Washington Begins Pac-10 Play At No. 3 Cal And No. 11 Stanford

Feb. 26, 2009

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THIS WEEK: The Pac-10 conference season gets underway this weekend for the 38th-ranked Washington women's tennis team, as the Huskies head to the Bay Area to face third-ranked California and 11th-ranked Stanford. The Huskies (7-2) have already been to Berkeley twice this season, once in the fall for ITA Regionals, and again at the beginning of this month for the ITA National Team Indoor qualifying. Washington and Cal will square off on Friday, Feb. 27 at 12 p.m., and the Dawgs and Cardinal will play on Saturday, Feb. 28, also at 12 nooon.

SCOUTING CALIFORNIA: The Huskies and Bears have already met once this season, with Cal claiming a 5-2 win in Berkeley in the final qualifying match for the ITA National Team Indoor Championships. In that match, UW's Venise Chan and Denise Dy took out Cal's top two singles players, but the Golden Bears won doubles and the third through sixth singles matches. Dy's win was especially big, as she upset then-No. 13 Marina Cossou in three sets. The Golden Bears were NCAA Runners-Up last season, and are 5-1 this year, having lost to Georgia in the semifinals of the National Team Indoors. Since losing her first match to UW's Chan, Cal's Mari Andersson has won eight in a row and is now ranked 110th. She was named Pac-10 Player of the Week after National Team Indoors. Freshman Jana Juricova is ranked 16th in singles, followed by Cossou at No. 18, senior Bojana Bobusic at No. 27, and senior Claire Ilcinkas at No. 32. Ilcinkas and Cossou are ranked 8th in doubles, and are the only team that UW's Chan and Dy have lost to this year.

SCOUTING STANFORD: The Cardinal are 6-2 and ranked 11th and have been unbeatable at home for exactly a decade come Friday. Stanford has won 139-straight matches at the Taube Tennis Center, dating back to Feb. 27, 1999. The Cardinal went 1-2 during the National Team Indoor Championships, falling to Notre Dame and Miami, but defeating North Carolina, all of which were then ranked between 11th and 15th. Sophomore All-American Hilary Barte is ranked 14th in singles. She got the best of Venise Chan in a third-set super-tiebreak in last season's dual match. Junior Lindsay Burdette is also ranked 103rd in singles, and Burdette and Barte are ranked 44th in doubles. Head coach Lele Forood has led Stanford to five national titles. Washington has never beaten Stanford.

LAST TIME OUT: Washington played its first two home matches in over a month last weekend, and came away with a 1-1 split, dropping a razor-thin 4-3 decision to 40th-ranked Sacramento State, then bouncing back with a sweep of 75th-ranked Rice. In the Sacramento State match, UW fell behind after losing the doubles point for just the second time this year, although Venise Chan and Denise Dy were victorious at the No. 1 spot. Chan got the Huskies even in surprisingly quick fashion, as 62nd-ranked Katrina Zheltova retired after Chan won the first three games of the match. Dy rolled at No. 2 singles, beating Aileen Tsan, 6-2, 6-1, to tie the score at 2-2 with three matches left. The Hornets took the lead with a win at fourth singles, but Joyce Ardies tied things again with a gritty 7-6, 6-7, 6-2 win over Clarisse Baca at No. 5. That left things up to the No. 6 match between junior Aleksandra Malovic and Joyce Martinez Gutierrez. Malovic came back from a first set loss to take the second set, and she opened up a 5-2 third set lead, but Gutierrez persisted. Malovic had match point at 5-4 on Gutierrez's serve but could not convert, and Gutierrez wound up winning in a third-set tiebreaker. The Huskies shook off the defeat quickly, sweeping the Owls and winning every set in singles and doubles in the process. Freshman Samantha Smith clinched the victory with a 6-3, 6-2 win at No. 4 singles over Rebecca Lin and sophomore Lina Xu put a four-match losing skid behind her with a 6-2, 7-5 win at No. 3 singles.

HUSKIES IN THE RANKINGS: The Intercollegiate Tennis Association released new individual rankings last week for the first time since the season began, and as expected sophomore Venise Chan and freshman Denise Dy both made significant jumps in both singles and doubles. Chan, UW's No. 1 singles player, climbed nearly thirty spots from 81st to No. 53, while Dy is close behind at a career-high No. 61, after starting the season ranked 112th. Chan, who was ranked as high as 30th in 2008, is 15-3 in singles play this season, and 8-1 in dual matches. Her first victory of the year over TCU's Nina Munch-Soegaard, then ranked 47th, now is paying big dividends in terms of rankings points as Munch-Soegaard has climbed to sixth in the nation. Dy, a native of San Jose, Calif., is 14-4 in singles play, and 8-1 in dual matches. Five of her wins came against ranked players, including a major upset over Cal's Marina Cossou, ranked 13th at the time and now coming in at No. 18. Chan and Dy have had equal success thus far as a doubles team, going 12-2 on the year thus far. They rose to No. 28 in the doubles rankings today, a best for both players. As a team, the women slipped four spots this week following their home split last weekend. The Huskies are ranked 38th, down from a season-high of 34th.

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 29-8 in singles matches thus far, and 14-4 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. In the most recent singles rankings, Dy shot up from 112th to 61st, and has teamed with Chan in doubles to go 14-2 and earn a No. 28 doubles ranking. Smith meanwhile has thrived at the No. 4 singles spot, going 6-3 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.

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.

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: The Huskies continue on the road with two more conference matches in the Arizona desert. Washington faces 19th-ranked Arizona State in Tempe on Friday, March 6 at 1:30 p.m., then visits the Arizona Wildcats on Saturday, March 7, for a 12 p.m. match.

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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