Women’s tennis finds focus, fun in California

Tyler Hurlburt

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Imagine spending spring break boating, tanning and hanging out with 10 of your closest friends in Southern California while also playing tennis against some of the strongest competition in the country. This is exactly what the women’s tennis team did two weeks ago.

This very tight-knit group of women traveled to Southern California during the second half of spring break, from March 20 to 26, and got the chance to play against strong teams from outside of the Northwest Conference.

After beating Salisbury University from Maryland, Whitman lost matches to Chapman University, University of Redlands, and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. These three losses came against nationally-ranked regional opponents. After their trip to California, the Missionaries have an 8-7 overall record.

Head Coach John Hein feels that this trip is crucial to his team’s season.

“It is one of the most important parts of the year,” Hein said. “We get to train and be away from campus so we can focus on tennis.”

This trip has a large impact on the season for several reasons. Going down to California gives the team the opportunity to gain experience against the sorts of opponents that it would have to face in the regional tournament, which would happen if the team wins the conference tournament.

Sophomore Kate Kunkel-Patterson feels that despite losing to the in-region teams, the matches were still very worthwhile.

“We didn’t win, but it is always good experience to play teams that are better than you,” she said.

The trip is also immensely critical in strengthening the bonds within the team. Kunkel-Patterson attributes a lot of the importance of the trip to the time that the team spends together.

“The spring break trip, because we are with each other for a solid week, is very important for the team dynamic,” Kunkel-Patterson said. “After spring break we just really click.”

Hein is very pleased with the energy that the team gives to one another.

“They really feed off of one another at matches,” Hein said.

To achieve the team’s goal of making it into the regional and national picture, the team will have to first make the conference tournament, which is virtually already locked in with the team currently sitting in third place. Once at the conference championships, the team will have to battle against two teams that have already handed Whitman defeats: Linfield College and Whitworth University.

While Whitman did lose earlier in the season to those two teams, the team has been getting better and the conference title is not out of reach.

“We are going to need to improve if we want to win and we are seeing that improvement,” Hein said.

The Missionaries next face Pacific University on Saturday, April 2 at home starting at 10 a.m. before traveling to Spokane to face Whitworth on Sunday, April 3.

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