Huskies Look To Continue Hot Start At Home

Feb. 18, 2009

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THIS WEEK: Winners of six of their first seven matches, the Washington women's tennis team returns home for the first time since its season-opener back in mid-January. After a 5-1 road trip, the 36th-ranked Huskies will be the ones enjoying the home court edge when they host 43rd-ranked Sacramento State on Friday, Feb. 20, followed by 69th-ranked Rice on Sunday, Feb. 22. The match with the Hornets is set for a 1 p.m. start time while the Huskies and Owls will hit the courts early with first serve at 10 a.m. Both matches are at the Nordstrom Tennis Center with free admission for fans.

HUSKIES LEAVE ROAD WOES BEHIND: Despite making the NCAA tournament in 2008, the Huskies were a different team at home and on the road. Outside the Nordstrom Tennis Center the team struggled to a 1-7 record, and suffered losses to Oregon and Washington State after convincing home wins over the two teams earlier in the year. With fifteen road matches and just eight at home facing the team this season, finding a means to victory away from the Nordstrom was one of the most important factors in the team reaching its goals in 2009. After the first and longest road trip of the season, the Huskies have put any such concerns to rest. In six matches across three states, Washington posted a 5-1 record, with the only loss coming in a highly-competitive 5-2 defeat at second-ranked California. The Huskies opened the trek with a 6-1 win at No. 47 BYU, then followed that with a 7-0 sweep of 50th-ranked Utah. The win at BYU was UW's first road win over a ranked opponent since 2005. Washington headed to Berkeley next and swept No. 49 North Carolina State in the first round of National Team Indoor Championships qualifying. The Bears dealt the Huskies their first loss, but not before Venise Chan and Denise Dy took out Cal's top two singles players. This past weekend the team made its longest trip yet to Minneapolis, and came back with two more wins over ranked opponents. Washington's lower half of the singles lineup came up big in a 4-3 win over No. 44 Marshall, then the Dawgs fended off 66th-ranked Minnesota on its home courts, 5-2. With nine road matches remaining, there will still be many more bags to pack, but the team has shown early on that it is capable of playing its best tennis anywhere there are lines and a net.

SCOUTING SACRAMENTO STATE: The Hornets of Sacramento State should present a significant challenge for the Huskies, as they head to Seattle with an unblemished 5-0 record. Sacramento State has already made one trip to the state of Washington this year, as they defeated Washington State, 6-1, and Eastern Washington, 7-0, just two weeks ago. The Hornets also have wins over Pepperdine, Nevada, and Northern Arizona, and none of their wins have been closer than 6-1. Sacramento State is 2-0 in Big Sky Conference play, and has won 54 consecutive conference matches. The Huskies and Hornets met last year, with Sacramento State prevailing, 4-3, in the 2008 season-opener played in Hawai'i. Both teams look much different from a year ago, with just three starters for each team playing in the regular lineup this year. In last year's match, Venise Chan upset top Hornets player Katrina Zheltova, 4-6, 6-1, 6-1 for one of the first big wins of her UW career. Zheltova is the two-time Big Sky Player of the Year, and went on to ean All-America honors last season. She's currently ranked 58th in singles.

SCOUTING RICE: Much like Sacramento State, the Rice Owls have come out of the gates quickly this season with an 8-2 record thus far. Rice defeated Texas Tech, 5-2, in its most recent match. The only losses for the Owls came at the hands of nationally-ranked Texas, 6-1, and UW's Pac-10 rival Arizona, by a 4-3 count. Junior Julie Chao is the No. 1 singles player for the Owls and is a two-time Conference USA First Team selection. Chao plays No. 1 doubles along with freshman Ana Guzman, Rice's No. 2 singles player. Jessica Jackson and Alex Rasch have had the best dual match success for Rice thus far. Jackson is 9-1, and 8-1 at No. 3 singles, while Rasch is 8-1 overall, mostly at sixth singles. The Owls are 6-0 at home and 2-2 on the road. Elizabeth Schmidt is in her first season coaching the Owls.

