Sunday, May 27, 2012


For some of the team, the transition from school and tennis to school happened after the conference tournament as the NCAA travel size for NCAA team regionals is 8 and we were lucky enough to have W Club support to take a 9th player to California.  Most still practiced, but not every day so our team unity and trust of each other on individual schedules was tested and let me tell you, we were ready at regionals AND everyone was focused on finals and enjoyed the last few weeks of school, I can't stress enough how important the trust we built through the year was after conference.

For others, the team loss at Regionals signaled the end of the tennis season (and for some the school year was done as well as they'd finished finals).  We said goodbye to HP in California and upon return to Walla Walla, each day more players finished exams and either enjoyed camp Whitman or left for summer break.  Emily and Morgan did a great job helping Alyssa and Courtney prepare for individual nationals and everyone on campus enjoyed seeing Seth, Lizzy, Charlotte, Emily and Zoe graduate.

Then, for Morgan and I along with Alyssa and Courtney, the trip to North Carolina was an exciting first for this era of Whitman tennis.  I'm incredibly proud to report that these two represented the team, Whitman, our conference, and the West region amazingly well at nationals.  Last year, only one of 8 west singles players made it out of the first round and two doubles teams won a match.  This year, as a region, we had two singles semifinalists - one who Alyssa has beaten and the other she's gone to a first set tiebreak with- so we know we're right there to not only compete, but win championships going forward.  Still, in this draw of 32 singles and 16 doubles, there are no easy matches and while both players played great in competitive singles, earning respect from coaches, players and fans across the nation, it was our doubles that was even more impressive.

Coin toss vs Emory

After a very "not our first nationals" type of performance to move to the quarterfinals (note - the West had 3 of 4 doubles teams move to the quarters and one to the semis), we ran into an ultra talented and athletic team from Emory University.  This Eagles duo played terrific doubles, attacking the net, changing formations and being very aggressive with both their offense and defense.  Still, Court and Shopo played brilliantly, showcasing their teamwork, great returns and outstanding net play.  Down 0-5 in the first, we had several deuce games and the combination of big serving (lots of well placed - heavy first serves to set up volleys) and incredibly athletic overheads and defensive volleys by Emory had us down a set.  Still, confident from how we were playing, we got up 0-40 in their first service game of the second set, only to see more big serves and a couple chances slip away to go down 0-1.  Fighting back to 2-2, the rest of the second set looked a lot like the middle of the first set with both teams playing great doubles but EU somehow getting the close games and stretching their lead until they finished off the match 6-2,6-2.  This is a team that I thought would win the tournament if they could play like this, and they did make the finals and got up a set on another great team from Amherst, but a combo of great Amherst play and fatigue from Emory who had one player play an incredible amount of physical tennis in hot humid weather to win the singles championship left Amherst with the title.
Warming up vs Emory

Still, knowing that right now, we're right there among the best doubles teams in the country but also identifying ways we can improve has me feeling so great about this season as well as eagerly looking forward already to next season when Whitman tennis will continue to grown and improve.  Morgan, Alyssa and Courtney will bring back both confidence from seeing how close we are and motivation about how we need to improve that will help the entire team this fall.

I must also say that while Alyssa's mom had to cancel her trip (we missed you Arlene and will work to get to Kalamazoo next year!), thank you so much to Andrew and Jeff from our men's team for cheering on our doubles to the last ball, you guys are the best.  And also to Mark and Sandy for you support, for sending Morgan out to share this experience, for all the photos Sandy took, for great dinners (yes, steak for the Texans), and also introducing another family member to the excitement of Whitman tennis in the twins uncle Johnny.  What great families and fans we are blessed to have!

So, as I transition to summer, I will keep in touch as there is still more news to share from this season as well as some of our off season projects to grow Whitman Tennis through alumni connections, facility improvement, fundraising, recruiting, and planning for next season.  As the players love to say after a big service break or awesome shot....LET'S GO!

Friday, May 25, 2012

First day of nationals

Well, its actually day 2 now but in enjoying the atmosphere and great tennis yesterday, getting to the computer was not a priority.  Things are so so much better than when I was in school and across the country you would wait for a phone call from the hotel (no cell phones or live online scoring) to see how the day 
went.  Now, I absolutely understand anyone out there wanting to follow live and be part of the action so Morgan has been tweeting scores diligently.  But I apologize last night for my phone battery dying at 2-1 in the second set tie break!  It took a while to get to the car, charge it and send the final update that we were moving on to today.  To follow today's doubles match at 3:30pm EST you can check the Meredith college site for draws and scores at  and the NCAA has live streaming for some courts, which we may or may not be on to watch online live at under tennis, women and DIII.

