Huskies Set To Host No. 1 Ohio State This Sunday
Jan. 21, 2009
THIS WEEK: Winners of their first three matches, the Washington men's tennis team prepares for one of the biggest matches of the year as No. 1 ranked Ohio State will put the Huskies to the test this Sunday, Jan. 25 at 12 noon at the Nordstrom Tennis Center. The Buckeyes are one of the clear favorites for the NCAA title and have three singles players ranked in the Top-10. This will be the first time UW has faced the top-ranked team since 2001, and the first time in Seattle since 1999. Parking and admission are free for all spectators.
SCOUTING OHIO STATE: The Buckeyes begin their spring dual season with a double-header today (Wednesday) against Butler and Xavier. Ohio State is coming off a record-setting season in which it went 35-2, losing to Texas in the NCAA Quarterfinals. The team's only other loss came against Virginia in a match played in Seattle at the Nordstrom in the finals of the ITA National Team Indoors. The Buckeyes have five players in the ITA singles rankings, including No. 1-ranked senior Bryan Koniecko, No. 3-ranked senior Steven Moneke, and 6th-ranked junior Justin Kronauge. All three are All-Americans, and Koniecko defeated Kronauge in the final of the 2008 ITA National Indoor Championships, the most recent national college championship. Also in the rankings for OSU are 38th-ranked sophomore Balazs Novak, and 77th-ranked sophomore Shuhei Uzawa. In doubles, Moneke and Novak are ranked 11th, while Koniecko and Kronauge are 31st. Novak is also ranked in doubles with junior Mike O'Connell, coming in at No. 41. The Huskies hold a 2-1 advantage in the series with Ohio State sweeping the Huskies in the last meeting in Columbus in 2007, but UW won the last Seattle meeting, 4-1, in 2005.
LAST TIME OUT: Washington improved to 3-0 with two sweeps against Portland and 67th-ranked San Francisco. After winning the doubles point against Portland on Friday, Washington took every first set in singles with ease, but Portland hung tough in most second sets. Junior Derek Drabble scored the first point in singles, defeating Evan Schleining, 6-1, 6-4. Senior Ryo Sekiguchi was next on the board, securing a 6-3, 7-5 win at No. 6 singles over Nick Wales and putting UW up 3-0. The clinching point came from sophomore Martin Kildahl, who held off Bryan Thorp, 6-4, 6-4, at the third singles position. The final two Huskies were both pushed to third sets, but both raised their games when it mattered most as senior Patrik Fischer outlasted Filip Zivkovic, 6-2, 6-7, 6-1. David Chu overcame Geoff Hernandez, 6-2, 4-6, 6-1, at No. 4 to finish off the UW sweep. On Sunday, Washington swept the doubles point from the Dons, and went up 2-0 thanks to Kildahl, who dominated Karill Karchmit, 6-1, 6-0 at No. 4 singles. Washington clinched the win a short time later, when Fischer and sophomore Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan put away wins at the top two singles spots. Nedunchezhiyan bested Asaf Cohen, 6-3, 6-2, at No. 2 singles, followed moments later by Fischer polishing off Tommy Tu, 6-4, 6-0, at the top spot. Sekiguchi scored a 6-3, 6-3 victory at sixth singles over Mitch del Rosario and Chu won by the same score at No. 3 singles over Reiner Nachbauer. Drabble came back from a set down to defeat Einar Hart in a third set super-tiebreak to end the weekend.
NOTES ON NO. 1: Washington has played the No. 1 ranked team on four occasions over the past 10 years. The last occasion was April 13, 2001, when UW lost at top-ranked UCLA. The previous year, the Huskies fell, 5-2, to No. 1 ranked Stanford in Palo Alto. In 1999, Washington hosted the top-ranked team on two separate occasions, once in a 4-3 loss to Stanford in January, and again in April when UCLA had moved to the top spot and defeated the Huskies, 5-2. Last year, Washington played second-ranked Georgia at the Nordstrom and lost, 4-2.
UP NEXT: The Huskies will head to Athens, Georgia, the home of the two-time defending NCAA Champion Georgia Bulldogs, for the ITA National Team Indoor qualifying rounds. Fifteen four-team regionals will be played next weekend around the country, with the winner of each advancing to the final site of the National Team Indoors. The finals will be Feb. 13-16 in Chicago. In Athens, UW will open with 44th-ranked Indiana on Friday, Jan. 30, then will face either 3rd-ranked Georgia or 52nd-ranked South Carolina the next day.
2009 SEASON PREVIEW: After an influx of six newcomers last season, with nine players in their first or second year on the team, inexperience mixed with talent to produce an up and down season that ended in the first round of the NCAA Championships. This year, having lost only one starter, Andy Kuharszky, the Huskies as a whole are one year older and wiser and hope that their games will reflect that. Washington has seven returning players that started seven or more dual matches last year, led by senior Patrik Fischer, and sophomore Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan. Fischer and Nedunchezhiyan held the top two singles spots last season, with Fischer earning All-Pac-10 Second Team honors and Nedunchezhiyan getting honorable mention. Veterans Derek Drabble and David Chu are back and should be entrenched in the singles lineup, along with sophomore Martin Kildahl, who came on strong at the end of 2008 and could find himself playing much higher in the order. For a complete season preview with head coach Matt Anger's thoughts on the season, visit www.gohuskies.com.
