April 1, 2010
By Michael Jeremiah
On the tennis courts, Kyle McMorrow has known only success. He came to Washington as one of the top-ranked junior players in the country, and has played a huge role in keeping the Huskies in the Top-25 this season, despite losing three seniors from a team that made the NCAA Second Round a year ago.
With high profile tournament wins and top rankings during his prep career, lofty expectations could have weighed on McMorrow. That hasn't been a problem because he knows what is necessary to be successful at this level.
"I felt confident that I was good enough to come into college tennis and do well," said McMorrow. "Coach [Matt Anger] thinks I can be a really good player and I think so too. I wasn't really worried about it. I knew if I came in and took care of business I would be fine."
McMorrow, an imposing figure on the court at 6'3", has been taking care of business during his freshman year, boasting a 14-4 dual record in singles while playing number one doubles with Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan. The rightie has a big serve and forehand but also defends well and can handle a volley up at the net.
He has played well all year as the number-two singles player in the Husky lineup, only behind the nationally-ranked Nedunchezhiyan. With over three years left to continue to work on his game under Coach Anger, McMorrow has one personal career goal already in mind.
Every singles player in the Pac-10 dreams of winning the conference title. For McMorrow, the desire to hoist that trophy has a family tie. Originally from Olympia, McMorrow lived a bulk of his life in Ojai, Calif., where the Pac-10 tournament is held.
Winning Pac-10 singles championship would be a good story about a local player returning home to claim victory. The best part is the trophy is named after McMorrow's grandfather, William E. Huffman. Huffman is the former president of the Ojai Valley Tennis Tournament. That combination has his eyes set on one of the highest prizes in college tennis.
"I've always liked playing the Ojai," said McMorrow. "I've played it four times in every age division and I lived there for most of my life. It adds motivation to try to do well. That's pretty much the only time that he gets to watch me play too is at the Ojai. I would really like to win that in my four years here."
That's a lofty goal, but McMorrow is showing that he can play at that level as a freshman. At the number two slot, he has already played some of the top players in the conference and country. Last weekend against defending national champion USC, McMorrow drew 11th ranked Robert Farah, who has previously been the top-ranked player in the nation.
McMorrow showed that he can compete on that level, staying with Farah by ripping a number of baseline forehands that put pressure on the Trojan. His play got better as the match went on, and McMorrow came within two points of taking the second set before Farah's experience helped him pull out the tiebreaker.
Is there a moral victory from playing a highly ranked player well?
"I never feel like that if I lose," said McMorrow. "I'm just really mad after a match if I lose. Even if I'm playing a guy ranked way higher than I am. It does show me that I could take a set or even beat those top guys, and I'll have some chances this year. Hopefully I'll be able to win the bigger points."
The Huskies dropped their first two Pac-10 matches, but head to Arizona this weekend with hopes of breaking into the win column. The conference is strong as always, but McMorrow has confidence that the team will have success for the rest of the season.
"We need to win some of these Pac-10 matches coming up," said McMorrow. "Obviously, we want to win them all, but if we could get at least a couple that would be great because everyone in the Pac-10 is pretty tough."
It's a young Husky squad that only loses one player to graduation after the season, but the focus is on the present with an excited eye on the future of the program. With players like McMorrow showing they can play at this level, the Huskies are hoping to make a deep run in the postseason.
"We've lost first and second round the last couple years, I'd like to take it another step and make Sweet-16 or Elite Eight," said McMorrow. "I think if we do that then everyone would feel like it was a good year and it would be a good stepping stone for next year. I think we'll be even better next year."