Huskies and Cougars Renew Rivalry on Friday

March 11, 2008

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THIS WEEK: The 37th-ranked Washington women's tennis team looks to return to the win column this week, as they host No. 34 Washington State in the first of the two annual meetings between the cross-state rivals. Both the Huskies (9-5, 0-4 Pac-10) and Cougars (11-5, 0-4 Pac-10) have risen steadily in the rankings, and despite only the latter meeting counting in the Pac-10 standings, Friday's match has rankings and possible NCAA implications. First serve is set for 12 noon. on March 14. Based on current forecasts, the match will likely be under the cover of the Nordstrom Tennis Center. Admission and parking are both free for spectators.

SCOUTING WASHINGTON STATE: The Cougars rose two spots in the newest rankings, overtaking the Huskies despite getting swept in both matches against UCLA and USC last weekend, falling to 0-4 in conference with losses to the same teams as Washington. Washington State played a non-conference match on Monday, defeating UC Santa Barbara, 5-2, on the road. Seniors Ekaterina Burduli and Aleksandra Stefanova lead the Cougars in the top two singles spots, with freshman Ekaterina Kamendova occupying the No. 3 spot. Burduli is having a stellar senior season, posting a record of 23-5 thus far and earning a No. 44 ranking in singles. The Cougars are 3-5 against ranked opponents, with their best win coming over 56th-ranked BYU by the same 4-3 margin by which UW defeated BYU earlier this season. The Huskies and Cougars split their two meetings last year, with WSU winning in Pullman, 4-3, but Washington winning in the Pac-10 match in Seattle, 5-2. Lisa Hart is in her fifth season coaching the Cougars.

LAST TIME OUT: Washington was overpowered in two conference matches in Los Angeles last weekend, falling 6-1 to No. 7 USC on Friday and 7-0 at the hands of No. 9 UCLA on Saturday. However, it was another solid, and nearly spectacular, weekend for freshman Venise Chan. Chan registered UW's only point against the Women of Troy, downing 38th-ranked Lindsey Nelson, 4-6, 6-2, and 10-6 in the super-tiebreak. Nelson, a senior, has been an All-American every year of her career, and reached the NCAA Singles Final in each of the past two years. Chan also was just two games away from upsetting No. 7 Riza Zalameda, UCLA's No. 1 player, on Saturday. After losing the first set, 6-2, Chan quickly won the second set by the same score, and took a 3-0 lead in the third set. Zalameda refused to give in, however, and captured six of the final seven games to win 6-4 in the third. Joyce Ardies also came within a few points of a major upset in singles. At the No. 4 spot, Ardies won her first set in a tiebreak against 46th-ranked Yasmin Schnack. The second set went to the Bruin, and the two played a third-set super-tiebreak, which Schnack won, 10-2. Prior to singles, Ardies and Simpson battled the 15th-ranked doubles team of Zalameda and Tracy Lin to 7-7, but couldn't pull through, losing 9-7. It was the second difficult loss in as many days for UW's top doubles team, as they also just missed a major upset on Friday, losing in a tiebreaker to the No. 8 team of Amanda Fink and Gabriela Niculescu of USC.

HUSKIES IN THE RANKINGS: The Washington women's tennis team has made a quick rise through the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Rankings this year, re-entering the Top-40. Freshman Venise Chan and senior Tara Simpson also earned the first singles rankings of their careers in the last individual rankings. Chan went from unranked to 41st in the latest poll, which ranks 125 singles players. She is the first freshman to earn a Top-50 ranking since former Husky Claire Carter in 2001. Carter went on to be a four-time All-American. Simpson is ranked 98th, her first time listed among the nation's Top-100. The senior is having her best season yet, and has matched Chan win for win in dual match play, predominantly from the No. 3 singles position. Her biggest win came two weeks ago in a third-set tiebreak over Cal's Cristina Visico, now ranked 32nd. No team has climbed higher in the rankings this season than the Huskies, who started the year at No. 70, and have been ranked as high as No. 34, but slipped three spots to their current No. 37 after two losses to the L.A. schools.

CHAN MAKES CHANGE: Venise Chan has been the unquestioned top player on the squad since arriving in the fall, and has played every match at No. 1 singles, racking up a 12-2 record in dual matches, and is 18-4 overall. The diminutive but powerful native of Hong Kong earned her first career singles ranking in the last poll, shooting all the way up to No. 41. Based on the current rankings, Chan has wins over 15th-ranked Susie Babos of California, 38th-ranked Lindsey Nelson of USC, No. 57 Katrina Zheltova of Sacramento State, and No. 81 Sophie Kobuch of Hawaii. Babos and Nelson were the 2006 NCAA Singles Finalists, as well as the Pac-10 Championship finalists last season. Chan's only dual match losses came in a third-set tiebreaker to 27th-ranked Hilary Barte of Stanford, and 6-4 in the third set to No. 7 Riza Zalameda of UCLA after Chan led 3-0 in the deciding set. She boasted a 12-match win streak earlier in the season.

