Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Finishing touches on the Regional USTA/ITA Tournament

Wow, what a tremendous weekend in Walla Walla.  Our beautiful campus was the showcase of a very busy Whitman weekend with an alumni reunion, home soccer and volleyball, an instant play festival, and I'm sure many other activities.  Along with that, our tournament attracted all 9 NWC teams and filled draws of 64 singles and 32 doubles with players on waiting lists to get in.

The weather cooperated and with the generosity of Anne Thomas and the Walla Walla Country Club, we had 8 awesome outdoor courts and our 4 indoor courts hopping with great tennis, which I'll continue to describe here.

I've already recounted the exploits of much of the team and I'm excited to add that Charlotte in her junior year continues her steady progression as a player and a leader on this team.  After a first round loss she moved into the consolation in singles and eventually lost to Willamette's #3 player who won the consolation.  Her high level of play and great teamwork carried into the doubles consolation where she teamed with 1st year Leah Siegel of Portland, OR to roll through the consolation doubles and take home the title.  Each match they worked better and better as a team and upset some teams that I'm sure will be solid contributors to the lineups of our conference opponents.  The best part was through their sniffles (both had colds), they focused all the way to earn huge smiles and hugs from their teammates at the end.

Our other Portland first year, Maggie Eismeier (of Portland, ME), had a tough first round match and recovered to get some great college experience in the back draw, nearly knocking off a solid player from LC.  What the scoreboard doesn't show is that Maggie has recently re-worked much of her game and is adjusting to new technique beautifully and now she has an idea of the level of college competition so I know she's ready to keep growing her game and will be a force to be reckoned with in the very near future.

Hannah Palkowitz is not from any city called Portland, but rather, hails from San Diego, CA.  Hannah and Amanda had some streaks in doubles and she showed her abilities but also her need to tighten things up a bit. Also, for not having played a lot of singles in high school and coming off of a hamstring injury this summer, her singles game is going to be as good or better than her doubles.

While Dena's 28-26 tie break and our doubles consolation wins were two of the most memorable events of the weekend, it was our top two players who provided some of the best tennis and surely the most excitement and energy to the center of campus.

Elise held to her seed up to the quarterfinals where the first set with finalist and defending champion Abby Olbrich was outstanding.  After Abby snuck out the first, she got a lead in the second and held on, but Elise showed that her outstanding form at the end of last season in singles is not far off and that she can play with any player she'll face.  Alyssa also held to her seed, but just barely.  After falling behind 0-2 in the first set to top seed Natalia Agarycheva of Willamette, Show Pony ran off a string of games to take the set 6-2 in prancing style.  As Natalia heated up in the second she got an early lead and stayed ahead to take it 6-3, and at this point, with all respect to the other semifinal match between two outstanding and talented players, the big hitting, wonderful hustle and ability of both to compete made this the highest quality match of the tournament for me - though I am biased since I coach Alyssa.  Down 3-5 in the third, Alyssa held easily and fought hard to break for 5-5.  Another hold had her a game from the finals, but Natalia, who possesses one of the biggest serves in D3 tennis, came up huge with only one missed first serve and huge groundies to back it up to force a deciding tiebreak.  Unfortunately for Alyssa, who maintained a high level through the tie break, Natalia came up with a couple key shots and ShoPo's somehow found the top of the tape to send the #1 seed to the final with a 7-4 tiebreak win.

So, with some much needed time to rest while Abby and Natalia fought out the singles final, ShoPo and Twitch readied themselves to face Abby and her high school doubles partner and new college doubles partner Sarah Click.  While we had the #1 seeding and had beaten Abby and multiple time doubles all-American Sallie Katter

So, the regional ended in sunshine and victory, but more importantly, it was a great event for our players and fans to enjoy the hard work they've put in and set their sights on how we must keep improving this year in a conference with amazing parity.

Thanks to all who attended and cheered and especially to all the families who came and supported as well as helped out with making the tournament run smoothly.  An extra huge thanks goes to Katie who worked tirelessly to keep things moving, keep our athletes fed and also to coach all at the same time and to the Norsworthy's for running the tournament desk at Walla Walla Country Club, we couldn't have had so much great tennis without you.

From sunny Walla Walla,

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Days 1 and 2 of the Fall USTA/ITA Regional at Whitman


I will endeavor  to catch you up a bit as the tournament is still taking place and will provide more details after tomorrow. We've had beautiful weather in the low 80's and high 70's not to mention some gorgeous sunsets...and sunrises which could give you some idea of how amazing these student athletes are playing all day long, supporting each other and many of them find some time for schoolwork during breaks and at the end of the day.

