2006 UW Women's Tennis Outlook
Jan. 19, 2006
The 2005-2006 season marks the beginning of a new era in Husky women's tennis. Jill Hultquist, who was an assistant coach at Washington from 1997-2002, begins her first season as head coach this year.
Hultquist might be new to the head coaching ranks, but she is familiar with this Husky program after serving as an assistant under former head coach Patty McCain for five years.
Hultquist will have her share of challenges in her first season at the helm, but she inherits a team that has advanced to the NCAA Tournament the last eight consecutive seasons and reached at least the regional final the last five years.
Hultquist's top challenge will be replacing graduated senior Dea Sumantri. Sumantri finished her career as a two-time All-American and second on Washington's career singles wins list with 100 victories. Her presence will be missed in both the singles and doubles lineups.
"Dea was definitely a big asset to the team and she had great results," Hultquist said.
To off-set Sumantri's departure will be senior Dinka Hadzic, the Huskies' top returning player. Hadzic, known for her gritty play and never-say-die attitude, will be looked upon to lead the team on and off the court. It¹s a role Hultquist thinks Hadzic is ready for.
"Dinka is a senior now and she's a very talented player," Hultquist said. "I think it's up to Dinka to decide what she wants out of her senior year because she has the ability to really lead this team and integrate things like Dea did."
The rest of the Washington squad is relatively young, considering two sophomores round out the squad's top-three players. Sophomores Tara Simpson and Allison Rainey look to build upon solid rookie campaigns.
Hultquist will also lean on the experience provided by senior Stephanie Svanfeldt and junior Monika Kolbovic, both players who should see increased playing time this year.
Rounding out the roster are two freshmen, walk-on Melinda Wong from Seattle and Victoria Brymer who joined the team at the beginning of January.
Hultquist is impressed thus far with her team's effort and work ethic which will be a key for the Huskies' success this year.
"They want to work hard to develop their individual games, and at the same time work together to be successful as a team," Hultquist said. "It's been great to come in and watch these girls get along and work so well together."
Another asset to the team has been the addition of former UW All-American Claire Carter to the coaching staff. Carter took on the assistant coaching duties shortly after Hultquist was named head coach.
Carter, arguably the most decorated player to graduate from the program, owns the distinction of being UW's only four-time All-American. Carter's individual success as a letterwinner from 2001-2004 helped put Husky tennis on the national scene, her play leading Washington to a pair of NCAA Elite Eight appearances in 2001 and 2004.
Just one year removed from being a player herself, Carter's presence helps smooth the transition between head coaches as a former teammate of some of the current Huskies. Her knowledge of the team helps bridge the three-year gap since Hultquist was last with the program.
"Claire has been a great asset to the team and to the coaching staff because she played with some of these girls," Hultquist said. "As a player coming to the coaching side, she's really stepped up as a coach. All of the players respect her. Many coaches don't like to hire former players who are just out of college a few years, but for us it's worked really well. Our players respect the fact that Claire was an All-American and had a great work ethic during her Husky career."
The Players Although it's a bit too early for Hultquist to determine her lineup just yet, Hadzic will undoubtedly play at the top for the Huskies.
Hadzic culminated last year with a ranking of No. 96 as the team's No. 2 singles player for the majority of the season.
Hadzic earned All-Pac-10 honorable mention honors despite being slowed by an injury halfway through the dual season and finishing the year winning just two of her last 10 matches.
She finished the year with a 17-16 singles record including a 10-11 dual mark. A healthy Hadzic this year should do that much better in her senior campaign.
"Dinka is very fiery," Hultquist said. "She's got a fiery personality and a lot of burning desire to win. She just digs really deep."
The next two players who might occupy the No. 2 and No. 3 spots in the lineup are Simpson and Rainey.
Simpson emerged as Washington's top newcomer last year, finishing second on the team with 24 victories (24-11 overall) and tied for the team lead with 17 dual wins (17-6 overall).
Simpson played anywhere from No. 4 through No. 6 in the lineup, but was primarily UW¹s No. 5 player compiling an 11-3 record at that spot.
