Women's Tennis Hosts Portland In Season-Opener

Jan. 14, 2009

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THIS WEEK: The Husky women's tennis team is just a few days away from the first serve of the 2009 dual season, as Washington hosts Portland this Saturday, Jan. 17, at 3 p.m. at the Nordstrom Tennis Center. The Huskies are ranked 38th heading into the season, and look to build on last season's NCAA Championships berth. The home appearance will be the only one this month for the Dawgs, who play their next six on the road. Admission is free for all spectators at the Nordstrom.

SCOUTING PORTLAND: Saturday's match will be the first of the 2009 season for the Pilots after finishing with a 12-10 record in 2008. Junior Megan Sporndli returns as Portland's No. 1 singles player. Portland has three native Washingtonians on its roster, including Stephanie Doolittle of Olympia, Stephanie Fuchs from La Center, and Anna Gullickson from Spokane. Last season the Huskies defeated the Pilots, 6-1, and lead the all-time series 18-0.

HUSKIES IN THE RANKINGS: Washington women's tennis team received a No. 38 preseason ranking from the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA), up two spots from the end of the 2008 season. Sophomore Venise Chan and freshman Denise Dy also picked up individual singles rankings, as well as a doubles ranking. Chan, who was ranked 28th in the fall and finished last season at No. 37, saw her ranking drop to 81st overall but will have plenty of time to climb back up with a few big wins and challenge for a second NCAA Championships bid. Dy, a San Jose, Calif. native, is ranked 112th (out of 125). Chan and Dy had a great fall playing doubles together, going 6-1, and they head into the spring season ranked 47th. Regional rankings were also released last week, with Chan coming in 11th, Dy at No. 17, and freshman Samantha Smith at No. 25. Chan and Dy are 6th in the region in doubles.

2009 SEASON PREVIEW: Coming off their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2005, Washington is looking to continue its progression back towards the nation's elite. Last season's goals have become this season's expectations, and with a young but talented roster that features no seniors, the current group of Huskies knows they have what it takes to get back to the Top-25. Washington will be much deeper than last season and the addition of three newcomers with big expectations figures to make UW formidable at every spot in the singles lineup. Returning starters Venise Chan, Joyce Ardies, and Aleksandra Malovic provide the foundation, and freshmen Denise Dy and Samantha Smith, and sophomore transfer Lina Xu are expected to jump right in to the starting lineup. Chan will once again anchor UW's singles lineup at the No. 1 spot, where she excelled last year earning a high ranking of No. 30 and making the NCAA Singles Tourney as a freshman. The Huskies will have to learn to win on the road to have any success in 2009, as they play only eight home matches and at least 15 matches away from Seattle. But the pieces are certainly in place for another tournament run in 2009. For a complete season preview including quotes from head coach Jill Hultquist, visit www.gohuskies.com.

UP NEXT: The Huskies begin a six-match road stretch that will take them through the states of Utah, California, and Minnesota over the next month. First up will be a challenging pair of matches against 47th-ranked BYU and 50th-ranked Utah. The Huskies face the Cougars on Saturday, Jan. 24 at 12 p.m. and then engage the Utes on Sunday the 25th at 12 noon as well.

FALL RECAP: The Huskies enjoyed a busy fall season, making three trips down to California for tournaments. The 2008-09 season began at the St. Mary's Invitational. Freshman Samantha Smith went 5-0 in her first weekend of college tennis to win the B-fligth singles draw, and junior Joyce Ardies outlasted sophomore teammate Lina Xu to win the main draw consolation bracket. Smith had two 6-0, 6-0 wins, including in the final against Ashley Pane of Santa Clara. Meanwhile, Venise Chan was in Los Angeles competing in the qualifying draw of the Riviera ITA All-American Championships. Chan went 1-1, defeating TCU's 47th-ranked Nina Much-Soeggard but falling against 109th-ranked Bianca Eichkorn of Miami in three sets. Next up was ITA Regionals hosted by Cal. Chan and freshman Denise Dy had the best showing, making the doubles quarterfinals and giving the 24th-ranked duo of Cossou and Ilcinkas of Cal a major battle before losing, 8-6. Chan also made the round of 16 in singles. Finally, the Huskies traveled to San Diego for the SDSU Fall Classic, and dominated the competition. Chan won the singles flight over Dy, and Smith once again captured the B-flight. Dy picked up back-to-back wins over ranked opponents, upsetting 93rd-ranked Ana Maria Constantinescu of Oklahoma and 117th-ranked Holly Bagshaw of SDSU, and Chan and Dy captured the doubles title.

