After capturing the 20th Old Dominion Athletic Conference title in program history last season and posting a strong showing during this year's fall campaign, the anticipation continues to build as the Washington and Lee women's tennis team prepares for its 2011 spring schedule.
The Generals enter the spring season ranked 10th nationally in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Preseason Poll, boasting a deep roster consisting of 18 women that features a balance of returning upperclassmen experience and underclassmen potential.
The unanimous preseason ODAC favorite, W&L returns four of its top six singles players from last season, but will have to find a replacement for the No. 1 singles position previously held by Lauren Caire '10.
One contender to fill the top spot will be junior Ellen Yeatman, who spent most of last season at the No. 2 spot where she posted a 13-5 record and qualified for the NCAA Division III Singles Championships. For all her success, Yeatman was named the ITA National and Atlantic South Region Player to Watch while also earning First Team All-ODAC and VaSID First Team All-State accolades.
Additionally, Yeatman qualified for the NCAA Division III Doubles Championships after partnering with Caire to post a 14-6 doubles mark. She and Caire also garnered ITA All-America and First Team All-ODAC honors as the duo finished the season ranked second in the ITA Atlantic South regional rankings.
"Ellen's game has steadily improved throughout her career," said fourth-year Head Coach Eric Ishida. "We will look to her to continue growing as an experienced and complete player in 2011."
Also looking to compete for a top spot is junior Lauren Lukas. After a strong fall season in which she posted a 4-2 singles record and 6-2 doubles ledger, Lukas enters the spring season ranked 19th in the ITA Atlantic South singles rankings. Couple that with a 13-8 singles and 14-8 double record last year and Ishida believes she has an excellent case to be among the team's top players this spring.
"Lauren has worked hard to earn a top spot in 2011," he stated. "She has gained valuable experience competing for the Generals and we look forward to seeing her step up into one of the top spots."
In addition to her strong singles play, Lukas partnered with fellow junior Trelsie Sadler to claim the Championship Doubles flight at the ITA Southeast Region championships in the fall. The duo went on to finish sixth at the ITA Small College Championships and earned ITA All-America accolades. They enter the spring ranked second in the regional double rankings.
While Sadler and Lukas will challenge for the top doubles position, Ishida also believes that Sadler will look to climb to a starting spot in the single lineup. After seeing limited action last season due to injury, Ishida expects her to come back strong this season. She finished the fall season with a 5-1 singles mark and claimed the Flight B singles championship at the University of Mary Washington Fall Kickoff Classic.
"It was great having Trelsie back on the singles court this fall." remarked Ishida. "Trelsie has worked extremely hard this past year to stay healthy and get in great shape. We are excited to see her continue to play at a high level this spring."
After earning First Team All-ODAC laurels at No. 4 singles and No. 3 doubles last season, junior Jen Snyder is poised to once again vie for a spot in W&L's singles rotation. Snyder ended last year with a 15-6 singles and 10-8 doubles ledger, and Ishida is quick to note that she is a "great competitor" for the team. She also teamed with first-year Chelsea Mixson to claim the Flight A Doubles Title at the ODAC Individual Championships this past fall.
"Jen's fire and enthusiasm on the court is infectious and contagious. Her passion for competing and experience will be called upon to help lead this team."
Rounding out the top returnees from 2010 is junior Ann Morris, who was a consistent factor in 2010. Morris was named to the all-conference team in both singles and doubles, while receiving VaSID All-State Second Team accolades. She led the team in doubles victories going 18-6, while recording a 10-13 mark in singles.
"We are very excited to have Ann back again this year," noted Ishida. "Her doubles experience will be called upon this spring and she will also be a contender for the top six in singles."
Ishida will have a long list of upperclassman challengers looking to make their way into the top six, highlighted by senior captain Catherine Reed and juniors Laura Pattillo and Ashley Leinweber.
Ishida will look to Reed, the only senior and captain of this year's team, not only for leadership and experience, but also for her to step into one of the top spots on the team. Reed went 7-2 in singles and 13-1 in doubles last year, and Ishida hopes that level of play will continue to grow during her final campaign at W&L.
"Catherine is a great leader for this team," stated Ishida. "As a captain she brings lots of experience and we will look to her to continue to lead this team on and off the court."
Pattillo will look to compete for a top spot this season after missing her sophomore campaign due to injury. She saw playing time as a rookie, and has shown promise, posting a 3-2 doubles mark during the fall.
After going 2-1 in singles and 2-3 in doubles during the fall, Leinweber continues to build on a successful sophomore campaign where she went 7-3 in singles and 7-1 in doubles, including a perfect 5-0 mark playing singles during the spring.
"Our junior class brings a lot of strength and a wealth of experience to this team," noted Ishida. "Laura and Ashley have continued to improve. They will help the other upperclassmen lead this team."
Ishida is excited about the talent and experience that his upperclassmen bring to the court, but is also aware that the underclassmen on his roster bring strong skills which will challenge everyone on his team, helping build a strong, well-rounded squad.
The duo of sophomore Sallie Griffin and first-year Chelsea Mixson enter the spring season as the seventh-ranked doubles pair in the ITA Atlantic South Region, after advancing to the semifinals of the ITA Southeast Regional Championship this fall. Ishida was impressed with the way the duo played earlier this season, and he expects them to continue to grow and push for a top doubles spot.
"Sallie and Chelsea were a wonderful surprise as a doubles team this fall," noted Ishida. "We look forward to seeing more from both of these players on the doubles court as well competing for a spot in the singles lineup."
Completing Ishida's 18-person roster are sophomores Kerry Cotter, Christina Douglas, Jen Hall, Elise Hansen and Laura Simmons in addition to first-years Lauren Armstrong and Claire Cahill.
"This is a very strong group of young and developing players," quipped Ishida. "They have put a great amount into their games. We look for this group to push the team and gain valuable match experience. They will be led by a great group of upperclassmen and we look forward to seeing these players lead this team in the future."
With a good balance of experience and underclassmen talent, Ishida believes his squad will be ready to take on the challenges of a tough non-conference schedule. Seven of the team's nine non-conference opponents are ranked nationally, including four of the top five teams in Williams (No. 2), Emory (No. 3), Chicago (No. 4) and Denison (No. 5).
"The non-conference schedule will be a big challenge for us this year," stated Ishida. "We aim to play the best competition in the country year in and year out, and this year we have lined up some great competition. Our team will be tested early, but we are anxious to see them step up and compete with the best on a daily basis."
In addition to taking part in the Fab 5 Tournament at the end of March, W&L will travel to Gustavus Adolphus University in St. Peter, Minn., to compete in the ITA National Collegiate Indoor Championships.
"The ITA National Indoor Championships are a unique experience for our team," remarked Ishida. "It's a great chance to see how our squad compares to the other top teams in the country early in the season. Last year was a fantastic learning experience for our team and we are pleased to be traveling to Gustavus Adolphus to compete in this event again."
A tough non-conference schedule will help prepare the Generals for yet another run at the ODAC title, as they pursue their ninth-consecutive and 21st team title in program history.
"The ODAC conference continues to improve each year, and it will take a full team effort to achieve another ODAC title in 2011" stated Ishida
W&L kicks off its spring schedule with a pair of ODAC matches, hosting Bridgewater and Lynchburg on Feb. 19.