Women's Tennis Aims to Repeat as NWC Tourney Champs and Much More in 2013

News Release Date:
Friday, February 1, 2013

As the defending Northwest Conference Tournament champs, the Whitman Women’s Tennis team enters the 2013 season as one of the conference favorites, returning most of the key members from last year’s squad while adding some promising new faces.

Head Coach John Hein

In addition to having his most talented team, fifth-year head Coach John Hein believes this year’s team has terrific chemistry. “One of our greatest strengths, “he notes, “is how together we are . . . that everyone is on the same page and that everyone enjoys working together. We’re  really close and  I think that makes it easy to deal with the challenges, and it  also makes it fun to do the hard work  that we know we  need to do to get better.”

Whitman is looking to improve on a season that not only saw them win the tournament crown, but also, finish 10 – 2 in the NWC standings.

The Missionaries, who finished 15 – 4 overall last year, return key contributors Alyssa Roberg (Sr, Scotts Valley, CA), and  twin sisters Courtney and Morgan Lawless – both sophomores from Austin, Texas -- to the top of the singles line-up. Coach Hein says anyone of the three could fill the No. 1 singles spot. Roberg and C. Lawless shared the duties last year and that well could be the same scenario this season.

Coming off a great fall indoor season, Courtney Lawless enters the Spring campaign ranked No. 3 in singles in the West Region. She finished off the fall by winning the Western Region championships. Hein talks about Lawless’ strengths, “Courtney is a very smart player and I ultra-competitive. Her game has great variety. She changes the spins on her ball a lot and has terrific feel for the court. She uses her weapons really well.”

Courtney Lawless, So.

Roberg had a promising fall campaign also until she was sidelined due to illness, but Coach Hein expects her back and ready to go when the team season begins.  “Alyssa does so much for this team”, notes Hein.  “Between her leadership and her talent, she is always finding ways to contribute.”

Alyssa Roberg, Sr.

Rounding out the top three in singles is Morgan Lawless, who also vaulted her ranking to No. 6 in the region after a great fall season. “Like all of our players, Morgan is a great team player”, says Hein. “She could be a No. 1, but if she plays at No. 3, she will be a great No. 3. And her determination is unparalleled. She just never gives up on anything.”

Although the 4 – 6 spots have not, yet, been set, freshman Jenna Dobrin (Camarillo, CA) will be in the mix and could see a lot of time at the No. 4 spot. Standing at 6’0”, Dobrin is not only the tallest Missionary but she is also the only lefty. Dobrin was a leader on four-straight league championship teams at Rio Mesa High school, and according to Hein, has brought her winning attitude and training habits to Walla Walla. “She’s imposing on her serve because of her height and being a lefty, but she is also a very smart player and stays very composed”, adds Hein.

Morgan Lawless, So.

A number of players will see action in the 4 – 6 rotation, including Kate Kunkel-Patterson (Sr, Yakima, WA) and Madison Webster (So, Long Beach, CA) who both saw significant action in singles last season, along with newcomer Kate Rubinstein (Fr, Portland, OR). 

“We know were competitive in singles”, notes Hein. “How we compete in doubles could define our season.” And that definition looks promising.

Currently, C. Lawless and Roberg are ranked No. 1 in the region after finishing fourth at Nationals this fall and ending last season ranked No. 10 in all of Division 3. Hein says of his No. 1 doubles team, “They work so well together, and just as importantly, they know how to get ready for matches because they understand that doubles sets the tone. It is also fun to coach such a talented team, yet, they are never satisfied.”

Dobrin and M. Lawless will comprise the No. 2 team.  Even though they are a relatively new pair, the duo made a terrific run at the Fall Regional tournament before falling in the finals. Hein says, “They have great natural chemistry and their games complement each other very well.”

Jenna Dobrin, Fr.

As for the third and final spot in the line-up, Hein says, “We are very fortunate that we have six players who can compete at the national level for doubles.” Hein adds that heading into the season opener, teams are still battling in practice while new pairs are being matched to determine who will fill the line-up card.

In appraising the 2013 edition of the Missionaries, Hein states, “This is definitely the deepest team we’ve had since I’ve been here. I think were also very mentally tough up and down the line-up.”

Contributing to that depth will be juniors Maggie Eismeier (Portland, Maine), Hannah Palkowitz (San Diego, CA) and Olivia Bates (Edmonds, WA), sophomores Webster and Erin Minuth (San Francisco, CA), along with freshmen Katrina Allick (San Francisco, CA) and Rubenstein.

Eismeier saw action last year in both doubles and singles, winning a match in each. Hein says, “Maggie adds depth and will see action, again, in both singles and doubles.”

After spending the Fall studying abroad, Palkowitz is working her way back into the line-up, where she saw quite a bit of action in doubles last year, notching a 9 – 5 mark. “Hannah is a good doubles player, and improving”, says Hein. “She did not see a lot of singles action last year, but we’re trying to get her more.”

Kate Kunkel-Patterson, Sr.

Bates, who starred at Meadowdale High School, packs some of the biggest shots on the team, says Hein. “Olivia has shown great improvement in her match management.”

In Webster, the Whits have a very versatile player who Hein says is a great doubles player and solid in singles – she was 10 – 5 and 4 – 4, respectively, last spring. “Maddy is so enthusiastic”, says Hein, “and we got a glimpse of just how good she could be at the end of last season.”

As a freshman last season, Minuth saw action in both singles and doubles, going 2 – 2 and 4 – 2, respectively. Hein notes, “Erin has one of the best serves on the team. Her ceiling is very high. Plus, she’s a great teammate.”

Madison Webster, So.

Rubinstein showed prowess instantly in this her first year, as she made the final 16 at the fall regional tournament. Hein says, “She is a very fast learner. You tell her something once and she incorporates it into her game.”

Allick may have the biggest shots on the team, says Hein, and maybe even a bigger personality. “Katrina has so much enthusiasm and a great personality. She is so open to learning and also has excellent technique.”

Kate Rubinstein, Fr.

The Missionaries will spend the first month of their season almost exclusively at home with some major conference matches at stake. “It’s a really unique schedule for us. February is a huge home month for us with some of our toughest conference matches (Linfield, Willamette, and Lewis & Clark), “says Hein. “We feel super excited to have that opportunity at the beginning of the year to test ourselves because we have a very balanced team. We feel ready to go right away.”

Then, in March, the team is solely on the road, which includes a California trip as the Whits visit Claremont and Santa Cruz to face a bevy of highly ranked teams. “In five days (during the trip) we play five teams that are ranked either above us or just below us”, says Hein. “This trip will play a key role in one or our goals, which is to improve our national ranking.”

The regular season finishes off with a string of home matches against the likes of Pacific, Whitworth, PLU and the finale against UPS on April 13.

As the Women’s Tennis team gets ready to embark on its 2013 season, Coach Hein knows many uncertainties lay ahead, but there are some aspects of his team he knows will always be present. “Everybody’s got different strengths. I think we’re really learning from each other on how to get better individually and as a team. That’s part of our program, is getting players who want to grow. The fact that they all continue to keep getting better is a prominent characteristic of our team.”

The Journey begins February 2 when the Missionaries travel to face-off against Lewis-Clark State for a 10:30 am match.

For the entire schedule click Women’s Tennis Schedule.


Andrew Holt

Whitman Sports Information Director