Women’s Tennis eyes another NWC championship

Kendra Winchester

For years, the Whitman College Varsity Women’s Tennis team has been able to compete successfully at a national level. They have continually set the bar higher year after year with the help of Head Women’s Tennis Coach John Hein, who shared in a 1998 national championship as a player at the University of California-Santa Cruz. As soon as he came to Whitman, he was able to begin building a prosperous program. Hein’s past two years coaching at Whitman have resulted in undefeated conference play, and this season looks to be no different, with only a few more conference matches left to play.

Although they have had extremely victorious seasons in years past, this year’s team dynamic seems to be different. 

“This year we have increased depth, and it brings up the level of intensity each day in practice and has caused us to be much better at doing more of the little things right than in years past. Still, we’ve retained and even built upon the core of what our team is about, which is building amazing relationships and competing as a team in this individual sport,” said Hein.

Maddy Webster '15 practices. Photo by Tywen Kelly.
Maddy Webster ’15 practices. Photo by Tywen Kelly.

A lot of the success that has driven the women’s success has been that of the senior twins, Morgan and Courtney Lawless. Each with multiple all-American titles under their belt, this season will be their last here at Whitman.

“I can’t say enough what they mean to our program and how much leadership they provide on and off the court every day,” said Hein.
While both Courtney and Morgan have bittersweet feelings about their senior year coming to a close, they are still looking forward to finishing out the season strong.
Morgan has had some trouble getting things started this year.
Last season, she incurred a groin injury that affected this season as well. However, she is improving each week as conference play comes to an end.
“[After] taking a whole year off last year, it has been a slow start,” she said.
Courtney, similarly, has battled sickness throughout this season and only started practicing again after spring break.
“Having to start over from scratch and not being back to normal, I am having to work out every day plus getting a lot of practice in. I know I am getting to a point where I just can’t get away with skill I have to actually be able to practice, and I know it is going to take a lot to get back to where I was,” said Courtney.
Finishing the season strong while also enjoying the time they have left is on the mind of the seniors. The Lawless twins, as well as seniors Erin Bell and Madison Webster, will be graduating and ending their college tennis careers. All of these seniors will be leaving historic legacies that they are sure will stay with the team in future seasons.
“I think it is important for their senior experience that they are peaking later so they can enjoy their best tennis when it counts the most,” said Hein.

However, not having the Lawless twins 100 percent of the time, the team has been able to pick up some of their slack and compete at a high level this season. 

“I’ve lost three or four matches this year already, compared to none before. But that’s the thing about our team this year. We’re so deep that I can just trust them to pick up any of my slack,” said Morgan.

A significant part of that depth has come thanks to the three first-years, Jenna Gilbert, Hanna Greenberg and Lindsey Brodeck, and junior transfer Alex Sigouin.

“The key is that while they bring as much talent and experience as any class we’ve had, except possibly our current seniors, with our depth they are having to really fight for playing time. Each of them has met or exceeded expectations in terms of performance, with Hanna making huge contributions in doubles and Lindsey in singles,” said Hein. 

Having an amazing group of women to continue the legacy of Whitman Tennis has been even easier with the help of this first-year class.

As the season draws to an end, the team has their fate in their own hands. If they are able to win these matches against Pacific, Willamette, PLU and UPS, then they will win conference and host the conference tournament. The return to the National Tournament will be hard like every year; however, it is very achievable with this group of women.

On Saturday, the women finished the day with an 8-1 victory at Willamette University after starting the day with a 6-3 win in Forest Grove, Ore. at Pacific University. They will close out their regular-season schedule Saturday and Sunday with two more conference matches against Pacific Lutheran University and University of Puget Sound.