February 15, 2010

W&L Women's Tennis Season Preview

Entering its 25th season of competition, the W&L women’s tennis program has consistently found itself as one of the top squads in Division III.  The Generals have won 19 ODAC titles, carry a 187-0 conference record over the past 19 years and have competed in 16-straight NCAA Tournaments, including six trips to the NCAA Championship match and winning the 2007 National Championship.  With that impressive ledger, it is easy to see how W&L has left its mark on the women’s tennis landscape and this season is expected to be no different.

W&L will open its spring campaign ranked fifth in the nation and second in the Atlantic South region polls after finishing last season with a 20-5 ledger. And with the experience his squad holds, two-time ODAC Coach of the Year Eric Ishida is optimistic about his team’s prospects this year.

“We have a great group of women on our squad this season,” stated Ishida. “They have more experience than last season, and pairing that with strong senior leadership, this team is ready to compete.”

Leading the charge for Ishida’s squad will be senior co-captains Blair Brzeski and Lauren Caire, who bring a wealth of familiarity and talent to an otherwise young lineup.

“Both captains provide great experience and leadership to the team,” stated Ishida. “Their understanding both on and off the court are a key part of the team development, as they set the example for everyone to follow.”

Caire has built an impressive resume while playing for the Generals, earning three All-America citations, while also receiving All-ODAC honors every season. She has competed in the NCAA Individual Championships each of the past three seasons, advancing to the quarterfinals in both singles and doubles twice. She carries a 40-8 career singles record and a 64-16 career doubles mark and, despite coming off of an injury, Ishida is looking for her to return strong for her senior campaign. 

“Lauren brings national success and experience to the court,” remarked Ishida. “She is a strong leader on the squad.”

Sharing captain responsibilities with Caire will be Brzeski, who has improved her play over the past three seasons, earning All-ODAC honors last season at No. 5 singles.  She went 11-1 in singles and 8-0 in doubles a year ago and will look to have an impact in both singles and doubles this season.  She enters the spring ninth in the Atlantic South Region singles rankings and 15th in the doubles rankings.

“Blair will bring depth and experience to the top six [singles], and she has worked hard to earn her spot,” stated Ishida.

Rounding-out the seniors for Ishida are Lauren Dorsey, Lyndsey Johansson and Katie Harris.  The class of 2010 has been a part of squads that have accrued a 73-7 (.913) record and a perfect 29-0 ledger in the ODAC, in addition to collecting three ODAC titles, advancing to the NCAA tournament three consecutive seasons and competing in the NCAA championship two times, earning one national title.

Together, Dorsey, Johanssan and Harris combined to go 12-1 in singles and 11-1 in doubles last year.

With a bevy of leadership provided by the five seniors, Ishida’s underclassmen will reap the benefits as they look to develop their own talent and seek guidance.

Ishida also expects hefty contributions from the two juniors on his roster, Virginia Dickinson and Catherine Reed.  Both will look to work their way into the top eight in singles, along with competing on one of the top three doubles teams.  Dickinson went 1-4 in singles and 2-3 in doubles during the fall, while Reed was 8-1 in singles and 7-1 in doubles last year.

“Both Virginia and Catherine bring a great work ethic to the courts,” stated Ishida. “They both possess solid leadership qualities and set a great example for the younger players.”

Ishida boasts seven sophomores on his roster, including Ellen Yeatman, Ann Morris, Lauren Lukas, Jen Snyder, Trelsie Sadler, Laura Pattillo and Ashley Leinweber.  All gained valuable experience during their rookie campaigns and should benefit from those experiences moving forward.  All will challenge for top singles and doubles positions leading to some healthy competition this spring.

Yeatman headlines the sophomores after receiving First Team All-ODAC honors in both singles and doubles en route to posting ODAC Rookie of the Year honors in 2009.  She finished the year with a 10-6 singles record and a 13-3 doubles mark and she enters this spring ranked 17th in the region in singles and 15th in doubles.

“Ellen is an exciting, physical player,” stated Ishida. “She has gained a lot of experience in her two years at W&L and she will only continue to get better.”

Morris earned All-ODAC honors at No. 2 doubles last season and appeared in the ITA doubles rankings during the season.  She finished 7-2 in singles and 17-5 in doubles, providing another solid option for Ishida.

“We will look for Ann to continue her success in doubles, while also allowing her to compete in singles this season,” remarked Ishida.

Snyder and Sadler both also had solid first-year campaigns en route to earning All-ODAC honors.  Snyder, the 23rd-ranked singles player in the Atlantic South Region, was a first team all-conference choice at No. 4 singles in finishing 15-5 a year ago.  Sadler was 11-10 at No. 3 singles and 19-5 in doubles primarily at No. 2 doubles in being named first team all-league in both.
Lukas (10-5 S, 13-2 D), Pattillo (11-3 S, 7-0 D) and Leinweber (10-1 S, 9-0 D) also provided solid play during their rookie campaigns in 2009.

Five new rookies will look to make their mark in the program’s legacy and Ishida expects Sallie Griffin, Christina Douglas, Laura Simmons, Kerry Cotter, Jen Hall and Elise Hansen to all challenge for playing time.

“Our rookie class brings a strong work ethic and dedication to the team,” stated Ishida. “Their contributions to the team have been felt immediately through their hard work and commitment to learning about the team and our system.”

And, while the Generals boast another impressive roster this season, they also carry an imposing spring schedule.  W&L will test itself against some Division I competition and seven teams ranked in the ITA Division III Top 25. W&L will open its season against D-I Radford, before traveling to DePauw University for the ITA National Collegiate Indoor Championships in late February.

“The ITA National Collegiate Indoor Championships will be a new event for us this season,” remarked Ishida. “It will be an exciting opportunity for our girls to compete against top players from across the country.”

In addition to the ODAC schedule, the Generals will square off against second-ranked Williams, third-ranked Emory, fourth-ranked Chicago, sixth-ranked Carnegie Mellon, 10th-ranked Johns Hopkins and 14th-ranked Mary Washington, setting the scene for another battle-tested campaign.

“Facing some of the top competition in the country later in the season will be a good gauge of our team and how they are looking heading into tournament time,” stated Ishida.

Ishida also noted the contributions of assistant coach Elliott Datlow, whose experience working with the team has proved invaluable over the past two seasons.

“Elliott is an important part of the team,” remarked Ishida. “He works individually with each team member to make sure they develop their talent to the highest levels.”

Combining talent, experience and depth with a challenging schedule, the Generals will look to continue making their mark on the collegiate tennis landscape this spring.

--GENERALS--