Apple Cup Dual Wraps Regular Season For 34th-Ranked Huskies

April 17, 2008

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THIS WEEK: The 34th-ranked Washington women's tennis team heads across the state to Pullman to face the 42nd-ranked Washington State Cougars in the regular season finale for both teams this Saturday, April 19, at 12 noon. The NCAA tournament appears within reach for both teams, thus giving added weight to this installment of the rivalry. The Huskies (12-8, 2-5 Pac-10) are coming off a bye week but will hope to carry over some of the momentum from their last outing, a 4-3 upset of 12th-ranked Arizona State that put them back in the running for their first NCAA berth since 2005.

SCOUTING WASHINGTON STATE: The 42nd-ranked Cougars are 15-9 overall and 1-6 in Pac-10 play, the win coming against Arizona. Washington State packed in a double-header against Montana State and Portland State last weekend, winning by a combined score of 13-1. The Huskies and Cougars met on March 14 in Seattle in a non-conference dual, and the Huskies triumphed, 6-1, although two Husky wins came in three sets. WSU's Aleksandra Cekic earned the Cougars' only point, defeating Vanja Radunovic in a third-set super-tiebreak at fifth singles. Senior Ekaterina Burduli has enjoyed another strong year this season in her great career, and she recently became the all-time WSU singles wins leader, with 90 victories. Burduli is 27-9 this year and has won four in a row, although UW's Venise Chan will be hoping for a similar result as their first meeting, when Chan won, 6-1, 6-1. Burduli is ranked 52nd in the nation. The Huskies have now won two straight against the Cougars, but WSU won the last meeting in Pullman, taking a 4-3 victory in 2007. Lisa Hart is in her fifth season coaching the Cougars.

LAST TIME OUT: Washington snapped a three-match losing streak by sweeping the Arizona schools at home, and if they go on to make the NCAA tournament, the homestand will surely be viewed as the turning point. Winless in conference play coming in, the Huskies handled Arizona with ease, winning 4-0 in a match played tournament style to accomodate the Wildcats' travel plans. Tara Simpson, Joyce Ardies, and Aleksandra Malovic had singles wins for the Huskies, adding to the doubles point win. The only drawback of the win was that the stoppage of the match took potential wins away from Venise Chan at No. 1 singles and Melinda Wong at No. 6 singles. Both were one game away from victory, with Chan leading 38th-ranked Danielle Steinberg, 6-4, 5-4. However, the following day, every last point would need to be played to determine the winner between UW and 12th-ranked Arizona State. The Huskies lost the doubles point, but Simpson and Ardies upset the 28th-ranked team of Nadia and Laila Abdala at No. 1 doubles to head to singles on an upswing. Simpson then continued to thrive in her final home match, defeating Laila Abdala, 6-3, 6-1, to tie the match. ASU earned a point with a win at sixth singles, but freshman Kelsey Anonsen had perhaps her biggest win yet in her young career with a 7-5, 6-0 win over Wendy Pilecka at No. 5 to level the match at 2-2. The Sun Devils took the lead again when Malovic fell in three sets to 26th-ranked Kelcy McKenna. That left Joyce Ardies against Micaela Hein at No. 4 singles, and Venise Chan against 31st-ranked Nadia Abdala at the No. 1 spot. Ardies finished off a 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 win at the precise moment that Chan was playing a match point of her own, up 5-3 in the third set. However, Abdala would win the point, hold serve, then break back and go up 6-5. Chan had to save one match point while serving in the next game, but managed to stay alive and force a tiebreak. Two memorable passing shots at 3-4 in the tiebreak put Chan in front, and an error from Abdala gave Chan the win on her fifth match point. All told, it was a 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (5) win for the Husky freshman, and UW's first win over a Top-25 team since 2005.

HUSKIES IN THE RANKINGS: Washington's wins over the Arizona schools vaulted the team back up 15 spots to 34th in the ITA Rankings, which matches its season-high. The Huskies have come a long way from their preseason No. 70 ranking. 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 13 rankings. Helped by her win over 31st-ranked Nadia Abdala of ASU, Chan jumped back up to 30th in the most recent poll, matching her season pinnacle. 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 122nd, down from her season-high of 98. The senior is having her best season yet, and leads the team in dual wins with a 15-5 record, predominantly from the No. 3 singles position.

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 14-5 record in dual matches, and is 20-7 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 where she currently remains. The highlight of Chan's season, and the team as a whole, came in UW's last match against 12th-ranked Arizona State, when Chan saved match point to prevail in a third-set tiebreak against Nadia Abdala, clinching a 4-3 upset win. Based on the current rankings, Chan has an incredible nine wins over ranked opponents, including wins over 18th-ranked Susie Babos of California, 26th-ranked Nadia Abdala of Arizona State, No. 48 Katrina Zheltova of Sacramento State, No. 52 Ekaterina Burduli of Washington State, No. 56 Lindsey Nelson of USC, No. 63 Anastasia Surkova of BYU, No. 79 Sophie Kobuch of Hawaii, No. 83 Celine Rolly of Oregon, and UW's own 122nd-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.

ONE MORE APPLE CUP FOR SENIOR PAIR: 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 15-5 record in dual play and is 21-8 overall, leading the team in both cases, and she has earned the first singles rankings of her career this season, peaking at No. 98. Her upset win over 38th-ranked Cristina Visico of California provided a signature victory that helped boost her into the rankings. In UW's match against Arizona State, Simpson picked up her 73rd-career singles victory, tying Zuzana Stunova (1997-00) for eighth-place in school history, and she is just two wins shy of fifth-place. Simpson has also anchored UW's doubles lineup this season with sophomore Joyce Ardies. The two are 14-11 overall, and earned their first win over a ranked team in their last match, defeating the 28th-ranked Abdala sisters of Arizona State. 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: Postseason play begins with the Pac-10 Championships in the traditional setting of the Ojai Valley Tenins Tournament in Ojai, Calif. The conference will crown singles and doubles champions at the four-day event which kicks off Thursday, April 24 and runs through Sunday, April 27. The following Tuesday, April 29, the NCAA Championship team selections will be revealed on ESPNews at 11 p.m. PT, with individual brackets unveiled the next day.

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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