Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What a way to spend a day!

Happy belated Easter to all who celebrate it.  We had a special treat for the team this year, and while many of the players spent time with family, friends or just enjoyed a day to be outside or do schoolwork; we were invited a few days ago by the men's team to join them for a rafting trip.

This was rare indeed as Grant and Lottie from Minam Raft Rentals provided us with all the gear and joined us on a day long, 39 mile float of the Wallowa and Grande Ronde Rivers.  4 guys from the men's team, 3 of our team, myself, men's assistant Jake Cappel and head coach Jeff Northam got up early and drove up into the Blue Mountains for a day on the water. 

We had 3 rafts and Grant took an inflatable Kayak, there were lots of fun (but not too intense - class 2 I think) rapids and the scenery was amazing.  We saw more bald eagles than people and Lizzy spotted a brown bear that she, Olivia and Hannah all saw on the shore.   With tons of amazing scenery and great company it was such a fun day.

Again, thanks so much to Jeff and especially Grant and Lottie, you can check out their webpage at http://www.minamraftrentals.com/ to get an idea of where we were and better yet, to plan a trip for yourself.  I can't wait to go back.

Jeff took some great photos that you can view on his flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/77626588@N00/sets/72157626572098508/, while I took a few shots as well http://www.flickr.com/photos/tennislove/sets/72157626447681619/


Sunday, April 17, 2011

NWC Tournament wrapup

Well, its been a day now, and I've reflected a lot upon our tournament semifinal vs. Linfield which ended in a 5-2 loss to end our dual match season.  Overall, I'm really happy with how we played, the effort, support and intensity were all there and we certainly didn't give the match away so I give a ton of credit to a very tough Linfield team for taking it. 

The match began on Whitworth's 3 outdoor courts with doubles and mid way through we got rained on and moved indoors into the bubble that covers the other 3 courts they have.  After several years of the tournament being in Yakima, the transition to having it on campus was very smooth thanks to great efforts by our hosts in Spokane and even though we were not at one of our own campuses, the match had a great atmosphere to it.  In the doubles, Elise and Alyssa came out on fire, efficiently going up 5-0 or 6-0, then holding on as Linfield made a run to win 8-4.  This was key because after close games to start, a combination of solid play from very experienced 2 and 3 Wildcat teams and some nerves from us led to two losses so #1 really kept us in it.

This year, we have had tremendous contributions from everyone in singles so we knew it would be a tight match and it lived up to that expectation with Kate and Elise winning their first sets while Alyssa fought a seesaw match at #1 where she went up 5-4, down 6-5 and played brilliantly to get into a tie break only to go down 0-5.  True to form, she reeled off several big points to knot it at 6-6 before it slipped away 8-6.  Kate's opponent found her game at #3 and as they split, Elise won her match to tie the score at 2-2.  From their the tennis was close and hardfought with Kate going up a break 3-2 in the third before losing 6-3.  Alyssa was again super close in her set before going down 7-6, 6-4, so now we were facing our last chances with Emily, Lizzy and Hannah on court all needing to win.  HP got us going with another solid showing at 6, winning the first set 6-2.  Emily lost her first by the same score, but after the first couple of games had worked out what she needed to do and the second set promised to be a matter of how consistently she would execute her shots (and she was looking good).  Unfortunately, it never got that far as Lizzy faced senior Sarah Click who was incredibly fired up and came out serving huge and really attacking very well.  By the time Lizzy got her bearings on Sarah's serve, the match was very far along and a quick Linfield win sealed things and halted Emily and Hannah's matches.

Today, Linfield went on to upset (slightly, their earlier match was 5-4) the #1 seeded Pirates from Whitworth, so as well as we played, we ran into the hot team early.  I am so proud, however, of our efforts.  Throughout the season we faced many challenges and I can say with complete conviction that the ability of this group of young women to respond, stay positive and enjoy each moment was as incredible as I've experienced since my playing days on an amazing National Championship team at UC Santa Cruz.

It was inspiring to have a great atmosphere and the cheering and support of all the families, friends and fans who supported us was unbelievable, so thanks to everyone who cheered, emailed and called to wish us well.

I also want to give a very special thanks to Coach Jeff Northam and the Whitman Men's tennis team as they prepare for a trip to NCAA regionals after winning their tourney at home today; not every team is fortunate enough to share courts with such a special team.  From the day I set foot on campus at Whitman, Jeff and  these young men have been gracious, polite and open to us and there is a feeling that the two teams are not only supporting each other but also pushing one another to be our best.  The Squirrels give us a great example of how to do things and we certainly appreciate their presence in making Whitman a wonderful place to play tennis.