SIMPSON HAVING SENIOR MOMENT: Senior stalwart Tara Simpson has been through it all. She was a key contributor as a freshman in 2005, when the Huskies were ranked in the Top-10 and last made the NCAA tournament. She also persevered through the two losing seasons that followed as the Huskies waited to rebuild. Now, Simpson is having her best season yet, leading Washington back into the Top-40. Simpson is sporting an 11-3 record in dual play and is 17-6 overall and just earned the first singles ranking of her career at No. 98. Her upset win over 32nd-ranked Cristina Visico of California provided a signature victory that helped boost her into the rankings. In UW's match against Purdue, Simpson picked up her 66th career singles win, moving her past Cindy Olejar (1988-91) on UW's career singles wins list for 10th place by herself. Simpson has since upped her total to 69.

UP NEXT: The Huskies enjoy a week off for spring break before their longest road trip of the season. Washington first heads to Eugene, Ore. for its second match this year with the Oregon Ducks on Monday, Mar. 24 at 10 a.m. The early start helps facilitate UW's following trip to Michigan where they will play at Michigan State on Wednesday, March 24 at 2 p.m. ET, then take on 29th-ranked Michigan on Thursday, March 25 at 3 p.m. ET.

CHAN AND SIMPSON GARNER PLAYER OF THE WEEK HONORS: At the start of the 2006 season, the Pac-10 Conference instituted tennis player of the week honors. Over the first two seasons of the award, the Huskies went without an honoree. This season, however, Washington captured the award two times in the first three weeks. Venise Chan was named Pac-10 Womens Tennis Players of the Week for Feb. 11-17, when the Huskies posted wins over Purdue and Illinois. Chan battled through illness over the weekend, but was still able to defeat two top players from the Big Ten. On Feb. 16, she lost the first set to Brooke Beier of No. 43 Purdue, but rebounded to win 2-6, 6-0, 7-5. Chan returned on Feb. 17, seemingly with no ill effects from the day before, to dominate No. 68 Illinois' top player Megan Fudge, 6-0, 6-1. Senior Tara Simpson earned UW's first-ever Pac-10 Player of the Week honors for the week of Jan. 28-Feb. 3. Simpson helped Washington to a 3-0 weekend which included an upset of 46th-ranked San Diego State. She went a combined 6-0 in singles and doubles over the weekend and posted her 65th career singles win which tied her for 10th all-time at Washington.

FALL SEASON A SUCCESS: The Huskies had their best fall season in several years, highlighted by the singles play of Venise Chan and the doubles play of Tara Simpson and Joyce Ardies. The fall began with ITA Regionals, where four Huskies picked up their first career singles wins. The women then competed at the SDSU Fall Classic #2, where Simpson and Ardies captured the main doubles title with a 9-7 win over a talented pair of Aztecs. The fall schedule finished up with the Husky Invitational, where UW dominated their northwest foes. Chan defeated Simpson for the Flight I singles title, and teamed with Aleksandra Malovic to surprise Ardies and Simpson, 8-3, in the doubles final. Malovic also won Flight 2 of singles and freshman Ashley Anderson won the third singles flight. Malovic's seven fall singles wins were the most on the squad, while the doubles teams of Simpson and Ardies, and Chan and Malovic both went 5-1.

HEAD COACH Jill Hultquist: Jill Hultquist is in her third season as the head coach of the Washington women's tennis team, and already the program's outlook is much brighter than what she faced in her first two seasons. Hultquist, a former standout on the pro tour and in the collegiate ranks, returned to Washington after serving as an assistant coach with the Huskies from 1997-2002. During her first tenure at UW, Hultquist helped lead the Huskies to five consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances including a school record trip to the NCAA Quarterfinals in 2001. Hultquist was named the National Assistant Coach of the Year by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association in 2001. She was also selected as the ITA Northwest Region Assistant Coach of the Year in both 2000 and 2001. Among the players Hultquist mentored in her previous tenure at Washington were all four All-Americans in school history: Claire Carter, Kristina Kraszewski, Dea Sumantri and Darija Klaic. Before joining the coaching ranks at Washington, Hultquist played professionally on the WTA Tour from 1987-1997, winning more than 20 doubles titles. She ranked as high as sixth in the world in doubles and 64th in the world in singles. Hultquist teamed with former UW coach Patty McCain on the doubles circuit, and among their victories was a win over Steffi Graf and Gabriela Sabatini in the semifinals of the 1988 U.S. Open. They also advanced to the finals of the 1989 Australian Open. Hultquist reached the mixed doubles finals of the French Open in 1995 and competed in the Olympic Games for Canada in 1984, 1988 and 1996. Also a standout collegian, Hultquist earned four All-America certificates at the University of Florida, while studying psychology from 1983-1987. She ended up earning her bachelor of arts degree in psychology from Washington in 2000.

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