So, how did we make it through to today?  Our first round doubles match was a great win over a Wash U (St. Louis) team that has come on in late season play beating one of the top teams nationally at Carnegie Mellon in a dual match.  They were really tough at closing the net hard and playing good doubles but also made some mistakes in the first set.  Alyssa and Courtney's solid play and movement allowed them to stay ahead the whole set and they finished it off really strongly 7-5.  They looked to take that momentum in the second set and got up 4-1 playing with intensity, joy and teamwork (and a lot of heart in pulling out a game with I don't know how many deuces).  Still, serving 4-1, looking strong, give a ton of credit to Wash U for stepping up their game and fighting out a break and getting one of their best holds.  Then it was an absolute battle with us up 5-4, then they won two games to make us hold to get to a breaker.  And it was a brilliant hold.  I can't remember exactly, but I know Alyssa made a huge move at the net and I'm pretty sure Courtney finished it with a touch volley winner and it was all Whitman through the tiebreak taking it 7-1.  Our opponent today is the #2 seeded team from Emory, a very good team who has big shots and plays well together...we are FIRED UP.

Singles was a mixed bag.  It's really hard not to just be so happy to be here among the top 32 players in the country and side by side in their first sets, these two Whitties just battled playing really high level tennis.  Alyssa was probably more on her game but playing an intense competitor from Williams who had just finished her senior year at the #1 spot with 4 team national championships to her credit.  Down a break, Shopo got it back and pushed it deep in the set, finally losing 7-5.  At the same time, Courtney was playing smart tennis and executing pretty well to go up 4-3, then while her level remained steady, her opponent from Middlebury (one of the top teams and rising) really stepped up her execution on big points and hit some great winners and neutralized Courtney's offense well to take the first set and carry the momentum to a straight set win. Alyssa got down a quick 3-0 as her opponent came off of the set break fired up, then it was back and forth to 6-2.  So, we made a great showing of ourselves and feel great about the level of tennis, but we're also learning what it will take to keep moving our tennis individually and as a team to the next level.

I can't stop writing...this is so much fun to be here and play so well. It's almost time to warmup and soak in the heat and humidity.  Here we go....

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Time changes at Nationals

Hi all,

It's great to be out in Cary, NC for DIII individual NCAA nationals.  The draws are not posted that I can see, they get made here on site and came out yesterday.  Today has been a practice day, we've soaked in the team finals and gotten ourselves prepared.  The NCAA also does a really nice banquet for the players to honor them on making it this far.  Tomorrow, its chaired matches, national caliber opponents on every court and single elimination fun.

Matches were pushed back an hour because rain today lengthened the team matches.  The men start singles at 9am with Whittie Andrew LaCava taking the courts, then at 11am Alyssa and Courtney will be side by side playing singles against Williams' Kristin Alotta and Middlebury's Leah Kepping respectively.  Round 2 is at 2:30pm and they play doubles against Kate Klein and Corinne Rauck from Wash U in St Louis at 5pm.  We're super excited to get this thing going!  We'll have tweets coming with scores and the NCAA website has live scoring and they do have 3 courts being streamed live, but our first rounds are not on those courts.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Competing at the NCAA tournament

Wow, there is so much on my mind from regionals last weekend and the upcoming singles and doubles nationals.  I could write so much, but I'll leave the match recaps (which hopefully you were able to follow via twitter or the host website) to our wonderful SID Dave Holden.

On our first trip to the NCAA's as a team, we faced my alma mater and great friend in Coach Erin Ness in the UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs, pulling out a 5-3 win after going down 1-2 after dubs.
Whitman defeats UCSC 5-3 - click here for story and scores
*this match is a preview of a home and home series with the Slugs in 2013.  In February UCSC travels to Walla Walla for the DIII Winter Classic at Whitman and in March we'll go down to Santa Cruz on Spring Break to compete in the DIII Megabowl (an up and coming invitational that will no doubt be THE tournament to play each year).

In the regional semifinal, we faced off with #1 in the West and #9 nationally CMS.  Going down 0-3 in some great doubles matches proved to be too much as the Athenas triumphed 5-0.  Courtney was a couple points from putting us on the board, Morgan was rolling in her third set and Emily was up a set and on serve looking good so the match was really closer than the score indicates.
Whitman falls to CMS in regional semi 5-0 -click here for story and scores

What I'd like to share with you is a little bit of what it was like to compete at NCAA's.  We often talk on our team about competition being more than the desire to win.  We focus on the process of being prepared to be our best and then using all of our training to stay in the moment of the match.  As a coach, I am blessed to coach 14 young women who each possess an incredible amount of heart, determination and individual competitive spirit.  This makes us a very mentally tough group.  What has happened this season that has been so special is that these 14 individuals have been able to simultaneously push themselves and each other as a team.  There was so much learning this year of how to turn that individual dance between a singles or doubles opponent into a battle for the 5 points that it takes to win a DIII match.

