Huskies and Aggies Meet in NCAA First Round

May 7, 2008

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2008 NCAA Women's Tennis Regional

Stanford, Calif. • Taube Family Tennis Center • Stanford University

Friday, May 9
#38 Washington vs. #31 Texas A&M 10 a.m.
#4 Stanford vs. Boston 1 p.m.

Saturday, May 10
Winner Match 1 vs. Winner Match 2 12 p.m.

THIS WEEK: The Washington women's tennis team returns to the NCAA Championships this weekend, taking a major step in an arduous rebuilding project undertaken by third-year head coach Jill Hultquist. Following two losing seasons, the 38th-ranked Huskies posted a winning record (12-9) and reached the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2005. Washington will be heading to Palo Alto, Calif. for its four-team Regional, and will face 31st-ranked Texas A&M in the first round on Friday, May 9, at 10 a.m. The winner of that match will take on the winner of fourth-ranked Stanford and Boston University on Saturday, May 10, at 12 noon. Matches will be held at Stanford's Taube Family Tennis Center. The winner of the Regional advances to the final championship site, the Michael D. Case Tennis Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

WASHINGTON IN THE NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS: This year will be Washington's 10th appearance in the NCAAs, and first since 2005. From 1997-2005, the Huskies made nine consecutive tournament appearances, reaching the NCAA Quarterfinals in 2001 and 2004, and the Round of 16 in 2003. The Huskies have won five consecutive first round matches, including a 4-0 win over Long Beach State in 2005. Washington lost in the NCAA West Region first round in each of its first four trips, but then broke through all the way to the quarterfinals in 2001. Overall the Huskies are 10-9 in NCAA play. The Huskies are 3-6 against teams in the current NCAA Championships field, with wins over Arizona State, Washington State, and Illinois, and losses to Stanford, California, USC, UCLA, Washington State and Michigan.

SCOUTING TEXAS A&M: The Aggies went 16-8 during the regular season, defeating nine ranked opponents, including three wins against teams in the NCAA tournament field -- LSU, UNLV and Wake Forest. All eight losses were against teams that are seeded in the NCAA tournament, including losses to No. 2 seed Georgia, No. 5 seed Baylor and No. 16 seed Fresno State. The Aggies finished third in the Big-12 Conference with a 9-2 record, placing behind Baylor and Texas. Texas A&M reached a high of No. 25 in the ITA Rankings before ending the regular season at No. 31. This will be their ninth-straight NCAA appearance and 14th overall, posting an 11-14 record. The Aggies have five players with at least 20 singles wins this season, led by freshman Christi Liles who is 28-8 overall and has gone 9-3 at No. 2 singles. Elze Potgieter, a sophomore, is A&M's No. 1 singles player, having posted a 13-8 record at the top spot and going 22-12 overall. Senior Anna Blagodarova has played in each of the top three singles spots, going 20-17 overall. She needs two more singles wins to reach 100 for her career. Potgieter has been ranked as high as 75th this year but is currently unranked. Bobby Kleinecke is in his 23rd season as the Aggies head coach.

SCOUTING STANFORD: The Cardinal have been one of the dominant forces in women's tennis for the past several years, and as the No. 4 seed they will be favored to make another deep run. Stanford won three-straight NCAA titles from 2004-06 before losing to UCLA in the NCAA Semifinals last year. The Cardinal shared the Pac-10 Championship with UCLA this year, going 7-1 in conference and 19-4 overall. The Cardinal have won or shared the Pac-10 title for 21 straight years. Stanford owns a 104-12 record in the postseason since the NCAA Tournament went to its present format in 1982, and has reached 27 consecutive tournaments. During that time, Stanford has won 15 of 26 possible NCAA team titles, including five of the last seven seasons. The Cardinal defeated the Huskies, 7-0, in Seattle back on Feb. 22. In that match, Venise Chan pushed Stanford's No. 1 player, Hilary Barte, to a third-set super-tiebreak before falling. Joyce Ardies also took a set off Stanford's Whitney Deason at No. 4 singles. Barte is 27-6 overall and 20-3 in dual play and is currently ranked third. She and 13th-ranked No. 2 singles player Jessica Nguyen will both be playing in the NCAA singles tourney as well. Barte and sophomore Lindsay Burdette are Stanford's No. 1 doubles duo and ranked No. 9 nationally. Eighth-year head coach Lele Forood has guided the Cardinal to five NCAA titles.

