Whits strong into regional tennis tourney

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WALLA WALLA — After winning the Northwest Conference title last season with a perfect 12-0 record, the Whitman College women’s tennis team vies for some individual honors this weekend at the USTA/ITA Regional Championships, being held Saturday through Monday at Lewis & Clark College in Portland.

Although the seeding has not officially been announced, Whitman’s NWC Player of the Year Courtney Lawless figures to be one of the top seeds.

Lawless won the tournament last year, outdueling her twin sister, Morgan, in the singles finals.

Courtney Lawless teamed with senior Alyssa Roberg last year to win the doubles title, advancing onto the national ITA Championships and finishing fourth.

Missionary head coach John Hein, who was named the ITA West Region Coach of the Year, has announced the doubles teams for this year’s ITA tourney. They are Courtney and Morgan Lawless; Erin Bell and Katrina Allick; Jenna Dobrin and Allie Wallin; and Seana Minuth and Maggie Eismeier.

“This tournament really sets the tone for the year and creates momentum going into the spring season,” said Hein, “so,it’s nice to try new partners. But at the same time, we also want to put the best teams out there.”

Heading into the fall season, Hein feels good about his squad. Although the Missionaries lost four-time All-NWC player Alyssa Roberg, it returns its No. 1 player(Courtney Lawless), No. 3 (Morgan Lawless) and No. 4 (Jenna Dobrin) singles players, along with three talented newcomers: Seana Minuth, Allie Wallin and transfer Erin Bell.

Returner Katrina Allick figures to play a key role in singles this season after being a major factor in doubles last season.

Courtney Lawless, who was the unanimous choice for Player of the Year, spent the offseason fine-tuning her game, said Hein.

“She’s been really diligent about her mechanics and all of the little things that help you make a deep tournament run,” he said.

Morgan Lawless’ leadership qualities have really risen to the surface, Hein said. She was voted Whittie of the Week by her teammates last week, and Hein said her fellow players recognize the effort Morgan is putting in as she rebounds from an injury.

The big swinging Dobrin is playing very well in fall practice, he said.

“Jenna worked really hard over the summer and it is showing in practice every day,” Hein said. “She’s playing real physical tennis, she’s in great shape and she’s got a lot of confidence in all of her strokes.”

Always a strong doubles player for the Whits, Allick has stepped up her game in singles.

“She looks even more solid in her strokes, her strategies and her leadership,” Hein said. “So, a tournament like this is great for her because she didn’t get a lot of looks in singles last year and this is her chance to shine. She played extremely well in a lot of exhibition matches last season.”

Maddy Webster, a key member of last year’s squad, is studying abroad this fall, but will return for the spring.

Kate Rubinstein (So., Portland, OR), who settled into the No. 5 spot last season, is taking some time off to concentrate solely on her studies.

As the team readies to play its first tournament of the new season, “I am really excited to see how we compete because I feel that we are in a great place to go play in a tournament and compete well,” Hein said.

“As coaches (at this tournament) you learn a lot not just about how people are playing, but also, how you coach them. With the new players, it’s the first time you get that on-court coaching experience with them. It’s the beginning of that discovery process and if fall practice is any indication, it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

As the defending tournament champs, the Missionaries get eight singles and four automatic doubles berths this weekend.

There are 64 singles slots and 32 doubles. Qualifying for any open spots will occur on Friday, with the tournament beginning in earnest on Saturday morning with the first round, followed by the second round in the afternoon. Two more rounds occur on Sunday with the singles semifinals and finals on Monday. The doubles final will occur on Monday morning or afternoon, depending on the number of teams.

The champions in singles and doubles receive automatic berths to the USTA/ITA Small College National Championships from Oct 9-13 in Fort Meyers, Fla.

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