In both matches at regionals I am so proud of the attitude and mental toughness of our team.  Each person came away with a terrific experience to be proud of, but I don't think anyone was satisfied with not having won the event.  This shows both how far we've come and what we've accomplished in this great team season as well as what we need to do to keep moving to the next level.  I'm sure we will be better next year from this experience, but by no means were we "just happy to be there playing hard".  I credit sports psychologist Jerry Lynch for introducing me to so many concepts of competing as a process, or a dance, where both competitors "seek together" to find their best performance.  Our team this year truly competed and played our best against our toughest competition and looks forward to learning from that and being even better next year.

Of course, in flying to NCAA's there is so much more going on and while the team was so focused on their school and tennis, I can't say enough how huge the efforts were of Seth in his coaching role and Charlotte and Erin who got the experience of traveling and found ways to be huge contributors without playing.  And even back home, we felt the presence of Lizzy, Hadley, Liv, Sara and Maggie as their work throughout the year and their constant support via phone and text was so huge in having a great weekend.

We'll also look back on the Family support we've had.  It was amazing to see people fly to California to support us.  Thanks Dena, Mark, and Sandy for coming from afar.  And our SoCal fans included alums, families and friends.  From Art, Johanna and even Abby P to Erin's big family and many friends made stops each day, alum Rex took the time to watch two days.  We even had some future Whitman parents out cheering us on (great to see you Lori and Joel).  Maddy had a host of people out there, even though her junior coach was too busy with his own tennis to come (I guess coaching 4 time defending national champion USC at their regional was a good excuse) and her parents even hosted us on our last day before coming back up, which was an amazing day in Long Beach relaxing, studying, and enjoying being together in the best family environment....I could (and maybe will) write a whole separate post about our great families and friends - which I hope I haven't left anyone out.

The team season is over but with graduation on Sunday, a host of end of season awards and still more tennis at individual nationals with Courtney and Alyssa playing singles and doubles in Cary, NC a week from today, I'm sure I'll be in touch.

Best wishes to all,

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Going back to Cali

After winning our first NWC Tournament Championship, we found out Monday that we're off to the regional rounds of the NCAA national tournament in Claremont, CA.  Here are the details for this weekend.  

For me, a native Californian who loves the golden state, the Northwest always called to me and Whitman has provided the perfect home and community for building a championship tennis team.  Whitman has also become home to many amazing college tennis players with 5 Californian's on our roster, so it is going home for many of us to play down South.

I can't tell you how excited I am to play my alma mater in UC Santa Cruz as well as being in a regional with all of the West teams who have been battling each other all season long.  Now its playoff time our team is ready to represent the Northwest and do some damage at NCAA's.

Here is the schedule:
Friday 3pm #5 Whitman vs #4 UC Santa Cruz
Saturday 2pm  winner plays #1Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
Sunday 1pm (or 2pm if #3 Pomona Pitzer is in match), Saturday winners.

Dave Holden's NCAA preview is at:

and the tournament website via host CMS is at:

We just got in an order of great navy Whitman Tennis Short and Long sleeve t's.  If you didn't order and plan to be at the tournament wanting one, please let me know and I'll bring them.  Short sleeve are $15 and Long Sleeve are $20.  Email me for size availability and if you'd like to see what they look like.

It's an exciting time, I'll try to keep the blog posts updated regularly.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

ITA Rankings Released

ITA rankings are released several times throughout the spring season and we have been steadily climbing up the West regional rankings.  It is exciting to chart the teams progress from my first season when we were 15th, then we moved to 12th in my second year and finished last year in the top 10.  Now at #7 it is a personal high for myself and every one of our current players.

I'm proud of this rise, as I feel it reflects the work that our team puts in to constantly improve and push ourselves.  So, I am happy to announce a new chapter in Whitman Tennis as we were just ranked #29 in the country.  We know there is much work to do this season as we await selection Monday to find out where and when we will play in the NCAA tournament, but for now we can enjoy the milestone of being nationally ranked.

In other ranking news, Alyssa is ranked 2nd in the West singles and Courtney is 4th, together they are 2nd in doubles.