Women's Tennis Regional: Whits Seek to Salt Away Slugs
News Release Date:
Monday, May 7, 2012
WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- Whitman College coach John Hein and his women's tennis team head south on Thursday for a six-team NCAA Division III regional that starts at 3 p.m. Friday with a pair of first-round matches in Claremont, Calif.
Whitman, 17-4 on the season, faces the Banana Slugs of UC-Santa Cruz, who bring a somewhat deceiving 4-13 record to the regional, which Claremont-Mudd-Scripps is hosting at the Biszantz Family Tennis Center.
Pomona-Pitzer (14-7) and UT-Tyler (18-4) do battle in Friday's other first-round tussle.
Ready to represent Whitman in Friday's opener are seniors Emily Rolston and Charlotte Scott, juniors Alyssa Roberg and Kate Kunkel-Patterson, sophomore Hannah Palkowitz and first-year players Courtney Lawless, Morgan Lawless, Maddy Webster and Erin Minuth.
Whitman and UC-Santa Cruz last met in March of 2010, when the Missionaries dropped a 7-2 Spring Break decision to the Slugs in Santa Cruz. A year previous to that, it was Whitman cruising to a 6-1 victory with Rolston (as a first-year player) winning at both No. 6 singles and No. 3 doubles.
Rolston, Scott and Kunkel-Patterson played in that match, and while Roberg was on the roster at that point, she missed the match because of illness.
The Banana Slugs, meanwhile, have undergone an almost complete overhaul of its roster.
Sophomore Alexandra Scotten, junior Laura Wade and first-year Courtney Lymnburner are playing in the top half of the singles line-up while seniors Sarah Malone and Rebecca Parker join sophomore Anya Sophie Lundberg in the lower half.
Scotten is No. 6 in the latest West Region singles rankings, trailing Whitman's top two, No. 2 Roberg and No. 4 Courtney Lawless.
Roberg and Lawless are No. 2 in the West in doubles while Scotten and Wade are No. 3.
UC-Santa, which made the national tournament as an NCAA DIII independent, is No. 6 in the regional rankings, one spot in front of Whitman.
The two teams have had one common opponent this spring. In late March in Claremont, the Banana Slugs posted a 6-3 victory over Linfield, the team Whitman beat 5-1 on April 22 in the finals of the Northwest Conference post-season tournament.
That Missionary victory, which gave Whitman the NWC's automatic berth in the national championship field, also gave the Whitties a measure of revenge for a pair of narrow losses to Linfield during the regular season.
Despite having just four victories this season, UC-Santa Cruz is a strong team, Hein said. "They have a handful of close losses against nationally-ranked teams."
If Whitman gets past UC-Santa Cruz on Friday, it advances to a 2 p.m. Saturday semifinal against top-seeded Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. The Athenas, 20-3 on the season, are No. 1 in the West Region and No. 9 at the national level.
The regional final is set for 1 p.m. Sunday. The winner of Friday's match between Pomona-Pitzer and UT-Tyler faces Trinity (18-7) in Saturday's other semifinal.
Whitman, after opening its season with a pair of losses (one of them to NAIA powerhouse Lewis-Clark State), clicked off 11 straight victories.
After a narrow 5-4 loss to Trinity in Tyler, Texas, the Missionaries have won six of their last seven matches. The most recent victory was the tournament triumph over Linfield that gave Whitman its first-ever NCAA tournament berth.
Hein, who played at UC-Santa Cruz (graduating in 2000), looks forward to the chance to beat his alma mater on Friday. He also spent four seasons as an assistant coach for the Banana Slug women's team before leaving for graduate studies.
Erin Ness, who now coaches the Santa Cruz women's team, was a first-year player on the team as Hein was finishing his assistant coaching stint at the school.
"Erin and I are great friends," Hein said. "She is a terrific coach whose teams compete with heart and class. We love to compete against each other and I expect a super intense match with great tennis and sportsmanship."
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CONTACT: Dave Holden
Sports Information Director
Whitman College, Walla Walla, Wash.
509 527-5902; email@example.com