Good luck to Whitman and Linfield in representing the NWC at the NCAA's!

Coach John

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Whit Women head to Spokane for Conference Tournament

Hello all,

We're headed up to Spokane where Whitworth hosts the four team NWC championship for the automatic qualifying bid to the NCAA tournament.  We play in the second semifinal of the day on Saturday vs. Linfield.

Here is the schedule:

Sat 10am : #1 Whitworth vs. #4 Willamette
Sat 2pm: #3Whitman vs. #2 Linfield

I won't be blogging as the conference will have live stats thanks to our hosts up at Whitworth, so check out the webpage at http://www.whitworth.edu/Athletics/Teams/TennisWomen/Releases/2011/NWCTourn.htm

The team is really looking forward to the opportunity to compete with the only two teams who defeated us this year as well as another who we had an exciting 5-4 match with.  If you are in Spokane and planning to come, please let me know as we always appreciate your support!

ALSO: I can't forget to mention last week's Whittie of the week, Kate!  Wolvie was ferocious in locking down two three set singles wins last weekend, but more than that, she set the tone with her work on the court and in the classroom last week and the team rewarded her for it.

MORE REWARDS: Elise was AGAIN named NWC student athlete of the week!  Congrats to Twitch who just couldn't let fellow Whitman senior Etienne Moshevich (an amazing player and huge leader on our men's team) get all the glory as he scored back to back honors a few weeks ago.  Both student athletes are representing Whitman so well as they lead their teams to the post season.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Amazing Finish to the Regular Season

Wow, what a terrific final weekend to our conference schedule.  We needed one win to clinch the third seed and a spot in the conference tournament, so results were important, but we always talk about focusing on the process and I am so happy with how well this team has bought in, committed, and gotten stronger all year long.  It definitely paid off this weekend, with three great matches in two days to send us into conference knowing we're playing great tennis, but also that we've already accomplished so much this season.

After being sent off with awesome road care packages from our buddy swim team (thanks WC Swimming!) we drove to the Seattle/Tacoma area on Thursday afternoon, stopping for a wonderful meal in Yakima at Kate's house.  Thanks so much for fueling us up and sharing the warmth of your home Annie! 

Friday morning, we hit the courts at Robinswood Tennis Center where coach Jason Chapman has worked to build a very good community college team at Bellevue CC.  We wanted to get matches for everyone so we weren't at our strongest in terms of lineup, but we sent out a great team and Bellevue was super solid as they took it to us in some spots, but in most matches there were battles.  Some notable ones were two and three doubles as well as Olivia at 6 singles who was down 1-5, lost the first 5-7 then had to stop the match so we could be on time for our PLU match.  Hadley split sets at #5 losing a marathon 10-7 match tie break and I can't tell you how much her game is coming together.  No doubt the match of the day was at #1 singles where a very athletic and complete player in Anissa Bryant Swift went toe to toe with our three time all-American Elise.  Twitch dug deep to win the first set in a tiebreak, played amazing but lost in the second set as Anissa blended big offense with amazing defense before Elise took the match in a match tie break, it was really fun tennis all around with Maggie and Leah playing outside and the rest spread out inside.
Twitch had a great weekend in singles and doubles to lead us

So, we were definitely warmed up when we hit the outdoor courts at PLU for the first time in my tenure at Whitman.  With the same 1/2 doubles of Elise/Emily and Lizzy/Hannah and then Kate and Oliva at 3, we got the sweep 8-4, 8-2, and 8-4.  Up 3-0, Emily cruised 6-1,6-1 to extend the lead.  Maggie was down a set at #5 and composed herself to really fight out a good second set, losing it 5-7, but it was important for her to be able to rally and reset herself after the first set got away which was great to see.  After a strong first set, Lizzy had a strange stomach pain which limited her movement and she lost in three.  Kate was down a set at #2 and Elise at #1 and Hadley at #6 were both up a set so we were in a good position to clinch but PLU looked like they were gaining some momentum.  As the points and games at #1 got longer, Hadley rallied for a second set tiebreak to win at #6 6-3, 7-6 (4) to clinch the match; then Elise followed and finally Kate battled out the second set and the match tie break for a well fought and well deserved 7-2 win.  Leah and Olivia also played prosets and both players showed great confidence in their shots, working the points well and using their weapons smartly to both win.  We had a great day in tennis and the team deserves all the credit, but we were definitely aided by the support and healthy tasty snacks provided by Liz Bates, thanks!

