Hultquist Ready for Second Service
Sept. 6, 2005
By Mike Bruscas
Nick Bollietieri, founder of the famed Nick Bollietieri Tennis Academy in Florida, approached one of his pupils one day, saying, 'Jill, you ever heard of a kid named Fendick?' Jill Hetherington replied that she hadn't, but Bollietieri would waste no time with introductions.
Hetherington, now Jill Hultquist, recalls the encounter, adding, 'The next day she was my roommate.' If not for the joys of random room assignments, Washington's women's tennis program would not be where it is today.
On August 8, 2005, Jill Hultquist was announced as the fourth head coach in Husky history, taking over the controls of the program she first helped get airborne seven years earlier as an assistant to Patty Fendick, now Patty McCain. The move was a natural continuation of the partnership the two first formed at the tennis training grounds.
Hultquist and McCain gelled quickly as juniors at the academy, where no-nonsense rules and the competition among the multitudes of tennis prodigies made close friendships a must.
'It was a very tough academy to be at, very strict,' says Hultquist. 'The only way you could survive was to have such close friends there to get you through the grueling days of training.'
Of course the two would survive, and each went on to exceptional college careers, with McCain winning back-to-back NCAA singles titles at Stanford and Hultquist earning four All-American awards at Florida. From there, the two high school friends reunited to form a formidable doubles team on the WTA tour, advancing to the doubles final in consecutive majors at the 1988 US Open and 1989 Australian Open. McCain left the pro game in 1995, Hultquist in 1997. It was then that the twosome brought their experience full circle back to the college game, the one level in which they had yet to combine their abilities.
In 1998, McCain took over a Husky women's tennis program that had leveled off around the .500 mark; respectable, but without making a serious mark in the Pac-10 or NCAA Tournament. One of her first moves was naming Hultquist as assistant coach. Hultquist remained for the first four years of McCain's tenure, leaving after the 2001 season to devote her time to starting a family.
Hultquist left the program on a considerable high note. The 2001 Huskies announced their arrival on the national scene by winning the first NCAA Tournament matches in program history and advancing to the quarterfinals. In fact, it was Hultquist who led the team's tourney run, while McCain stayed at home awaiting the birth of her first child. The ITA rewarded her efforts by naming her Assistant Coach of the Year.
All told, under McCain's guidance, Washington compiled two top-10 finishes in the ITA Rankings, a pair of trips to the NCAA Quarterfinals, four All-Americans and recognition as a major factor in the nation's toughest conference.
McCain herself had twice been named Pac-10 Coach of the Year as well as ITA National Coach of the Year in 2004. So it came as a bit of a shock when McCain announced this summer that she was moving on to head up the women's program at Texas.
With the program still on the rise, stability was key in appointing the new lead Dawg. As a result, Hultquist's name came quickly to the forefront, as someone who coached side-by-side with McCain during the program's ascension. Hultquist's initial surprise gave way to curiosity, and gentle prodding from colleagues made her realize how much the position would mean.
'It feels awesome to be back,' Hultquist says from her new office, still in disarray from the move. 'I didn't think I'd have the opportunity to do this because I thought Patty was going to be here forever. I had amazing support from the community, from ex-players, alumni, and donors. I had so much support that it really got me excited about the possibility of interviewing. So the opportunity arose and people started asking me to interview, and I thought, 'Wow, I should do this.''
Although Hultquist spent her Husky hiatus attending to the duties of a new mother, tennis and her former team were never fully out of her life.
'Since I left I had another child, so I have a 21-month old girl, Maggie, and then I have a 3-and-a-half year old son, Jack. So I was looking after them and staying at home,' Hultquist says. 'But I started playing more tennis and started teaching and ran a summer camp this summer. So that's basically how I've been filling my time the last two and a half years, and continuing to support the program as well if I can get out and watch the matches.'
Her family now has grown much larger. And it is that love for the young women under her tutelage that brought Hultquist back into coaching.
'I think what really made me want to come back here was my experience working with the girls. My favorite thing to watch is a freshman girl come in and leave as a graduating senior and seeing the growth. And then even after the fact, going to their weddings, seeing that they completed law school. It's an amazing experience when you have an incoming freshman at 18 or 19, and leaving as a young woman. I love watching their games develop, but also watching their lives develop.'
Since her departure, Hultquist has continued to track the college game, following the Pac-10 closely and how each school was recruiting. A big part of the transition right now for Hultquist is the UW's own recruiting situation, and holding the interest of girls who had come to know McCain.
'I've been speaking to Patty on and off. She's busy at her new job so we're giving each other space but it's good that I can still talk to her. She's helping me because there's some recruits that are still interested that she was recruiting here and I need to know whether to keep going with them or not.'
During their time together, Hultquist and McCain operated essentially as co-head coaches, so practices and matches themselves will come easily. But Hultquist knows there will be a few changes in her role from what she remembers, and McCain did offer one word of warning.
'Patty handled more of the administrative duties that she knew there was a lot of. She just told me beware there's a lot of paperwork involved as a head coach, which is fine,' Hultquist laughs. 'As the head coach you're more of the enforcer. The assistant can be a little friendlier with the team and they're sort of a sounding board, and then the sounding board lets the head coach know if there are any problems. So I think I'm going to probably deal with some issues, more of just laying down the law probably.'
Being at the top of the chain of command means Hultquist ultimately sets the tone. If she ever does see herself laying down the law, it will only be for lack of effort.
'I see myself as a fair coach but one that just requires effort and respect. I'll respect the players as long as they respect me. But I think my philosophy is just going to be you need to work hard for three hours a day, four with the conditioning. And if you can do that for me then I'll be happy.'
As a player on tour, Hultquist captured over 20 doubles titles, being ranked as high as No. 6 in the world. Followers of the Huskies know that doubles play has been the Achilles' heel of the team the past few years, going 8-14 in the doubles point last season and 10-16 in 2004 despite a 21-6 overall record and a trip to the NCAA quarterfinals.
Doubles just came instinctively to Hultquist, but for many girls today singles play comes more naturally. Hultquist says teaching doubles now becomes a matter of working with each individual's specific strengths, as there is much more variety in doubles today than when Hultquist was learning the game.
'It used to be more of a serve and volley game and you were always playing the point at net, where now some of the top teams in the world play from the baseline, which is really weird. And a lot of girls are just playing from the baseline and so their volleys don't develop like they should, so when they're told to serve and volley they're really uncomfortable doing that,' Hultquist says. 'So either I have to make them feel comfortable doing that, or if they're going to stay back then they better have a down-the-line shot, a middle shot, a crosscourt shot and a lob. They've got to have all of them. If that's what they're going to choose to do then this is what they're going to have to do for me.'
The importance of on-court chemistry can also never be underestimated. Hultquist and McCain had it in spades, and it gave them an edge against some of the game's most talented singles players, such as a win over a pair of legends, Steffi Graf and Gabriela Sabatini. One particularly fond memory was the final of the 1989 Australian Open against two more greats, Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver. Hultquist and McCain ended up on the losing end, but stretched the match to three sets, and ruffled the feathers of the pair of champs.
Hultquist recalls, 'We pushed their buttons a bit and they weren't too happy with that. Just the way Patty and I played, we played a little more aggressive, and they didn't like that we moved around a lot. Everything we did was legal but they were complaining about it.'
That mentality of not being afraid to challenge anyone regardless of reputation will hopefully carry down to Hultquist's players, as they continue to battle perennial top-five programs like Stanford, USC and UCLA. Hultquist relishes the chance to watch the maturation of the women she coaches, and now she can guide the devlopment of an entire program.