From The Daily: Huskies Pleased With Final Effort Level

May 20, 2010

By Taylor Soper
The UW Daily

On paper, the Washington women's tennis team ended its season on a sour note. They were eliminated 4-0 in the NCAA second round by No. 3 Florida and failed to reach the Sweet-16 for a second consecutive season.

But don't tell that to the players and the coaches, who are proud of their postseason performance and the season as a whole.

Though they lost the match, the No. 29 Huskies hung tough in singles against the third-ranked team in the nation, something they can hang their hats on. A day before, they crushed No. 40 Utah and looked as impressive as they had all season.

Assistant coach Damon Coupe called the team's performance against Florida one of the best moments of this season.

'I really enjoyed how we finished the match,' Coupe said. 'The way we played our singles against Florida was one of the most proud times [this season] for me. We absolutely gave them an all-out war, and that's what we wanted.'

Sophomore Samantha Smith, who defeated Utah's Paige Miles, 6-0, 6-1, in the UW's 4-0 first-round win, said the team was content with the effort they gave this postseason, even though they couldn't get back to the Sweet-16.

'I think we played pretty well, actually,' Smith said. 'We dominated Utah, and Florida ... they are top-3, what can I say? They were ready, they came with their power, and they played like they were supposed to. I don't think we played any worse.'

The loss ended an up-and-down season for the Huskies, who finished 12-7. It was a season both Coupe and head coach Jill Hultquist called successful, with marquee wins coming against Utah last week and against South Carolina earlier this season, avenging a 4-3 loss last season that knocked the Huskies out of the 2009 NCAA Tournament.

Still, the UW had some key Pac-10 losses during the season and at times struggled in doubles. Hultquist knows there is still room for much improvement, especially if the Huskies want to become a top-20 -- or even top-10 -- team next season.

'I always say there's more,' the fifth-year head coach said. 'It's not a disappointing season. It was successful ... but there's more dangling out there that we want.'

Both Coupe and Hultquist agreed that one big thing they learned this year was realizing that in the end, it's their players who will ultimately decide whether the team succeeds or not.

'It's hard sometimes for a coach to let go and step back and say, `Go do it,'' Coupe said. 'For me, it was a big step this season in letting that happen more this year and not getting so wound up.'

Hultquist echoed that, adding that on a successful team, the players have to want the win more than the coaches.

'You can't want it more than the player,' the head coach said. 'Once a player steps into that playing field, we -- as coaches -- have done it ... Now, if the players want it, they can go get it.'

Next season, the Huskies will be without graduating seniors Joyce Ardies, Aleksandra Malovic and Lauren Summers. Ardies will still compete later this month in the NCAA doubles championships, but after the Florida loss, it started to come full circle for the senior co-captain.

'I didn't realize it was over until I finished my match against Florida,' Ardies said. 'I sat down on the bench, and I was just in shock, and I had to avoid the tears. Looking back, I had a blast here. I wouldn't have done anything different, and I really loved the experience overall.'

There's no question the team will miss all three seniors, especially because the Huskies returned an identical roster to last year. Two new freshmen will be coming in next season, and the team will have to do something they didn't need to do this year: adapt to new players.

'I was a little emotional after the Florida match, because I knew it was over for them,' Smith said. 'It's been two years with the same team, and you get used to them. They're like your sisters, and it's going to be different without them on the team.'

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