I'll start with our returners, in singles Emily had a solid first round win which I didn't see as we were indoors and outdoors, and then she fell to #3 seed Rachel Burns and is getting a taste for how her game is growing and matching up with some of the top players in the conference.  Kate has also shown tremendous growth.  Many of you will remember her marathon three set victory of Sarah Watanabe of Linfield at conference last fall.  The first round provided a rematch and Kate's dilligent work showed as she played inspired tennis to win in straight sets this time.  She then took on Pacific's all-conference junior Megan Yoshimoto and pushed her to the limit in the first set losing a tie break 10-8.  Megan stepped up a bit in the second and Kate still played some great tennis, though did not sustain it losing 2-6.  In doubles, Sabertooth and Wolverine, as they are known around here, had a huge second round win over the seeded team from Lewis and Clark.  Casey Schein of LC was battling an illness that took her out of the singles earlier but it didn't show as tremendous tennis was played with our claw and fang Whitties winning 9-7.  In the Quarters it was again Megan Yoshimoto of Pacific, this time with her doubles partner Cat Goya as the #2 seed who Em and Kate were right with to 4-5 before dropping 3 straight games to lose 8-4.  It was a great showing from last year's #3 team.

Amanda had a solid first round win and ran into fellow Idaho native and Linfield first year Caroline Brigham, losing in straight sets with a great quality of tennis but just a few too many errors, but it is wonderful to see Amanda out on the courts again every day finding her old form and now reaching new heights with her game.
In doubles, Amanda teamed up with first year Hannah Palkowitz and I was unfortunate to not see much of their tennis, but they lost, won in the consolation and the lost 6-8 in the consolation quarterfinals.  More on Hannah and our other first year's next time...

Finally for today, the event of  the tournament in my mind happened in the first round.  After a building season last year with some great doubles wins, Dena has worked so hard on her overall game and her singles and in the first round she jumped on her opponent from Pacific 6-1 in the first.  All credit to Traci Mo from Pacific for cutting down her errors and lifting her focus to take the second set 6-3.  We were playing match tie breaks (tie break to 10) in lieu of the third set and Dena got down 3-0, then looked really good going ahead and battling back and forth to 6-6.  In an exciting match, it would end 10-8, or maybe even get to 13-11 or 14-12 for another changeover. NOT on this good day friends.  These two competitors would not give an inch and earned and fought off match point after match point after match point.  After 8, yes 8 changeovers in the super tiebreak, on the I don't know how manyth match point, Dena's iron focus and amazing willpower was rewarded with a 28-26 match tie break win.  I've never seen that in all my years of tennis and may not again.  It was thrilling and nerve racking and amazing but before the tie break, Dena, who as I said is pushing to make a run at the lineup this year, told me she wanted to stay in the main draw, not go into the consolation.  Well it was certainly well earned and I am still amazed by both her tremendous tennis but also her superb effort.

I'll post again once we're finished, but Charlotte and Leah are still in the doubles consolation and Elise and Alyssa are in the doubles final while Alyssa has played her way into the singles semifinal, all tomorrow at our outdoor courts.

Have a great start to your week and check online via the athletics webpage for updates.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

USTA/ITA Regional Championships in 2 days!

The tournament is almost here, I can't wait. The team has done great work and this tournament is one more step in our journey this year. Welcome to those of you on your way into town and for everyone else, the link below will update you and links on the right will also have draws and results.

News and result links

The photo here is of Katie and Elise after winning in 2008; as you can see, Whitties even have fun after flying all the way from Walla Walla to New Orleans on the way to Alabama for Nationals.

PS A very happy birthday to Zoe!!!!!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fall USTA/ITA Tournament Coming Up!

Hello out there,

In less than a week on this Saturday (9/25) we host the annual USTA/ITA regional championships. This is a wonderful singles and doubles event that includes players from all nine of our Northwest Conference teams. It gives us a well timed tangible goal for our fall practices and I love the chance for new players to show their stuff as well as for returners to demonstrate the growth in their games. As a bonus, the tournament winners receive ITA All-American status and travel to the National DIII tournament.

Our first two weeks of practice and fitness have been outstanding. This group is balanced with 2 seniors, 3 juniors, 3 sophomores and 3 first year's and it has been inspiring to see them work with the efficiency of a well-oiled machine. First year's Maggie Eismeier (Portland,ME), Hannah Palkowitz (San Diego, CA) and Leah Siegel (Portland, OR) are adjusting rapidly to college life and college tennis and I'm excited to introduce them to their first college competition. And I can't deny the small pleasure I get in Hannah being the filling of a Bi-coastal Portland sandwich.

If you are planning on being here this weekend, keep in touch with me as we'll have a team dinner with family and friends on Friday in the late afternoon/early evening and I'm also planning a meal on campus Sunday evening for everyone.

I'll post more updates this week as the seeding and draws get posted.


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Berry Picking with the Men's Team

Apologies to those who follow Coach Northam's men's blog but we've got more pictures from our Friday activity.

To those who haven't heard, after the first week of classes, the men's and women's tennis teams headed out to the banks of the Walla Walla river at the base of the Blue Mountains where Biology Professor (and 2010 Convocation speaker) Delbert Hutchinson and his wife Kathleen hosted an afternoon of berry picking and hanging out by the fire.

We enjoyed the wonderful outdoors, the teams got to spend some time together off court and Hutch and Jeff (with Katie's help) made some mean Blackberry cobbler in dutch ovens in the fire.

It was a ton of fun, thanks so much to the Hutchinson's for their hospitality and to Jeff for the idea.

Check out photos here.

-Coach Hein