Encouraging Season Sets Standard For Tennis
May 21, 2009
By Taylor Soper
For the UW men's and women's tennis teams, 2009 was a season of hard work, big hearts and historic comebacks.
This season brought Husky fans two talented tennis squads, including the No. 27 men's team, which was a model of consistency all year. The Dawgs matched their win total last year with 14 but won three Pac-10 matches, compared to only two last year. Coach Matt Anger also led his team to the NCAA championships for the 15th consecutive year and has yet to miss the championships in his 15-year tenure at the UW.
The highlight of the season for the men came May 8 in Austin, Texas, at the first round of the NCAA championships. The Huskies were down 3-0 to Texas Tech, but that's when the magic began.
Sophomore Tobi Obenaus, one of nine returning players for next season, was down 40-15 in the second set and facing the season-ending point.
'[Texas Tech] kind of did a slow clap because it was match point for the whole team,' Anger said after the match. 'Tobi had that thought that he did not want to see it end right there.'
Obenaus came through in the clutch and fought back to win that set. Meanwhile, sophomore Martin Kildahl, junior Derek Drabble and senior Ryo Sekiguchi all won in their third sets. Fittingly, Obenaus closed out the match with a 6-1 victory in the third set.
'The comeback was such a good feeling to know that we can come back from that situation,' said graduating senior David Chu. 'We can carry that emotional feeling onto our other matches. It was such a great experience.'
The men will lose three seniors to graduation. Senior Patrik Fischer leaves big shoes to fill, as he played No. 1 or No. 2 singles in every match for the UW during the past two seasons and was named second-team All Pac-10 for two consecutive seasons. Chu, a four-year varsity player, won 64 matches as a Husky. Sekiguchi, who transferred from San Diego, was a consistent No. 6 singles starter.
Coaches and players agree the seniors' talent and strong work ethic will be missed.'I think people are willing to try hard,' Anger said. 'But willing to go the extra mile is what they have.'
The No. 32 UW women finished off one of their most impressive seasons in the past decade. The Dawgs won 18 dual matches for the first time since 2004 and also won three Pac-10 matches, the most since 2005. They also qualified for the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2004.
After defeating San Diego State in the first round of the NCAA championships, the women put together a comeback of their own against No. 7 USC in the second round.
Sophomore Venise Chan, who will compete in the NCAA singles championships, was down 5-2 in the third set with the match tied 3-3 and, like Obenaus, was facing the season-ending point. But Chan, who was named first-team All Pac-10, dug deep and came all the way back to force a tiebreaker. She eventually won 7-5 to help the UW snap USC's 13-game win streak and hand the Trojans their first loss at home all season.
'The team is just really, really excited and ecstatic,' said head coach Jill Hultquist after the USC match. 'We were just overwhelmed with emotion when Venise won that point. Everyone had a great effort.'
The Huskies fell short against South Carolina in the Sweet 16, but the successful season as a whole set a new bar for the promising young group. It shouldn't be tough for the Huskies to advance to and even beyond the Sweet 16 next year, especially since the women's team is losing no seniors to graduation this year.
'I think we are definitely feeling good,' Hultquist said. 'We are full of confidence, and I think the girls want to work even harder than they did this year to get back into the Sweet 16, at the very least.'