Spartans Test Huskies Before Finals Week

March 11, 2009

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THIS WEEK: The Husky women's tennis team takes a one-match break from Pac-10 play, hosting Michigan State this Friday, March 13, at 1 p.m. at the Nordstrom Tennis Center. Washington (8-5, 1-3 Pac-10) will be playing its first home match since Feb. 22, and just its fourth of the season against the Spartans.

SCOUTING MICHIGAN STATE: Michigan State is led by first-year head coach Simone Jardim and enters the weekend matches with a record of 6-7. Pacing the Spartans is Whitney Wilson who has an individual record of 18-7. Wilson also partners with Manon Noe to comprise the No. 1 doubles tandem. Together, the sophomores are 8-4 during the spring, and are 4-1 in their last five matches. Also contributing to the Spartan success is Elena Ivanova. Ivanova is 7-4 in the No. 3 singles position this year, while adding another win in the No. 4 position. The Huskies will be eager for some payback this weekend, as the Spartans upset a weary Husky team, 6-1, last year in East Lansing. Joyce Ardies was the only Husky to win in singles play. Michigan State and the UW share one common opponent thus far; Marshall defeated the Spartans, 4-3, while the Huskies beat Marshall by the same score.

LAST TIME OUT: Washington split its desert road trip last weekend, suffering a close 4-3 loss to 16th-ranked Arizona State then overcoming a 2-0 deficit to defeat Arizona, 4-3. Washington was just a couple games away from swinging the ASU match in its favor, but lost its third straight road match to a Top-20 opponent. Sophomore Aleksandra Krsljanin stepped in to the No. 6 singles spot and defeated ASU's Sianna Simmons, 7-6, 6-3. It was Krsljanin's first singles match since the fall season. Sophomore Lina Xu also posted her biggest win yet as a Husky, upsetting 79th-ranked Micaela Hein, 7-5, 6-4, at third singles, but Arizona State had just enough firepower to control the remaining matches. Leading 3-2, ASU's third-ranked Kelcy McKenna overcame a 3-5 final set deficit complete a come-from-behind 4-6, 6-1, 7-5 victory over 21st-ranked Venise Chan at No. 1 singles, clinching the match for the Sun Devils. After that, the Sun Devils prevailed at No. 5 singles in a match that went the maximum possible distance. Michelle Brycki, added to ASU's roster this very week, outlasted Aleksandra Malovic in three consecutive tiebreak sets, winning 6-7, 7-6, 7-6. Malovic came back the next day to clinch the win for the Dawgs over the Wildcats with a three-set win at No. 5 singles. The Huskies endured a difficult doubles point loss, as they came up short, 9-7, at No. 2 doubles, and 9-8 (3), at the third spot. Then Lina Xu was forced to retire just one game into her No. 3 singles match after suffering an ankle sprain. That left five singles matches with UW needing to win four. Joyce Ardies got the Huskies going with a 6-1, 6-2 win at sixth singles over Jane Huh. Freshman Samantha Smith then earned her first Pac-10 singles win, defeating Ariane Masschelein, 6-4, 6-4 at No. 4. 59th-ranked freshman Denise Dy then completed a comeback win over 125th-ranked Natasha Marks at second singles, prevailing 5-7, 6-2, 6-3. The match was even at 3-3, after Arizona senior Danielle Steinberg upset Chan, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4. That left things up to Malovic at No. 5 singles against Claire Rietsch. After opening up a lead in the third set, Malovic was determined to close out the match, and was able to do so, winning the final set, 6-3.

HUSKIES IN THE RANKINGS: The Huskies took a drop in the team rankings this week as the computer rankings continue to shuffle the teams a great deal from week to week. After jumping up to a season-high No. 23 last week, Washington fell back to No. 36 this week. UW's No. 23 ranking on March 3rd was its first time back in the Top-25 since the first poll of the 2006 season. No new individual rankings were released this week, so sophomore Venise Chan and freshman Denise Dy maintain their career-high singles rankings. Chan is 21st and UW's first Top-25 player since three-time All-American Dea Sumantri, who peaked at No. 5 in 2005. Chan began the dual season ranked 81st, jumped up to No. 53 in the next set of rankings, and now has surpassed her previous career-high No. 30 ranking set last season. Dy is currently 59th in singles, after starting the year ranked 112th. She has seven wins over ranked players. Chan and Dy are also ranked 36th as a doubles tandem, and have been ranked as high as No. 28.

CHAN CHARGES INTO TOP-25: After an excellent freshman season, Venise Chan has sidestepped any threat of a sopomore slump with an even more impressive year two. Chan is 17-5 overall on the year and 10-3 at No. 1 singles in dual play, and that is despite losing her last two matches in third sets at ASU and Arizona last week after leading late. From November 7 to February 28, Chan won 14 out of 15 matches. Four of the players were ranked at the time, and two more have since entered the rankings. On Feb. 27 and 28, Chan pulled off the rare feat of sweeping Cal and Stanford's No. 1 singles players on consecutive days. First off, she upended 16th-ranked Jana Juricova of Cal, 6-4, 6-3. The next day she outlasted 14th-ranked Hilary Barte, 6-3, 4-6, and 10-7 in the super-tiebreak. Those two wins played a big part in boosting Chan from 53rd in the singles rankings up to a new career-high of 21st. She will be looking to make her second consecutive NCAA Singles Championships this year.

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 32-13 in singles matches thus far. 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 seven 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 moved up to a new season-high No. 59, and has teamed with Chan in doubles to go 14-6 and earn a No. 36 doubles ranking. Smith meanwhile got off to a 5-1 start at the No. 4 singles spot, and got her first win in Pac-10 play against Arizona as the Huskies pulled out a 4-3 win. 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: The Huskies have their first Pac-10 home match of the year next Saturday, March 21, against the 57th-ranked Oregon Ducks. Match time is set for 12 noon. Following that match the team will head for Hawai'i for spring break, where they will play three matches in four days against Cal Poly, Hawai'i, and Illinois.

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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