With strong first-year talent, women’s tennis earns key win at Winter Classic Invitational


Tywen Kelly

Photo by Tywen Kelly

Alden Glass

This past weekend the Whitman Women’s Tennis team hosted their Winter Classic Invitational, welcoming Trinity, Redlands and Linfield to the Bratton Tennis Center in their last competition before conference play starts. After dropping close matches to Trinity and Redlands, Whitman pulled out an important win against conference rival Linfield. This weekend was a good way to check progress for a young Whitman team before their title defense begins. The weekend prior saw Whitman get matches against Division I University of Idaho and NAIA Lewis-Clark State College. Coach John Hein discussed the lessons he gleaned from watching his Missionaries compete the first time this spring.

“We’re a really young team, four out of our nine players are first years, so we know we have a lot of talent,” Hein said. “To really see how we compete was awesome, and we found out in those matches that we don’t compete like a young team, we compete like a really seasoned veteran team. Every match we learn something, every practice we learn something, and that’s where this group is really special.”

As one of the four first year students who has made an instant impact, Mary Hill has been playing as the number three singles player, an impressive accomplishment for a first year. She was one of Whitman’s three single wins in the 6-3 loss to Redlands. Hill is grateful for the environment of a college team as opposed to her high school team and for the leadership offered to her by the seniors.

Photo by Tywen Kelly
Photo by Tywen Kelly

“In high school, tennis is really individual. You go to tournaments and it only matters how you do. But in college it’s much more team-based, which is, in my opinion, way more fun. When you work hard for so long this is kind of the time where you get to reap the benefits of all the hard work you had to do,” Hill said. “Katrina [Allick] and Jenna [Dobrin] are the leaders of the team, they bring so much energy and leadership. They set a precedent for our team that even when they’re gone will stay true. They’ve really established what our team is about.”

Senior Jenna Dobrin is one of two seniors on the team and is the most experienced player on the roster. She has played a large role in mentoring the younger members of the team and easing their transition into the college game. Dobrin has been pleased with their progress thus far.

“They’ve been amazing. It’s funny because we’re underclassmen-heavy, and even though it’s a young team, I feel like they’ve adjusted well and are leaders in their own way. They’re also just solid tennis players and have pushed us to get better,” Dobrin said. “I want to inspire my teammates to work hard every single day, no matter the situation, no matter what’s going on just always being present when you’re at tennis because it’s a finite period and you’ve worked hard to get there.”

The Winter Classic provided Whitman a massive opportunity to boost their national ranking. Coach Hein shared the significance of home-court advantage and the opportunity this invitational provided for the Missionaries.

“This might be the most important weekend ranking-wise for us. To have these teams at home and have these opportunities to play three nationally-ranked teams in three days on our courts is exciting,” Hein said. “Because we’re still learning about who we are, the ceiling for us is undefined right now. This will tell us a lot about where we are at this point in the season, we’ll still have lots of opportunities in the rest of the season.”

Photo by Tywen Kelly

These opportunities will now need to be taken by the Missionaries after some of the weekend results didn’t fall their way. This will be further complicated by the strength of the Northwest Conference this year. Hein believes that it will be one the most competitive years in conference play that he has seen.

“It’s as strong as I’ve ever seen it. We’re going to see two teams, Linfield and Lewis and Clark, who are both nationally-ranked, who both pushed us very hard last year and who return all their main players,” Hein said. “So in a sense, even though we’re the returning conference champions, we’re considered the conference underdogs, which is pretty cool–I like that challenge.”

While it appears to be a massive obstacle to replicate the success of last year’s conference champion team, there is still a large amount of talent and depth in this Whitman team as shown in the win against Linfield. If they cannot outclass every team, then they will need rely on hard work, something that Dobrin sees oozing out of the team.

“I’m most excited about this group we have. Each and every player is such a hard worker and has such a competitive spirit, and just the depth on our team is so exciting,” Dobrin said. “Because of not only the players they are, but the people they are, and how much they care about the sport and each other, that will bring us big results.”