WALLA WALLA, Wash. – It isn’t every year that a college coach welcomes back virtually the same team from the previous season. That is the happy circumstance, however, facing Heidi Tate as she preps for her fifth-year season as the women’s tennis coach at Whitman College.
Tate lost two-time NWC Player of the Year Paola Vizcaino to graduation last May, but the rest of her 2004 roster returns intact. And senior Katy Newhouse, who was gone last spring on foreign study, is back to fill Vizcaino’s roster spot.
“I have never coached such a similar team over two consecutive seasons,” Tate says. “The continuity is going to a big positive for us. We all know each other really well and feel connected to one another.”
Tate and her 11-woman roster open their season this Saturday, Feb. 5, hosting perennial NAIA powerhouse Lewis-Clark State in a tennis doubleheader. The first of back-to-back matches begins at 10 am in Bratton Tennis Center.
After Saturday, the Missionaries have the rest of the month to gear up for the start of Northwest Conference play. Whitman heads to Tacoma Feb. 25-26 to battle Puget Sound and Pacific Lutheran.
“Linfield is the defending champion, but Puget Sound, Pacific Lutheran and Willamette will be strong as well,” Tate says. “The entire conference is tough this year, so we need to step it up.”
A year ago, the Missionary women posted records of 12-6 on the season and 10-4 against NWC opponents. After getting upset 5-4 by Willamette in the opening round of the conference championships, they bounced back with season-ending 8-1 victories over Lewis & Clark and Pacific Lutheran.
Senior leadership, depth and team chemistry should serve Whitman well this spring, Tate says. “This is the most cohesive, hard-working team I’ve ever had. We have the potential to do great things and surprise the rest of the conference.”
Hannah Swee, who earned All-NWC First Team honors last spring, is one of four senior captains this spring. Swee, who played most of the past two seasons at No. 2 singles, was an All-NWC Second Team selection as a sophomore. Swee and senior Carissa Klarich, who played at No. 3 singles a year ago, are putting the finishing touches on four-year Missionary careers. Both players earned NWC Player of the Week honors during their junior campaigns.
Joining Swee and Klarich as senior captains are Jessica Antilla, who played most of last year at No. 4 singles, and Katy Newhouse, who missed her junior season while on foreign study. “All four of the seniors are going to contribute greatly this season,” Tate says.
Marta Jankowska, Trish Hayward and Athena Macy are the juniors on the squad, while a strong sophomore class features Laurie Chapman, Katie Collier, Maura Flaherty and Emily Smith.
Tate has yet to make any final decisions on her singles or doubles line-ups, mostly because “we have such a deep team. Everyone on our roster can play.”
After hosting four NWC matches during the first two weeks of March, Whitman travels to Hilton Head, S.C., to play six Spring Break matches against Eastern and Midwestern schools.
The NWC Championships are slated for April 15-17 at the Yakima (Wash.) Tennis Club.
Dave Holden, Whitman Sports Information
(509) 527-5902; firstname.lastname@example.org