Huskies Close Out Home Schedule With Arizona and #12 Arizona State

April 2, 2008

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THIS WEEK: With just three matches remaining, the No. 49 Washington women's tennis team faces a critical pair of matches in its final home series of the year this weekend. The Huskies (10-8, 0-5 Pac-10) have lost three straight on the road and need to finish strong to improve their chances of reaching the NCAA tournament. First up for UW is Arizona on Friday, Apr. 4 at 12 noon. Washington will then face a difficult challenge in 12th-ranked Arizona State on Saturday, Apr. 5 at 12 p.m. in what will be the final home matches for seniors Tara Simpson and Allison Rainey. The matches will be played outdoors at the Quillian Stadium, weather permitting.

SCOUTING ARIZONA: The Wildcats are 0-3 in conference matches and 7-12 overall, having fallen to Oregon, Stanford, and California. Sophomore Ariane Masschelein played well in both of UA's last two outings against the Bay Area powers, going to third-set super-tiebreaks on both occasions and getting a win over Stanford's Lindsay Burdette. Top Wildcat, junior Danielle Steinberg, is enjoying another solid season. Steinberg was ranked 38th in the most recent ITA poll, is 16-10 overall this year, and recently upset Cal's 12th-ranked Marina Cossou. Steinberg and No. 2 singles player Claire Riestch are the top doubles team for Arizona. The Huskies suffered a 5-2 loss to Arizona in Tucson last season. Seventh-year head coach Vicky Maes leads the Wildcats.

SCOUTING ARIZONA STATE: The 12th-ranked Sun Devils are enjoying one of their strongest seasons in years, going 2-1 in conference play and 12-4 overall thus far. Arizona State upset fifth-ranked Stanford, 4-3, for their first win over the Cardinal in 24 years. ASU's only Pac-10 loss came to seventh-ranked Cal by a 5-2 score. Freshman Kelcy McKenna has made a major impact for the Sun Devils, and is the current Pac-10 Player of the Week after defeating Stanford's Jessica Nguyen and Cal's Susie Babos. McKenna is 28-6 overall in singles, 14-2 in dual play at No. 2 singles and has climbed to 26th in the rankings. Sophomore Nadia Abdala at No. 1 singles completes a powerful one-two punch, having posted a 19-13 overall record and boasting a No. 31 ranking. Older by one year, her sister Laila Abdala has also been tough at No. 3 singles and has won four of her past five. The Sun Devils scored a 7-0 win in Tempe last year vs. UW. Longtime coach Sheila McInerney is in her 24th year coaching ASU, and has led the team to 10-straight NCAA appearances.

LAST TIME OUT: The Huskies endured a punishing road trip last week, playing three matches in four days with a cross-country flight in-between. After a 10-day layoff, UW was upset by the Oregon Ducks, 5-2, in Eugene after having beaten the Ducks, 6-1, just three weeks earlier. Tara Simpson and Vanja Radunovic both scored three-set wins for the Huskies' points. Washington then had one day to travel to Lansing, Michigan where they faced Michigan State on Wednesday. The Spartans were ready and waiting, defeating the Huskies by a 6-1 count. Sophomore Joyce Ardies earned UW's lone point, coming back from a 6-0 first set loss to win the next two sets, 6-4, 7-5 against Lindsey Lonergan at No. 4 singles. The next day things were even tougher for the women, as 29th-ranked Michigan swept the Dawgs, 7-0. One tough luck loser during the Michigan swing was freshman Kelsey Anonsen, who went to a third-set super-tiebreak in both of her matches but fell short in both.

HUSKIES IN THE RANKINGS: The Washington women's tennis team took its first major hit of the season in the ITA Rankings, slipping from 35th to No. 49 in the April 1 installment. The ranking is still 21 spots above where UW started the season, and the Huskies have been as high as 34th on March 4. This season, freshman Venise Chan and senior Tara Simpson each earned the first singles rankings of their careers and have maintained them through the April 1 rankings. Chan climbed to a career-high No. 30 ranking in the previous poll, before dropping to No. 40 in the current set. Nevertheless, Chan is the first freshman to earn a Top-30 ranking since former Husky Claire Carter in 2001, and the highest-ranked Husky since Dea Sumantri in 2005. Carter and Sumantri went on to earn seven All-American awards between them. Simpson is ranked 119th, down from her season-high of 98. 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 in a third-set tiebreak over Cal's Cristina Visico, now ranked 34th.

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 13-5 record in dual matches, and is 19-7 overall. The diminutive but powerful native of Hong Kong earned her first career singles ranking in the March 4 poll, shooting all the way up to No. 41, then rose another 11 spots to No. 30 on March 18 before dropping back to No. 40 this past Tuesday. Based on the current rankings, Chan has wins over 16th-ranked Susie Babos of California, No. 45 Katrina Zheltova of Sacramento State, No. 50 Lindsey Nelson of USC, No. 55 Ekaterina Burduli of Washington State, No. 78 Celine Rolly of Oregon, No. 65 Anastasia Surkova of BYU, No. 82 Sophie Kobuch of Hawaii, and UW's own 119th-ranked Tara Simpson in the Husky Classic final in the fall.. Babos and Nelson were the 2006 NCAA Singles Finalists, as well as the Pac-10 Championship finalists last season. Two of Chan's dual match losses came in a third-set tiebreaker to seventh-ranked Hilary Barte of Stanford, and 6-4 in the third set to No. 11 Riza Zalameda of UCLA after Chan led 3-0 in the deciding set. She boasted a 12-match win streak earlier in the season.

SENIORS HOPE TO BOW OUT ON TOP: Senior stalwarts Tara Simpson and Allison Rainey have been through it all. Both were key contributors as freshman in 2005, when the Huskies were ranked in the Top-10 and last made the NCAA tournament. Then each persevered through the two losing seasons that followed as the Huskies waited to rebuild. Injuries to Rainey played a part in UW's struggles. However, the 2007 season has been the best of Simpson's career, as she has led Washington back into the Top-40. Simpson is sporting a 13-5 record in dual play and is 19-8 overall and has earned the first singles rankings of her career this season, peaking at No. 98. Her upset win over 34th-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 71. Rainey started strong in dual play this year before being sidelined for an extended stretch with mononucleosis. After an opening dual match loss, Rainey won five straight before coming down ill. She has not played since Feb. 2 vs. San Diego State. Still, Rainey's 6-2 record this year evened up her career mark at 45-45, so the Huskies are hoping the Mercer Island native can come back for a strong finish and leave with a winning record

UP NEXT: The Huskies have a week off before heading cross-state to Pullman, Wash. for their regular season finale against the 41st-ranked Washington State Cougars. Washington prevailed in the teams' earlier meeting, 6-1, but the second match is what counts for Pac-10 standings. The Huskies and Cougars take the court on Saturday, Apr. 19 at 12 p.m.

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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