The end of an era

Denise Dy picked up her 97th career win in her final home tournament, fourth-most in UW history. Photo by Sang Cho

After Denise Dy took pictures with her parents and gave hugs to all her supporters, she swooped up her duffel bag and headed to the locker room for one final post-match meeting.

As she entered the Nordstrom Tennis Center, Sam Sambrano, a 15-year ITA tennis umpire veteran, came out. He passed Dy, who had just played her last home match as a Husky, and shared his insight with a reporter.

“What an inspirational player,” Sambrano said of Dy. “She’s injured, but she thinks about her team and wants to play. She’s just a great role model and has had such a positive impact on the team.”

The toughness evident in Dy’s game for the past four years certainly showed on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, as the senior went against her trainer’s recommendation and gave the Husky faithful one last show.

Playing with a bum right wrist, Dy cruised by Oregon’s Julia Metzger in the first set, then held off a Metzger rally in the second, hitting a perfect over-the-head lob shot that few other collegiate players could attempt to seal a 6-2, 6-4, victory for her 97th career win, good for fourth all-time at the UW.

“Our trainer told me he didn’t want me to play,” said Dy, who was competing at about 70 percent. “I told him I wanted to play on senior day. It was nice to end on a good note.”

Dy wasn’t the only one smiling after Sunday’s match. Fellow graduating senior Samantha Smith also picked up a win — the pair have 166 career wins between them — in her final match, which helped the No. 55 Huskies end their regular season with a 4-3 victory over No. 66 Oregon.

The UW barely lost the doubles point to start the afternoon but stormed back with four solid singles victories. After the senior day ceremonies — senior Adrijana Pavlovic was also honored — which took place during the break, freshmen Julija Lukac and Riko Shimizu joined the upperclassmen with victories to help the Huskies get the necessary four points to edge Oregon.

Other than next week’s rather meaningless Pac-12 championships — there are no team competitions and thus no implications on rankings — the Huskies will most likely miss out on postseason play for the first time in five years.

Despite Sunday’s win, the hobbled Huskies shouldn’t move up too much from their No. 55 slot in the ITA rankings. Next month’s NCAA tournament accepts 64 teams, with 16 of those coming from conference champions. That means the Huskies need to be ranked in the top 50, at the very least, to even have a chance.

“I think that was our NCAA Regional right there,” said head coach Jill Hultquist, who has dealt with an injury-ridden roster all season. “I have a feeling we’ve got to jump 11 or 12 spots in the rankings, and I’m not sure this win helps us jump up that much.”

But it’s not quite yet over for Dy, who still has a chance to redeem herself at the NCAA individual tournament next month. The San Jose, Calif., native was the No. 4 overall seed last season but fell in the second round, and was ousted in the first round two years ago.

Earlier this season, Hultquist made it known that she wanted her star senior to make the semifinals at nationals. With a month until the tournament, it appears the 22nd-ranked Dy will have time to rest her right wrist in preparation for nationals.

“Playing today and beating the No. 1 girl from Oregon — hopefully that’s good for her confidence, especially knowing she can take time off,” Hultquist said.

It’s been an illustrious four seasons at the UW for Dy, who may just be the greatest all-around talent in UW tennis history. For most of her time here, that toughness and freakish athleticism seemed second to no one. It’s that grittiness that, despite the injury, makes a deep run at nationals a real possibility.

Reach reporter Taylor Soper at sports@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @Taylor_Soper

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