Season Preview: Veteran women’s tennis players poised for continued success

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Combine skilled players with a simultaneously open and competitive environment, and the results are destined to be good. For Whitman’s women’s tennis program, results are already here. According to Head Women’s Tennis Coach John Hein, the past three years have been arguably the strongest years in the program’s history. At its peak, the team has reached as high as 16th in the national rankings.

Although Hein believes that last year’s team was the best he has coached in his seven years at Whitman, and maybe one of the best ever, this upcoming team may have a chance to one-up their predecessors and take their recent successes to the next level. While a national ranking of 16 is a milestone, the team has always had their eyes on the Elite 8.

Spearheading this movement are two dominant returning seniors, Courtney Lawless and Morgan Lawless. Though Morgan struggled with injuries that sidelined her for the majority of the 2014 season, she’s feeling healthy again. Fellow teammate Jenna Dobrin, a junior, is excited to have back one of the strongest players on the team.

“She’s looking incredible; big things coming from Morgan this year, and Courtney obviously,” said Dobrin.

Having both Lawless twins healthy will be key to the team’s success this season, but the rest of the team is also crucial. Hein is excited about what he’s witnessing from the two other seniors, Maddy Webster and Erin Bell.

“They’re playing better than I’ve ever seen them play. They’ve both made a huge jump since last year, and they have the right attitude to keep getting better throughout the season,” said Hein.

Other key names will be Jenna Dobrin and sophomore Alexandra Wallin, two of the most hardworking players on the team, and a bright spot in recent junior transfer Alexandra Sigouin. Hein could talk all day about this team, but his general feeling is that in order to reach the Elite 8, the whole team –– not just the veterans but the underclassmen as well –– will need to contribute.

The success the women’s tennis program has enjoyed has depended on the ability to transition from simply performing on raw talent, of which they have always had plenty, to honing precision skills. In the open and communicative environment that Hein has developed, the women on his team are not afraid to mix things up at practice and try new strategies. In head-to-head competition at practice, they can bring enthusiasm and energy into their individual play, but afterwards they can always discuss with each other what was working and what wasn’t. The result is that everyone improves drastically. Hein spoke to that competitive but constructive environment.

“Usually number one dominates, but there are upsets almost every day in practice, where almost anybody can beat anybody on a given day, which is what you want,” he said.

This is why the team feels so confident about the season. When underclassmen are able to learn from but also challenge the upperclassmen, everybody wins because there are nine points to be won in competition against other teams, and no one individual can win them all. When it becomes about improving a player’s teammates as well as herself, great things will happen. With such an attitude, look for the women’s tennis team to go far this season, hopefully to the Elite 8, or even further. Courtney Lawless is optimistic.

“I think this is the team to get to the Elite 8, and we’re all super pumped about that,” she said.

In an excellent start to the season, the team won its first conference matchup, with a convincing 7-2 result against Whitworth this past weekend. They will be at home this Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 21 and 22, hosting Pacific University and George Fox University.

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