Samantha Smith is part of a small contingent of Huskies that will play in the Pac-12 team championships in Ojai, Calif., beginning today. Photo by Sang Cho
After closing out an injury-riddled season last week at Bill Quillian Stadium, the UW women’s tennis team will be in sunny Ojai, Calif., today through April 29 to compete in the inaugural Pac-12 championships.
The Huskies, who finished 10th in conference play, will look to perform better against Pac-12 competition that dominated them and their wounded roster throughout the course of the season.
But it won’t be an easy task. As always, the Pac-12 is loaded with talent — the conference has 27 players in the top 125 ITA rankings and nine in the top 25.
The UW’s only conference victories this season came against Colorado and Oregon, two fellow bottom dwellers in the Pac-12 this season. And with UCLA, USC, Stanford, and California all ranked within the top 10 in the nation, the UW could be in for a long weekend in California.
“This season has definitely been disappointing,” head women’s tennis coach Jill Hultquist said. “We didn’t win as much as we should have, but we didn’t have a full line-up with our top six players at any point this season. If we were healthy, we would have done much better.”
As important as this weekend sounds, it doesn’t affect postseason seeding and thus has no real impact on the UW’s ultimate fate. Hultquist has made her dismissive thoughts on the Pac-12 championships well-known in the past. Last year, Hultquist sent only five players to Ojai to compete in order to allow the remainder of her squad — especially star player Denise Dy — to get some much-needed rest at the end of a long season.
“I struggle every year to find a point to it,” Hultquist said about the championships. “Winning the singles events would be awesome, but they’re really just extra matches to gain some experience for our team.”
Considering the overwhelming number of injuries to which the Huskies have fallen victim this season, Hultquist was more inclined than ever to let some players stay home and rest. She is again only bringing five players to Ojai — freshmen Julija Lukac and Riko Shimizu, sophomore Andjela Nemcevic, and seniors Adrijana Pavlovic and Samantha Smith — and seemed relaxed about the upcoming competition.
The 23rd-ranked Dy will again not play at the Pac-12 championship in order to nurse her damaged wrist before nationals, which begin May 11. Hultquist said Dy has been seeing the team’s trainers every day to receive therapy and strengthen the wrist.
“If she gets good rest, hopefully she can be at least 90 percent and perform well,” Hultquist said. “Resting her is the best we can do. Hopefully she can work some magic.”
As a team, the possibility of postseason play is still in limbo for the Huskies. A total of 64 teams are invited to compete at the NCAA tournament next month, and with 16 spots going to the champions of each conference, the Huskies could be on the outside looking in for the first time in five seasons.
Hultquist says her team needs a miracle to make the tournament due to their national ranking not being high enough.
While the UW did move up two spots in the national rankings to No. 53 with their most recent victory over Oregon, it could prove be a case of far too little, far too late for Hultquist’s team.
Reach reporter Tyler Hartung at email@example.com. Twitter: @thartung17
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