"Tara is going to be one of those girls that you just want to watch," Hultquist said. "She's going to grind out matches for you. They're going to be long but she will try her best for every point. She's a hustler and is going to win a lot of matches for us."
Rainey is another player who had an impressive rookie outing, going 19-13 in singles, 15-7 in dual play. Rainey played primarily in the No. 5 and No. 6 spots in the lineup last year, going 6-2 at No. 5 and 8-5 at No. 6.
"Allison is working hard this year," Hultquist said. "She has a big serve when she uses it. She's scrappy. She'll just fight to the end if there's a point on the line."
The other four Huskies, Svanfeldt, Kolbovic, Wong and Brymer will also be battling for spots in the starting six.
Svanfeldt saw some time in the singles lineup last year, recording a 6-3 record at the No. 6 spot. She went 9-9 overall.
"Stephanie's a very hard worker and she has that burning desire that Dinka has," Hultquist said. "She's always trying to learn more. You tell her one thing, she wants to do it and wants to take it one step further."
Kolbovic turned in a singles record of 2-6 but didn't appear in the dual lineup last year. That could change in her junior campaign.
"Monika has a great attitude, she's always very positive," Hultquist said. "She wants to work hard and has a great heart. She's just a go-getter."
Wong and Brymer are the two newcomers and with such a small roster, will undoubtedly make an impact on the squad in their rookie seasons.
Brymer, from Apple Valley, Calif., was ranked 15th in the nation when she signed her letter of intent at Washington. She was also a top-five player in Southern California U-14, U-16 and U-18 rankings.
"Victoria is hard working and determined," Hultquist said. "She's anxious to start competing for the Huskies."
Wong is a local product from West Seattle High School. She joined the team as a walk-on this fall and has already impressed Hultquist with her outstanding work ethic.
"Melinda puts as much effort into her play as a scholarship player," Hultquist said. "She works hard, hits the ball very hard and if she works her way into the lineup she's going to give it everything she has."
The doubles combinations are still yet to be set in stone. Hadzic combined with Sumantri as the team's No. 1 doubles duo last year, finishing the year ranked 46th.
According to Hultquist, this year's top team will most likely be Hadzic and Simpson, who played together at the ITA All-American Championships during the fall. The other two spots in the lineup are still up in the air. Any of the remaining five players could battle for a spot.
The Schedule As is usually the case, the Huskies will have a difficult schedule when they take to the courts in January.
The first thing Husky fans might notice when looking at this year's slate is that for the first time since 1993, UW will not host the Pac-10 Indoor Championships. Instead, Washington will open the season in Hawaii at the Wailea Classic. The three-day event is a round-robin style individual tournament against players from Oregon and Sacramento State.
After returning from the Hawaiian islands, the Huskies will play their first eight dual matches at home beginning with a contest versus BYU, Saturday, Jan. 21. Non-conference home opponents during that stretch also include Portland, New Mexico, San Diego State and San Diego.
UW will have the luxury of playing Pac-10 duals against Cal and Stanford at home. The Huskies don't return to the road until March 10-11 when they face USC and UCLA in Los Angeles.
In fact, the Huskies only take two trips outside of the Pacific Northwest.
In addition to its trip to Southern California, Washington will travel to the state of Texas to face the University of Texas (April 1) and TCU (April 2).
At Texas, Husky players will face their former coach Patty McCain, while Hultquist will coach against her good friend after coaching side-by-side for five years. McCain left Washington after eight years at the helm of the program following the 2005 season.
"There were some close ties with Patty so that match might be a little emotional for the girls," Hultquist said. "At the same time it will be fun to see Patty again and see what kind of team she has. She can also see how Washington is doing."
After UW's Texas trip, the Huskies come back to host four-straight including Pac-10 duals against Arizona and Arizona State, and non-conference contests versus South Alabama and Sacramento State.
UW finishes the regular season at Washington State (April 21).
"The Pac-10 keeps getting stronger and stronger," Hultquist said. "It's a great conference to be in. We're now competitive and when Patty and I first took over we weren't. Washington is now a force to be reckoned with and it's nice to have that respect back."