With the #3 seed clinched and Alyssa still sitting out all weekend to make up individual match dates from the Fall National ITA tournament and the upcoming Ojai tournament, we knew that we could cruise into the conference tournament, or we could stick to our habits and really focus on the final match against a dangerous young PLU team who knocked off a shorthanded Willamette recently.

I can't say how happy I am with this final performance.  As a program grows you need to see the benefits of your hard work and belief in the team process.  Yesterday, that happened as we got out to a strong start in doubles winning at #1 with Elise and Em and #2 with Lizzy and Hannah.  #3 was a winnable match, but an experienced UPS team played the more solid and aggressive tennis to salvage an important point and keep the match close going into singles where they are much deeper than they were last year. 

Kate was a two time three set hero this weekend
As Elise efficiently got us up 3-1, they showed their depth winning at 3, 4 and 6 over Emily, Lizzy and Maggie in straight sets.  Em and Liz both struggled a bit after big doubles wins, but Maggie in a rematch of one of her first matches at #6 definitely played better tennis, but so did her opponent.  What was key to me was that all three players fought all the way through, keeping the match intensity and belief high.  This would have been an absolute easy time for us to fold, down 4-3 with the two matches on being Kate who lost the first 1-6 at #2 to Jenna Gerdsen and Hannah who lost a close first set 5-7 to Ada Yu at #5.  Both players kept their heads, played their tennis and enjoyed terrific support from their teammates.  You could feel the momentum as first HP hit a screaming backhand return winner to take the second set 6-4 and was up early in the third when Kate won her second 6-4.  Kate was on serve 0-1, 1-2 etc all the way to 3-4 when Hannah closed out her match 6-4 in the third in a game with probably a dozen deuces full of match points and points for 5-5.  Kate had just held for 4-4 so without time to celebrate Hannah's great win, all eyes moved to court 2 where the match would be decided.  Kate was just looking stronger and stronger as the match went on and she secured the break to go up 5-4 serving for the match where she won with one of the most convincing holds of the day from any court.   Sandwiched between KKP and HP, Had and Leah were able to get in valuable exhibition matches.

What a day, what a weekend, what a regular season.  I honestly can't imagine being more proud of what this group has done.  We certainly have room to improve, but both the quality of tennis and amazing team effort shows how much we've learned from the very challenging season we've had.

When I have a schedule for the NWC tournament this weekend at Whitworth, I'll send it out, but for now I'm going to enjoy the success of a wonderful season so far.

All our best,
Coach John and Whitman Women's Tennis

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Couldn't help myself, a must share.

I don't want to flood your inbox, but as I'm constantly reminded by coaching mentors, this job is about people and the relationships built on the team, so I cant' help sharing two things:

1. This weeks Whittie of the Week voted on by the team is a tie between first year's Olivia and Hadley, congrats!  Read about them here.

2. This link to a recent school newspaper article on a day in the life of a student athlete may not be representative of everyone on the team, but between Twitch's perspective on life and her senior choice of crazy spandex for her last home match, it fully represents the individuality and fun that we strive to cultivate on this team. 


Ok, off to the Westside for matches this weekend at Bellevue, PLU and UPS!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Not just fun for the kids

Just a quick note to plug a few great fundraisers that Whitman is doing to support our athletic programs:

First Annual Tennis and Wine Camp, with Coach Jeff, Greg Patton from Boise State, and myself.  This should be a terrific combination of food, wine, fun and of course great tennis, with proceeds benefiting Whitman Women's and Men's Tennis.  Click here for info. 

Second Annual W Club Golf Tournament at the Wine Valley Golf Club in Walla Walla.  If you're a W Club member you know about this already.  I was out of town for last years event, but look forward to hitting the links to support WC athletics this year.  Click here to download the brochure or here for registration and tournamnet info.

If you can't make the Golf tournament, but love visiting Walla Walla and golfing while you enjoy time with Whitman students, the beautiful country, food and wine that we offer, you can email me to buy a raffle ticket through Women's tennis.  They are $10 and the top prize is a Walla Walla weekend at a great house and free rounds at all the local courses including the Wine Valley Course (YES, graduation weekend is ok!).  Any tickets I sell benefit Women's tennis directly so send me an email (heinj@whitman.edu) and I'll get you in the raffle!

What better ways to support such dedicated student-athletes than by enjoying all the W2 has to offer.

