It is with no small amount of emotion that I write this blog post. As a coach, you often find yourself thinking and feeling in opposites. The end of a terrific season is one of those times. This year has been unbelievable, and to be part of an experience this special requires a lot of emotional investment of the players and coaches. This season was one of unknowns; how would we react to graduating such an amazing class in 2015? what would our new players contribute, how would the chemistry and work ethic be. In short, how good of team could we be this year both on and off court?
While much can (and will) be said about the incredible first year class, the leadership that graduated with Maddy, Erin, Morgan and Courtney was irreplaceable. This is where our system of not naming captains, but having everyone find ways to lead and take responsibility paid off. Our upperclassmen, Jenna, Katrina and Allie had really been leading for a year or two, and longer in many ways. Our sophomores Lindsey, Jenna and Hanna were all used to responsibility and each was ready for more. So, from the fall, The steady leadership of Jenna and Tree combined with Allie's daily drive and their shared commitment to bring everyone together was evident from our success at the fall tournament, carried into their great off season work and we picked it up in January for Spring practices and matches.
|Lori doing the move that in China is called "The Cat"|
|Cello showing off her wheels and one hander|
|Hard work and smiles...Jana has it all|
|Mary's all court game translated right away into singles and doubles|
As a class, it is such a joy to know that this group has come together and learned so much. They are incredible individuals who through the season figured out not just how to improve individually but how to make each other better. They also have such wonderful personalities that complement each other and allow them to become great friends but also push each other.
A defining aspect of our season was how we competed nationally in DIII. With so much turnover in the lineup and so many new faces, in many ways our season and success were defined by the play and leadership of the sophomores. Jenna, Lindsey and Hanna all stepped up to help lead us to 5 nationally ranked wins, solidifying our program in the top 25 and showing we can play with anyone any day.
|Hanna's awesome forehand|
|Lindsey rips a forehand in a huge 3 set win over LC|
|Jenna's heavy backhand|
|Allie doing work from the baseline|
Finally, it is time that I write a final player post and welcome Katrina and Jenna as Whitman Women's Tennis alumnae. These two got paired to be roommates as first years in Jewett Hall and the bond created was instant and has only grown stronger. It's hard to imagine being more proud of two people as individuals and as teammates. They allow each other to have their own journey of tennis and school, but the first person always there when they need it is the other. Two of the most genuine, nice, caring and loving people I've been around, they both have the ability to achieve at anything they set their mind to, but also find ways to enjoy balance in life.
|Team D - Family within Family|
I am so inspired by what Jenna has done as a student athlete. She worked constantly to build a singles game that has no weaknesses and so many strengths. This year, she was hungry to step into the #1 role and every practice there was no doubt who our on court model for success was. In matches, she got to play the best players in the country and every time she was right there. We saw her best tennis as a senior and the level of play as she put the final pieces of attacking short balls, finishing at net and controlling the baseline with a variety of patterns. She has been ranked #13 in the West region most of the season where she currently sits and can be proud of the results, rankings and mostly the feeling of playing such wonderful tennis. Of course, this singles momentum was building, and it was her success in doubles which was just as gratifying. Not wanting to volley or always having good targets with her returns in previous years, JD was an absolute monster at the net this year. Her poaches and huge overheads ate up the middle of the court and her money lefty serve and ripping returns kept teams on their heels. It is impossible not to feel great about Jenna's legacy at Whitman and again she was honored as first team all-NWC for her 4th all conference award. Jenna plans to head back home to Southern California and pursue a career in TV where she loves combining her skill for economics with the excitement of the entertainment industry.
Katrina, as an art major, recently installed her thesis. If you're on campus the next two weeks, definitely go to Olin Hall and check it out. I don't know tons about art, but I was blown away by how thought provoking, powerful and still very approachable if even fun and whimsical her thesis is. She'll be heading east to the big apple to see where her talents in various media and creativity take her.
|Alice and Katrina - so much support and love to celebrate!|
This year was equally inspiring from Tree on our team as she worked incredibly hard rehabbing from her knee surgery in the fall and was at every practice coaching and engaging with the team. After sad news from her surgeon in January that her timetable of recovery wouldn't allow her to play this year (she would have been in the fast part of the range of recovery times, but we were hopeful nonetheless), it was incredible to see Katrina take charge of her overall health and well being. Sometimes as an athlete, taking a step back is the hardest thing. It is even harder when its not by choice. Katrina handled this as an opportunity and true to our team values of being together as a team but also supporting the needs of each individual, she took some time away from the day to day practice and matches. But, because Tree is so special and has such power as a leader and friend, she stayed connected and continued to forge bonds with the first and second years who made up most of the team. When she was ready she came back to practice and coached at matches and this allowed her to give so much more to the team. Katrina probably has the most vocal perspective on tennis and competition and her ability to get everyone pumped and keep the belief high at all times helped us in immeasurable ways have the wonderful success we had this year.
We will miss these two so much, but I'm incredibly excited to celebrate their graduation and see what they do next in life. In fact, there is so much to celebrate this year with great success on and off court, but there is also more to build on with the talent, desire and teamwork to take another step forward next year.
If you've gotten this far, thanks for taking the time to read this post. Often I think writing this is more for me than you. It's a way for me to reflect and enjoy how meaningful this 'job' is. I'm so happy for every moment we had this year and am beyond excited for what is to come next year as this young team becomes seasoned and builds off of the great year we had this year as well as everything the program has been through in the past. I hope you've enjoyed this look into the lives and tennis of these truly outstanding women. They are the model of talent, determination and teamwork that any coach would love to have. I'm glad I'm that coach.
PS HUGE thanks go to all the support teams out there; our families, friends, alums and campus community are second to none, we love you all. I could not enjoy this whole thing so much or work to give the team such a great experience without Maddy as an amazing talented and incredibly passionate assistant coach. Every year seems to get to be more fun and rewarding, and for that and everything else she does to love and support me and be family to the team, thank you Jen, I love you so much.