LAST TIME OUT: The Huskies rallied for two wins last weekend in Minneapolis, holding off No. 44 Marshall, 4-3, then defeated No. 66 Minnesota, 5-2. In the match against the Thudnering Herd, the Huskies swept doubles play, including a win by Venise Chan and Denise Dy over the nation's 47th-ranked tandem. The teams then split the six singles matches, with Marshall taking the top three spots but Washington winning the lower half. Samantha Smith, Joyce Ardies, and Aleksandra Malovic all earned straight set wins at four, five, and six singles, respectively. Chan lost to 33rd-ranked Kellie Schmitt at No. 1 singles, and Dy came up shot in a third set tiebreaker after UW had already clinched. The Marshall match marked the first time that the Huskies won when Chan did not win her No. 1 singles match dating back to the start of 2008, a testament to UW's improved depth. The next day, Washington again won doubles against Minnesota, but then lost four of six first sets in singles. Ardies and Malovic won in straight sets for the team's second and third points, then Dy clinched the win with a come-from-behind 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 win over 115th-ranked Alessandra Ferrazzi. Chan also came back to win her No. 1 match by the exact same score as Dy, defeating Karina Chiarelli.

HUSKIES IN THE RANKINGS: The next set of ITA rankings are scheduled to be released on Thursday, including new singles and doubles rankings for the first time since the start of the season. For now, UW remains at a season-high No. 36. The women began the year at No. 38 after finishing 2008 at No. 40. Chan, who was ranked 28th in the fall and finished last season at No. 37, saw her ranking drop to 81st overall heading into dual match play, but a 6-1 record thus far should have her back on the upswing. Dy, a San Jose, Calif. native, is ranked 112th (out of 125), but will surely jump much higher following her recent success including a win over Cal's 13th-ranked Marina Cossou. Chan and Dy also remain at No. 47 as a doubles duo.

FRESHMEN FIREPOWER: With no seniors on the UW roster this year, it would be tempting to already think ahead at the possibilities of the 2010 season, but Washington's impressive start this year has kept the focus strictly on the here and now, and the two freshmen on the Huskies' roster have shown they are ready to win, and win now. Denise Dy of San Jose, Calif. and Samantha Smith of Los Angeles are a combined 26-7 in singles matches thus far, and 11-3 in dual play. Dy has had an impact similar to last year's freshman sensation Venise Chan, who won her first nine dual matches and went on to make the Pac-10 Second Team and earn a spot in the NCAA Championships. Playing No. 2 singles, Dy has already defeated five ranked singles players, higlighted by a three-set win over 13th-ranked Marina Cossou of Cal on the Bears' home courts. She has already earned her first singles ranking of 112, which only seems destined to rise higher throughout the season. Smith meanwhile has thrived at the No. 4 singles spot, going 5-2 with one loss coming to the nation's 15th-ranked player. Smith also posted the best record in the fall of any team member, going 9-1 and winning the secondary singles flights at both the St. Mary's Invite and the SDSU Fall Classic. Though their careers are only just beginning, Husky fans will want to get to know Dy and Smith as quickly as possible.

CHAN NAMED PAC-10 PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Husky sophomore Venise Chan was named the Pac-10 Women's Tennis Player of the Week for the week of Jan. 19-25. Chan led Washington (3-0) to a pair of road victories against BYU and Utah over the weekend. Chan, a native of Hong Kong, China, went a combined 4-0 in singles and doubles for the 38th-ranked Huskies, who defeated No. 47 BYU, 6-1 on Jan. 24 and then swept No. 50 Utah on Jan. 25. Ranked 81st in singles, Chan defeated BYU's McCall Jones and Utah's Anastasia Putilina at the No. 1 singles spot, and her win at Utah was the clinching point. She also teamed with freshman Denise Dy to pull out a pair of 9-7 victories at No. 1 doubles. The Pac-10 weekly honor was the second of Chan's career Pac-10 Player of the Week honor, and the third all-time for Washington.

UP NEXT: Washington will return to the Bay Area for the third time this season including ITA Regionals in the fall, as the Pac-10 portion of its schedule begins with matches against 2nd-ranked Cal and 5th-ranked Stanford. The Huskies will play the Golden Bears less than a month after facing them in the National Team Indoor Championship qualifying, which Cal won 5-2 at their Hellman Tennis Complex. The rematch is set for Friday, Feb. 27 at 12 noon. The next day, Feb. 28, UW will face the always talented Cardinal in another 12 noon match.

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.

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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