Jan. 12, 2010
2009-10 Women's Tennis Online Media Guide
EVANSTON, Ill. -- It was a 2009 fall season rife with individual championships and accolades, but Northwestern has reassembled following its winter break and is ready to begin its team dual season. The 'Cats, who will host the Wildcat Invitational this Friday-Sunday in Evanston, earned a No. 2 preseason ranking in the Campbell's/ITA College Tennis poll released Jan. 5.
Northwestern now has been ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 in the ITA's national polls every week since Feb. 12, 2008--a span of nearly 30 weekly ranking periods.
Joining Northwestern in the Wildcat Invite at the Combe Tennis Center will be No. 22 Vanderbilt and No. 45 DePaul. All home women's tennis events, including this weekend's Wildcat Invitational, are free for all spectators. Fans are encouraged to utilize street parking off Sheridan Road on Friday before 5 p.m., after which time there is free parking in the lot directly in front of the Sports Pavilion and Aquatic Center (SPAC).
Planned start times are as follows:
11 a.m.: DePaul vs. Vanderbilt singles/doubles
To follow: Northwestern vs. Vanderbilt/DePaul singles
3 p.m.: All teams in doubles
10 a.m.-1:30 p.m.: All teams in doubles
2:45 p.m.: All teams in singles
4:30 p.m.: All teams in singles
9 a.m.-Noon: All teams in singles
In addition to competing at its home round-robin tournament, Northwestern also is sending junior Maria Mosolova to Palm Springs, Calif., for the National Collegiate Tennis Classic. Following a 9-4 fall season, Mosolova garnered a No. 12 national singles ranking while senior Samantha Murray checked in at No. 48 followed by freshman Kate Turvy at No. 85.
Complete match results from each tournament will be made available on NUsports.com upon their completion. SCOUTING THE OPPOSITION
Vanderbilt arrives at the Wildcat Invitational with a trio of highly ranked singles players, led by No. 29 Jackie Wu. The Commodores finished 11-9 in 2009 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament before falling in the first round to Illinois.
Local foe DePaul is a team that Northwestern has become very familiar with over the years. The Blue Demons are headlined by the nation's ninth-ranked doubles team in Anna Redecsi and Selma Salkovic, who captured the 2009 ITA Midwest Regional doubles title in October on Northwestern's home courts. Head coach Mark Ardizzone, the 2009 Midwest Region Coach of the Year, will also be counting on senior Kirsten Gambrell and sophomore Gia McKnight to continue to make solid contributions this season.
POLLARD BEGINS 12th YEAR OF TITLE-LADEN STINT AT NU
2010 marks the 12th season in Evanston for head coach Claire Pollard, who has guided NU to a Big Ten championship in each of her first 11 years at the helm. Pollard has a career dual record of 265-52 as head coach of the 'Cats and has won the last two Big Ten Coach of the Year awards. Below is a Q&A with Pollard in which she discusses NU's fall season, the chance to defend the ITA National Indoor Team championship and her expectations for the 2010 campaign.
What did you learn about your team this fall, both the returners and your freshmen newcomers?
CP: "I think this year is a transition year in a lot of ways for us. We're very young--even our sophomores are young in terms of not getting as much experience as we would have liked last year. Our work ethic on the court in the fall was the best it's been in some time, in part because our freshmen brought tremendous energy and excitement. The returners did a good job going steady as they normally do. We're very much a team of action now rather than a team of talkers. Our leaders are very quiet and just go about their business, leading by example.
I thought it was a good fall. We didn't play amazing tennis but we certainly learned quite a bit. I think we can expect a few bumps in the road this year, not necessarily in terms of losses but we still don't know what to expect from anybody (on the team). We will still have a lot of positive outcomes but I just expect matches to be tougher in general. That can prove to be beneficial for us in the end of the year when hopefully we'll be playing our best tennis."
How would you compare the mindset of your players in the fall versus in the spring season?
CP: "The tough thing about college tennis is that to play really well for nine months is so difficult so if you're not going to play great, the fall would be a good time. We had some players who were a little up and down in the fall maybe because there isn't that sense of urgency in the spring, when you're 100 percent determined to not let the team down. We've been more focused on the process of improving and understanding that we're not going to see our results in the fall. Of course we balance the individual aspect but at the end of the day the team does come first."
What do you expect from your senior duo, Lauren Lui and Samantha Murray?
CP: "They've done a good job already but what they need to do more of is talking the freshmen through a lot of what we do--especially when we hit some tough stretches during the dual season--and I know they will. They can teach them that it's OK if we lose a match, we're still going to get up the next morning and eat breakfast and the sun will come up. There is inherent pressure when you enter the program to perform, especially as the stakes have gotten higher the last couple of years. Sam and Lauren have been through that, along with Maria (Mosolova), and they need to do a good job of guiding and mentoring the younger girls."
How hungry would you say your team is to defend its ITA National Indoor Team championship from a year ago?
CP: "It's really just more of a different influx of energy because we have five players who really didn't win that championship for us. Elena (Chernyakova) contributed in doubles and Stacey (Lee) contributed in so many intangible ways but in my eyes we have five players on our roster who haven't won anything. The key is going to be for them to not put too much pressure on themselves."
You made a few changes to your season-long preparations for the NCAA Championships last season. How pleased were you with the results of those decisions and is there anything you see yourself doing differently in 2010?
CP: "It went really well. We spent a lot of conditioning sessions in (NU's) wrestling room where it's easy to get a good sweat going and it was as good of a thing as we could do. (Conditioning) certainly was not one of the reasons we lost in the tournament, we played well out in the heat. We're always looking to get better. Our program changes every year, which people always seem stunned by because they think we must have done things the same way for 11 years because it works. In reality, I'm doing things radically different than we've done in the past. Change and adaptation is important for everyone. In the end, we're still looking to peak in February and then peak again in May."
What are your early assessments of your competition in the Big Ten?
CP: "I see Illinois as a very good team, Michelle (Dasso) has done a great job and that's a team that's very hungry for success. That will be a good, early test for us. It's a Friday night match and I bet they'll pack in the gym so it should be fun. Michigan has certainly gotten better and gave us a great test in the Big Ten final last year. Ohio State is also returning a good team. The league has continued to get better, especially at the bottom where there isn't nearly as much of a drop-off from the top teams as there used to be. We're going to have to be on our game."
Describe the contributions that last year's trio of seniors had on this year's team and the program as a whole.
CP: "You just can't replace those three kids. That's not a discredit to the newcomers because they're bringing everything we could ask for. But you can't replace that experience that we had going into the big matches last year. They left us with a program that has come closer and closer to the top of the mountain and one day when we reach the top they'll be proud of what they contributed."
Last season's home schedule featured some big matches against top competition and you drew great crowds to support the Wildcats. What does that type of support and atmosphere do for your team?
CP: "It's hugely important to us. We need them to come out and they enjoy when we play in a big match, which we have a few more of on the schedule this season. What makes college tennis exciting is that you're no longer playing on a court in the back of a grove where only your mom is watching you. There's always a reason to play your absolute hardest here and there is always someone behind you. That helps us tremendously and I think we're pretty tough to beat on our home courts."