SCOUTING BOSTON: The Terriers of Boston University hail from the American East Conference, and won the conference title for the 15th-straight season. Boston is 11-7 on the season and was 2-0 in American East play. This is Boston's 10th-consecutive NCAA appearance, although the terriers have yet to score a point in their first round matches during the run. Sophomore Francine Whu is the American East Player of the Year, having gone 15-11 overall. Head coach Lesley Sheehan has led Boston to each of its 10-straight NCAA tourneys.

REGULAR SEASON IN A NUTSHELL: The Husky women's tennis program experienced a rebirth this year, becoming a team to be reckoned with once again following two years where wins were few and far between. The Huskies posted a 12-9 record, easily surpassing the eight combined wins of the past two seasons. For much of the season, UW started three freshmen, two sophomores, and just one senior in singles play. As can be the case with many such young teams, Washington thrived at home but struggled on the road. The Huskies were 11-2 in home matches, defeating the likes of Arizona State, Oregon, Washington State, BYU, Purdue, and San Diego State, but lost their final six road matches, including second encounters with the Ducks and WSU Cougars that left them at 2-6 in conference play. UW's 4-3 win over 12th-ranked Arizona State in their final home match was the first Top-25 win for the program since 2005. The Huskies also improved drastically in the rankings from their preseason No. 70 billing, cutting that number in half to finish the regular season 35th. Leading the team throughout the year were freshman Venise Chan at No. 1 singles, and senior Tara Simpson at the No. 3 spot. Chan defeated eight ranked players throughout the year, and climbed as high as 30th in her first season, while Simpson earned her first career singles ranking as well in her last year, peaking at No. 98. Simpson led the team with a 15-6 dual record, followed by Chan at 14-6, and sophomore Joyce Ardies also finished with double-digit wins, at 12-9.

HUSKIES IN THE RANKINGS: Washington ended the regular season ranked 38th in the ITA poll. After beginning the season ranked 70th, the Huskies re-entered the Top-40 on March 4, and remained there for eight of the final nine ranking periods. This season, freshman Venise Chan and senior Tara Simpson each earned the first singles rankings of their careers, and Chan has maintained a Top-40 ranking for the past month. Chan remained at No. 37 in the most recent poll, down from her season-high of No. 30. Chan was the first Husky freshman to earn a Top-30 ranking since former Husky Claire Carter in 2001, and is the highest-ranked Husky since Dea Sumantri in 2005. Carter and Sumantri went on to earn seven All-American awards between them. Simpson is currently unranked but she reached a career-high of 98 on March 4. The senior is having her best season yet, and leads the team in dual wins with a 15-6 record, predominantly from the No. 3 singles position.

CHAN EARNS NCAA BID: Freshman Venise Chan's sensational season will continue on to the NCAA Singles Championships, as she was chosen for the 64-player field. The tourney runs May 21-26 at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, following the conclusion of the team championship. 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 14-6 record in dual matches, and is 20-9 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 was ranked as high as No. 30 on two occasions before finishing the regular season at No. 37. The highlight of Chan's season, and the team as a whole, came in UW's match against 12th-ranked Arizona State, when Chan saved match point to prevail in a third-set tiebreak against 28th-ranked Nadia Abdala, clinching a 4-3 upset win. Chan has wins over eight ranked opponents, and has wins over four players in the NCAA field, including Nadia Abdala (Arizona State), Susie Babos (California), Ekaterina Burduli (Washington State), and Lindsey Nelson (USC). Nelson is a two-time NCAA Singles runner-up, and Babos was the 2005 NCAA Champion. Two of Chan's dual match losses came in a third-set tiebreaker to third-ranked Hilary Barte of Stanford, and 6-4 in the third set to No. 14 Riza Zalameda of UCLA after Chan led 3-0 in the deciding set. Also, three of her losses have come to players which she has also defeated once this season. Chan boasted a 12-match win streak from Nov. 9, 2007 through Feb. 17, 2008. She will be Washington's first NCAA Singles Championship participant since Dea Sumantri made the last of three appearances in 2005.

LONG ROAD BACK TO NCAAS FOR SIMPSON AND RAINEY: 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 2007-08 season has been the best of Simpson's career, as she has led Washington back into the Top-40. Simpson is sporting a 15-6 record in dual play and is 21-10 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 15-12 overall, and earned their first win over a ranked team against ASU, 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. Rainey made her long-awaited return to the courts two weeks ago, jumpstarting her win streak once again with a straight set victory over Washington State's Marina Nicolas. It was Rainey's first match since since Feb. 2 vs. San Diego State. Rainey's timely return should help stabilize the back of UW's lineup heading into NCAA's. After all their trials, Simpson and Rainey can be counted on to give it their all this weekend when each match could be their last.

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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