Eastern.  Not done, she faced EWU's top new player from Belgium and used her intensity and composure to make the right adjustments and pull out another three set victory in another 10-6 match tie break!  Overall, Hanna was 4-0 on the day joining with Mary in the Blue flight doubles to roll in the first round, then dominate the #1 seed in the semis to make the finals of the top flight.  What a day for Hanna to celebrate her off season commitment to her tennis!

In the Blue singles, Mary took on the #4 seed and fell in a super tie break for the third, also showing her improvements from last year and the summer.  She rebounded for a consolation win to go with her big time doubles with Hanna.  After a summer working and studying hard, Allie played great tennis in both singles and doubles and these matches will get her match fitness up for the fall ITA in two weeks.

Day two so early in the season is an important one for us.  We had some terrific performances and some places to learn and grow.  After a really long day indoors Saturday it was great to move outside and it was a fantastic day for each player to learn about how they compete and build as a tournament progresses.  Even matches we didn't play our best we were able to gut out wins and competitive scores - both terrific indicators of our character, talent and focus.

Along with our doubles and depth, a huge highlight of the weekend was our lone first year player, Andrea Gu.  Andrea fought her way through day one singles and in the semi's took the first set from the top seed, EWU's #1 player.  Despite being outplayed in the super tie break, Andrea came back in the third place match to battle and find her tennis to beat the #4 seed 8-5!  What an exciting start to her Whitman tennis career!

Read our web recap here

Now, as we learn and get back to work in the classroom, on the court and in the gym, I am so excited for our next tournament, also at Whitman!

We host the Fall Oracle ITA Regional Fri Sep 30-Sun Oct 2nd, welcoming the best singles and doubles players from our conference as we compete for the regional championships which bring all-American status and a trip to Fall Nationals.

Let us know if you'll be in Walla Walla in two weeks for the Oracle ITA Regional, and if we get live streaming up indoors I'll let you know!

Warmest wishes from Walla Walla,
Coach John

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Welcome, Welcome, Welcome

Hello WC Tennis Fans!

Well, its a new year and after a summer off of blogging, I wasn't sure if Whitman would have a new mascot yet or not.  Going forward the Missionary will no longer be the mascot, and the plan is to have a new one by 2017, so for now, the blog will keep this name and address.

Getting some early doubles work in on our new surface in Bratton!
And of course spending most of our days outside!

It is an absolute pleasure to welcome everyone back from summer.  There were many adventures, some great training and tournaments but a lot of variety of work, rest, travel, training and play.  What is so great for me to see is that each year I've been at Whitman, our first practice back has more depth, quality of play and the overall fitness just gets better and better.

Our other excitement comes from comings and goings.  Jenna came over during orientation to see her teammates, but is now safely landed in Spain for her semester abroad.  It is one of the awesome things about D3 that such a dedicated student athlete can still get this experience is incredible.  We miss her but are so thrilled for this opportunity she has.

I would like to officially welcome two new members of the team.  I'd like to welcome our new assistant Coach Brian Elliot. Brian comes from Eastern Washington, most recently living in Liberty Lake after growing up in Colville and playing #1 at Whitworth.  He has coached at clubs in Texas and California and brings a wealth of experience and so much passion for the game and team tennis, we are lucky to have Brian.  He's already dove in on court and with video for technical and tactical development.

With Tree and Jenna D. graduating last year (btw congrats on the respective moves to NYC and LA!!!), we have big shoes to fill through development, but helping on the recruiting side is the arrival of first year Andrea Gu.  Andrea is from Coquitlam, BC, spent 3 years of high school in Shanghai, China and now comes to Whitman ready to contribute right away.  She brings a spirit of engagement and positivity that resonates so well with our team.  On court, she is ripping the ball and working hard right away.  All of this from our highest ranked recruit ever, a 4 star top 150 in her class on, Andrea has played nationally in Canada as well as having great success in the USTA PNW section.  This year she stayed home a lot playing adult open tournaments in BC which will help her maturity and being ready for anything on the court.  I'll also welcome her parents Donna and Gary to the Whitman family, its wonderful to have you and Andrea is fitting in wonderfully right away.
Andrea at convocation - ready to start classes

While the excitement is high with the team, this first two weeks at Whitman have been different than any other I've experienced.  Our community is saddened by the loss of classmate and friend Josh Fishman.  Our thoughts go to his family, friends and loved ones and there has been a unusual combination of enthusiasm with grief throughout the past week.  In these times, as one player put it, we feel gratitude for our health, each other and the opportunities we have - I couldn't have said it better; thanks Mary.

Our first competition is a week from Saturday when we host a singles and doubles tournament with LC State (ID), Seattle U, and Eastern WA here at Whitman, the WC Fall Invite Sep 17-18th.

Then, two weeks later we also host the Fall Oracle/ITA Regional Championships here at Whitman Sep 30-Oct 2nd (Fri, Sat, Sun) - if you're in the area, come on out, if you're traveling to watch some great tennis, we'd love to see you!

Warm regards from Walla Walla,
Coach John