Best wishes always,
-Coach John

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Close loss at Whitworth

Sorry it took a while to get this out, but after a busy weekend it was nice to have a day off back in Walla Walla.

After a great finish to the home season vs Pacific we trekked up to Spokane for a match with conference leader Whitworth.  The final score ended the same as in Walla Walla with a 6-3 Whitworth win, but we had definite progress in several areas.  In doubles, Elise and Alyssa got down early and fought well to get back on serve before dropping a close 8-6 proset.  At 2, Em and Kate came out a bit tight going down 0-5 before making a good match out of it but losing 8-2.  Three doubles kept us in it with Hannah and Lizzy stepping up for an 8-5 win.  We also got in an exhibition proset with Hadley and Olivia playing. 

Elise started us off strong with a straight set win at #2 and Kate ran into a tough opponent at #3 losing in straight sets.  Down 3-2, Emily came on and fired up the Whitman supporters with a huge effort to win 7-6, 6-4 with the first set tiebreak being a tightly contested 8-6.  Speaking of close tiebreaks, Alyssa won the first set with an 8-6 tiebreak win for herself.  At this point Lizzy had started completely on fire up 3-0 in the first set and we were looking great.  The #1 match was terrific tennis and each point and game was long and well played and both players showed that their tennis keeps getting better and better.  I feel great about where Alyssa is at even though she lost in 3.  The same goes for Lizzy who after her hot start cooled off going down in two sets, still she is making definite improvements in her game and her hard work in practice will keep paying off. 

Speaking of improvements, I was so happy to get in exhibition singles for Maggie and Leah.  Both played tough experienced college players and improved from previous exhibitions on the scoreboard as well as with some of the things they've worked on.

The last match of the day was Hannah at 6 and it was a very good match as she lost 6-4, 7-5.  I'm really proud of the way HP stayed focused after the match was decided and its great to see her playing really solid singles to go with her intense doubles.

It's tough to lose a close match when we've worked hard to prepare, but I'm super proud of the effort and love where we're at as a team.  This is not only a super fun and hard working team, but I've found them to be incredibly resilient and always ready for the next challenge.

It's a short week as we have a doubleheader in Bellevue and Tacoma on Friday and then our final NWC match with UPS on Saturday.  If you're in the Sea/Tac area and plan on coming, let me know as we'd love to see you at the matches.

Take care all!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Whitman Women Complete Season Sweep of Pacific

Hello Whitman Supporters,

Today was senior day in Walla Walla with Elise (our lone senior/woman in charge) Otto's final home match.  Elise has been tremendous for us and I can't say enough great things about her as a player, leader and a person.

Pacific's record in conference is not great, but both times we've seen them it hasn't shown.  They are a tough team led by two juniors who play wonderful tennis and compete really well as evidenced a few weeks ago when we escaped Forest Grove with a 5-4 win.   Today we were at home and definitely ready as we got out to a 2-1 lead after doubles.  Em and Kate led the way at #2 with an 8-4 win and at #3 Lizzy and Hannah went back and forth losing 5-8 while at #1, Elise and Alyssa avenged a 6-8 loss by coming back from 0-3 to win 8 straight games to put us ahead.  At the same time as doubles, Maggie got an efficient 8-0 exhibition singles win as she continues to steadily improve.

Singles started strong at 1 and 2, Elise getting the first set 6-4 and Alyssa 6-3.  Kate and Em each lost their first set 6-1 and then both quickly split putting us in great spots on all 4 courts.  Emily was off with a great 1-6, 6-2, 6-2 win and Alyssa extended the lead to 4-1 with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Cat Goya (again avenging an early season loss).  After a strong second set, Kate looked good to start the third before her opponent got on a roll to win 6-1, 3-6, 6-2, so as Lizzy and Hannah came on at 5 and 6, we needed one more point.  Elise was still battling in a long second set which went to a tiebreak that Megan Yoshimoto won 8-6 minutes before Hannah iced the match with a solid 6-2, 6-1 win.  The final two matches were so different.  As Elise and Megan traded long baseline rallies using spin and angles, Lizzy and Stephanie Velligas just pounded away at each other with aggressive shots.  Momentum played a larger part in the #6 match with Lizzy winning 0-6, 7-6 (4), 10-5! 

Nearly 4 hours after the close of doubles, having squeezed every last minute of home court time she could from the match, Elise stepped up her hitting and tactics in the third to claim her final home win 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-3.  What a performance.

Tonight we're in Spokane enjoying the Otto family hospitality and getting ready for a showdown with conference leader Whitworth tomorrow at noon.

All our best,