2008 BRINGS ANOTHER TOURNEY APPEARANCE: For a team with six newcomers, just one senior, and one of the nation's most difficult schedules, the 2008 season figured to be a challenge. Looking back on the season, the Huskies bore the marks of what they were from the start, a very talented but inexperienced team. Thrilling home victories over highly-ranked teams such as Alabama and Pepperdine were countered by struggles on the road, where the Huskies played four of their seven Pac-10 matches. Washington hosted the ITA National Team Indoor Championships in February, scoring a win over then-No. 10 Alabama, but losing close calls to No. 2 Georgia and No. 11 Illinois. From that point, the Huskies went on a seven-match win streak, including a 4-3 win over Pepperdine who ended the year ranked 14th. Pac-10 play started at home against the conference's top two teams, UCLA and USC, and the Huskies struggled for the only time at home, losing 6-1 in both matches. From there UW picked up a road win at Arizona, but lost three straight conference road matches, the toughest a 4-3 defeat at Cal. Washington then bounced back with a sweep of the Ducks in their season finale to finish at 2-5 in Pac-10 play. The Huskies earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Championships, where for the second year in a row they faced Wisconsin in the first round. Unfortunately the result was the same as in 2007, as the Badgers ended the Huskies' season a little too early for their liking. The UW finished with a 14-10 record. Senior Andy Kuharszky led the team with 14 dual match wins, mostly at No. 3 singles, followed closely by the 13 of junior Patrik Fischer, who assumed the No. 1 singles spot and finished the season ranked 95th. Fischer and freshman Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan, the top two singles players, comprised the top doubles tandem, going 8-6 at No. 1 doubles.
THE SCHEDULE: Once again Washington has assembled a nonconference schedule featuring several of the elite teams in the nation to challenge them, along with the always difficult Pac-10 conference slate. The first major test for the Huskies comes just two weeks into the season, as UW hosts Ohio State on January 25. The Buckeyes finished last season ranked third in the nation and with several returning All-Americans, are one of the favorites for the 2009 title. After the Ohio State match, the Huskies will head across the country to Athens, Georgia, home of the two-time defending NCAA Champion Georgia Bulldogs. This year is the first time that the ITA National Team Indoor Championships, which Washington routinely hosts, has expanded to include qualifying rounds. Four-team qualifying brackets will be held throughout the country, with Washington, Indiana, and South Carolina entered in the bracket hosted by Georgia. The Huskies will play Indiana on January 30, with the winner potentially facing Georgia for the right to play at National Team Indoors in Chicago. Also highlighting the home schedule is the Great Northwest Shootout held from February 6-8. This year's event is a three-team round robin between Washington, Oklahoma, and Boise State. Other significant home matches include Oregon (Feb. 20), Fresno State (Feb. 22), Minnesota (March 6), Texas A&M (March 8), Arizona (March 29), and California and Stanford on April 10th and 11th, respectively. The Huskies also make a trip to Malibu where they will play Michigan in a neutral site match on Feb. 27, before going up against Pepperdine on March 1. The Wolverines were 16th in the final ITA rankings last season, while the Waves finished 12th. Washington will also make a trip to the L.A. schools in early April, and conclude the year with its annual trip to the Pac-10 Championships in Ojai, Calif. from April 23-26.
HEAD COACH Matt Anger: The turning point in modern Washington tennis came with the hiring of Matt Anger, now entering into his 15th season as head coach. Since his arrival, the Huskies have been a model of consistency, and consistently excellent at that. The winningest coach in Washington history, Anger's teams have never once missed the NCAA Championships and have been a fixture in the Top-25 with five runs to the NCAA Round of 16 in this decade alone. Under Anger's watch, Washington has posted a winning record in all of his 14 seasons, and won its first ever Pac-10 title in 2005 as Anger was named Pac-10 Coach of the Year. Furthermore, several of Anger's players have seen tremendous individual success, with seven of the top eight winningest players in UW history competing during his tenure. Five different singles players have earned All-American honors under Anger, 10 different players earned year-end Top-50 rankings, and Alex Vlaski captured the 2003 ITA All-American Championships, the first national title for a Husky since 1924. In addition, Anger is the only active coach who over the past 10 years, has guided three different players to the NCAA Singles Semifinals. Anger played collegiate tennis at USC from 1982-84 and was a three-time All-American, while leading the team to a top-five finish three consecutive years. In 1983, he was a Pac-10 singles finalist and helped lead the Trojans to a third-place NCAA finish. The next season, Anger won the Pac-10 doubles championship, was a Pac-10 singles semifinalist, and helped USC win the conference team title. At the conclusion of his junior season, Anger entered the pro ranks and played on the pro tour for eight years (1984-91). He earned his highest ATP singles ranking of No. 23 in the world in 1986.