WALLA WALLA, Wash. – The graduation of four key seniors from a year ago, including all-conference performers Carissa Klarich and Hannah Swee, has left the women’s tennis team at Whitman College in a state of transition.
Head coach Heidi Tate says her spring 2006 roster represents the “youngest team” she’s had in her six-year tenure at Whitman. “It’s my youngest team, but not necessarily my most inexperienced. Our younger players have good, solid tennis experience, and I’m excited about that.”
Asiya Khaki, a first-year player from Eastlake High School in Sammamish, Wash., shows plenty of promise. Described by Tate as an “aggressive baseliner,” Khaki starts the season in the No. 1 singles slot. Khaki played No. 1 singles at Eastlake High School in Sammamish, Wash., and competed in the state championships in doubles.
In one of Whitman’s two season-opening matches last weekend, Khaki notched a three-set victory over Brianne Roney, a junior at Montana State-Billings. She also teamed with senior Amy Kunkel-Patterson for a victory at No. 3 doubles.
Kunkel-Patterson, who played prep tennis at Davis High School in Yakima, Wash., is in her first year of college tennis. “Amy is an awesome doubles player,” Tate says. “She’s a super strong athlete, and she adds some wonderful elements to our team in terms of her leadership, attitude and work ethic.”
Katie Collier, a junior, opened the season last weekend in the No. 2 singles slot. She lost a third-set tiebreaker to her opponent from Montana State-Billing and also made a good showing against a talented player from Lewis-Clark State. “Katie played most of last season at No. 4, but she’s playing the best tennis I’ve ever seen her play.”
Two experienced seniors, Trish Hayward and Marta Jankowska, will see plenty of playing time this spring. “Trish and Marta are the captains and doing a great job,” Tate says. “It’s been great watching the two of them work their way into the lineup. All of our returning players are stronger, more confident and excited about the chance to compete.”
Others expected to contribute this season are juniors Maura Flaherty and Emily Smith, who along with Collier just returned to campus in January after studying abroad during the fall semester. Flaherty notched a No. 6 singles victory for the Missionaries last weekend against Montana State-Billings.
Sophomore Christy Irvine, a varsity volleyball player, is in her first year of competitive college tennis. “Christy worked out with the team all of last season, but she didn't compete,” Tate says. “She gives us another good doubles player.”
Katie Oost, a first-year player from North Kitsap High School in Poulsbo, Wash., missed the season-opening matches due to injury but should see some action this weekend, when Whitman hosts its first Northwest Conference matches. “Katie is a strong, talented player,” Tate says.
Rounding out the roster are two solid first-year players, Anna Bacheller (Billings, Mont.) and Alex Robinson (Seattle, Wash.).
In terms of the NWC, Tate sees Linfield, Puget Sound and Pacific Lutheran as the strongest teams. She also expects Whitworth, Willamette and Whitman to field competitive squads.
“What I like most about my team is that it works very hard,” Tate says. "We have our work cut out for us, but I think we can compete and battle for a strong conference finish."
Whitman opens its home schedule when Lewis & Clark visits Bratton Tennis Center at 5 p.m. Friday. A match with George Fox is set for 10 a.m. Saturday. The Missionary schedule also includes a Spring Trip to Hawaii to play a handful of matches. The NWC championships are set for Friday and Saturday, April 21-22, at the Yakima (Wash.) Tennis Club.
Dave Holden, Whitman Sports Information
(509) 527-5902; email@example.com