Huskies Look To Upend No. 12 Bruins And No. 7 Trojans

April 1, 2009

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THIS WEEK: Washington (12-5, 1-3 Pac-10) will put its five-match winning streak on the line against two of the nation's top teams, as 12th-ranked UCLA and 7th-ranked USC visit Seattle this weekend. Defending national champion UCLA will be up first, on Friday, April 3, at 12 noon. The Huskies and Trojans will then face off on Saturday, April 4, also at 12 noon. USC currently sits atop the Pac-10 with a 3-0 conference record and wins over Cal and Stanford. The matches will be played outdoors on the Bill Quillian Courts if the weather allows but could be moved inside the Nordstrom Tennis Center.

SCOUTING UCLA: The Bruins are 13-5 overall and 1-2 in Pac-10 play following consecutive 6-1 losses last weekend to 8th-ranked Cal and 11th-ranked Stanford. All five of UCLA's losses have come to teams ranked 11th or higher. UCLA won the 2008 NCAA Championship with a 4-0 win over California. It was the program's first title. Despite losing four valuable seniors from the title team, this year's Bruin squad is still very talented, led by junior Yasmin Schnack, ranked 16th in singles. Sophomore Andrea Remynse is also ranked 45th and sophomore Maya Johansson comes in at No. 90. Schnack and Remynse are the second-ranked doubles team in the nation, while Stephanie Wetmore and Carling Seguso are 30th, and Ashley Joelson and Schnack are 34th. Last year the Bruins swept the Huskies, and they lead the all-time series, 17-2.

SCOUTING USC: The Women of Troy have gained the upper-hand in the conference race, as they edged out No. 8 California, 4-3, and overcame No. 11 Stanford, 5-2, at home last weekend to improve to 15-2 overall. The win over Stanford was USC's first in 23 years, ending a 50-match losing streak to the Cardinal. Senior Amanda Fink was named Pac-10 Player of the Week for her efforts, as she went 2-0 in both singles and doubles and has now won 12-straight matches. Fink is ranked 26th in singles. USC's win over Stanford was all the more impressive in that it came without their No. 1 player, Maria Sanchez, who is ranked 18th but was out injured. Also ranked for USC is junior Sarah Fansler at No. 33, freshman Alison Ramos at No. 64, and junior Gabriela Niculescu at No. 68. Fink and Niculescu are the nation's fifth-ranked doubles team, and Sanchez and Niculescu are 23rd and Fansler and Lyndsay Kinstler are 56th. USC won last year's meeting, 6-1, in L.A. as Venise Chan scored UW's only point at No. 1 singles.

LAST TIME OUT: Washington spent its spring break on the island of Oahu in Hawai'i, and did a fabulous job mixing fun and games, as the Dawgs won three crucial non-conference matches over four days. Last Tuesday, the Huskies outclassed Cal Poly by a 6-1 margin, then swept the Hawai'i Rainbow Wahine the very next day. Friday, Washington earned one of its biggest wins this year, edging 33rd-ranked Illinois, 4-3. Doubles play was a strength all week, as the Dawgs won all three doubles points. Joyce Ardies and Denise Dy were 3-0 at No. 1 doubles and Lina Xu and Samantha Smith were 3-0 at No. 3. Ardies was also perfect in singles play, winning twice at No. 5 and once at No. 4. Her 7-5, 6-1 win over Amy Allin clinched UW's win over the Fighting Illini. Also going 3-0 in singles was Venise Chan at No. 1 and Aleksandra Malovic at Nos. 5 and 6. Chan had wins over two ranked players, No. 71 Brittany Blalock of Cal Poly and No. 103 Leigh Finnegan of Illinois, and crushed Sophie Kobuch, 6-0, 6-0 in the Hawaii dual.

HUSKIES IN THE RANKINGS: Winners of five in a row, the Huskies moved back up to just outside the Top-30 this week, coming in at No. 31. The team has been ranked as high as 23rd this season. 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. In the most recent individual polls, sophomore Venise Chan climbed into the Top-25 for the second time this season, reaching No. 24. Freshman Denise Dy slipped a few spots to No. 78. Chan's season-high No. 21 ranking a few weeks back made her 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 started the dual season ranked 112th before climbing to a season-high No. 59 ranking back on March 3. Dy has seven wins over ranked players. Chan and Dy have also been ranked as high as No. 28 as a doubles tandem, but have dropped to 60th now as they have not paired up in recent matches.

CHAN BACK IN 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 21-5 overall on the year and 14-3 at No. 1 singles in dual play, and riding a four-match win streak. 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. Only once in dual play has Chan lost in straight sets. Her 21 singles wins already have matched her freshman year total, with two full months yet to play. 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 36-15 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 checked in at No. 78, but has been as high as 59th this year. Dy has also played No. 1 doubles in every match this year, either with Chan or Joyce Ardies. She and Ardies are currently 4-0 in the top spot. 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.

ARDIES, MALOVIC COME FULL CIRCLE: Washington's two most experienced players on its young roster are juniors Joyce Ardies and Aleksandra Malovic. The pair joined the team in trying times, when the Huskies were coming off a three win rebuilding season, but now are enjoying their second straight winning season and experiencing their greatest level of individual success as well. Both players have been invaluable at anchoring the bottom part of the singles lineup. Ardies currently boasts a 21-6 singles record and is 13-3 in dual matches, mostly at the No. 5 spot. She has easily surpassed her previous season-bests of 16 wins as a sophomore and 14 as a freshman. Malovic has also posted double digit dual match wins for the first time, with a 12-5 record so far mostly at sixth singles. With 16 total wins, Malovic has also passed her previous season-high win total with at least six dual matches still to play. The two have also come through in the clutch this year, with Malovic clinching UW's 4-3 win over Arizona, and Ardies scoring the knockout punch against Illinois, another 4-3 decision.

UP NEXT: Washington has two final non-conference matches before wrapping up the season at home against Oregon and Washington State. But prior to that the Huskies will travel to San Diego to play San Diego State on Friday, April 10 at 2 p.m., followed a day later by the University of San Diego at 10 a.m.

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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