HUSKIES RETURN TO PROMINENCE IN 2008: The Huskies experienced a resurgence in 2008, returning to the Top-40 and the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2005 after a two-year rebuilding process. The program got a major boost from freshman Venise Chan, who took the No. 1 singles spot from day one and helped give the team a more balanced lineup. Washington rolled to an 8-1 start, equaling its win total from the previous two years combined. After beginning the year ranked just 70th, the Huskies earned upsets over 28th-ranked BYU and 46th-ranked San Diego State to move up the rankings. They followed that with a key sweep of ranked Purdue and Illinois teams. The Pac-10 portion of the schedule continued to be as tough as ever, but Chan remained a bright spot with wins over All-American Susie Babos of Cal and Lindsey Nelson of USC. Sitting on the NCAA tournament bubble, the Huskies picked up their biggest win in three years with an upset of 12th-ranked Arizona State in their final home match. Trailing 3-2, Joyce Ardies got a three-set win at fourth singles, and Venise Chan staved off a match point and defeated 31st-ranked Nadia Abdala in a third set tiebreak to give the UW a signature win they needed to make NCAA's. Washington fell to Texas A&M, 4-1, in the NCAA First Round to finish with a 12-10 record and a No. 40 ITA ranking. Chan went on to compete in the NCAA Singles Championships, ending her year with a 21-10 record and a No. 37 singles rank. The Huskies bid farewell to seniors Tara Simpson and Allison Rainey. Simpson was a big reason for UW's success, as she had her best season with a 21-11 singles mark and 15-7 in dual play. She finished with 73 career singles wins, tied for eighth all-time at Washington.

THE SCHEDULE: The Huskies will have to keep their bags packed for much of the 2009 season, as they play only eight home dates while facing a minimum of fifteen matches on the road. For a young team, getting over any road jitters will be an important hurdle that, if cleared, will be a big advantage come tournament time. After opening at home against Portland on January 17th, the women will hit the road for nearly a month, with two-match road swings through Utah, the Bay Area, and Minnesota. At the end of January, UW will be in Berkeley to partake in the expanded ITA National Team Indoor Championships, which this year include four-team regional qualifiers. The Huskies will be at the qualifying bracket hosted by California, and will play North Carolina State in the first round. Washington's Pac-10 slate is spread out from the end of February until the last match of the year on April 18 against WSU. The Huskies will face an extremely challenging four-match road stretch at California, Stanford, Arizona, and Arizona State from Feb. 27-Mar. 7. They host Oregon on March 21, and the L.A. schools on April 3-4. Last season, the Pac-10 once again proved its dominance, with UCLA defeating California in the NCAA Final. Another highlight on the schedule is a spring break trip to Hawai'i that will mix business and pleasure. The team will play three matches in four days against Cal Poly, Illinois, and Hawai'i before they can relax. There can be no mistaking the difficulty of the schedule, playing in the premier conference with the majority of matches on the road. But the coaches and players know that to take the next step in the rankings and in the tournament, those are the matches they need to win.

HEAD COACH Jill Hultquist: Entering year four of her tenure, head coach Jill Hultquist has ushered in a rebirth of the women's tennis program. In just three years, Hultquist took a 3-17 team and restored stability, added depth and an influx of talent, and brought the Huskies back to national prominence and back to the NCAA Championships. Last season Hultquist guided the Huskies back to NCAA's for the first time since 2005, and the Huskies climbed back into the ITA Top-40 after nearly a two-year absence. Hultquist brought in freshman Venise Chan, who went straight to the top of the singles lineup and reached the NCAA Singles Championship, helping to change the tenor of the program. Hultquist is the fourth head coach in program history, and succeeded Patty McCain, whom Hultquist worked with as an assistant for five seasons from 1997-2002. During her first tour of duty at UW, Hultquist helped lead the Huskies to five consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances including a school record trip to the NCAA Quarterfinals in 2001. In fact, it was Hultquist who served as the acting head coach for the team during its Elite Eight run, as McCain was unable to travel to Stone Mountain, Ga., due to the impending birth of her first child. That run included a Sweet-16 victory over fifth-ranked Tennessee. 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. 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 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. A native of Toronto, Canada, Hultquist and her husband Rich have two children, Jack (7) and Maggie (5).

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