Jan. 20, 2004
The Santa Clara University women's tennis program is looking forward to starting its season with a restructured coaching staff. Nine-year veteran Aby Ryan resigned, paving the way for last year's assistant coach, Tricia Guidace, to step in as the program's interim head coach. The Athletic Department provided more human capital to the staff, naming men's head coach George Husack the Director of both Bronco Tennis programs and bringing men's assistant Brett Masi into the mix on the women's side. Pati Ruiz, a 2003 graduate of Santa Clara, will also join the staff this season.
The team competed through the fall season while adjusting to the changes.
"I think the outcome of our first tournament was pretty telling of the struggles the girls were going through," Guidace described. "All things considered though, I believe we did compete well in the fall. The true character of this team was evident as they stuck by each other and they stuck by me through the transition."
Now that stability in the coaching staff has provided support and direction for the student-athletes, it turns out it's the student-athletes themselves that are providing the resources to be a success this season.
"This team has a great self-made energy," Guidace said. "They really feed off each other and that makes them a tough group to compete against. We believe in ourselves and our ability to win every time we walk onto the court."
A look at 2004 Santa Clara Broncos:
A pair of seniors will guide the Broncos this season, Jennifer Siegel and Sofia Wendt. Siegel is a returnee who was a strong doubles force for the team last year. A team co-captain, Siegel is described as one of the hardest workers on the court, and is always providing encouragement for her teammates.
"Jenny is just a great personality on the court and off the court," Guidace described. "She is a fierce competitor, a leader, and again, always has a smile on her face."
Wendt was a late addition to the Bronco roster, an international exchange student that selected Santa Clara for academic reasons. Wendt is an accomplished tennis player in her home country of Sweden. Ranked as high as No. 2 in the Swedish junior rankings, Wendt's game style and experience will have an immediate impact on the team.
"Sofia hits the ball hard off of both sides and likes to transition to the net," Guidace said. "She is a solid doubles player and knows the game very well."
"Janelle is a really strong, consistent overall player," Guidace said. "She has a two-handed forehand that wins her points off the baseline. She plays with complete confidence in such a relaxed way that it is almost like a day at the beach for her. It will definitely be very exciting to watch Janalle shine in the top position."
Cochrane is described as having a huge serve, strong ground strokes and some of the hardest hitting shots on the team. Like Kaloi, Cochrane is described as having the confidence to win every time she takes to the courts and has an effective doubles game.
Sophomores Casey Knutson, Jessie Strunk, Nicole Jackson and Kristen Ruso will play integral roles on the team as well. Knutson had a solid freshman campaign, and was strongly counted on for victories in the bottom half of the singles line-up. A player who moves well on the court, Knutson will be a factor in both singles and doubles.
Strunk is also a co-captain, and shows her commitment to the program by consistently being the first person to practice and the last to leave. She red-shirted her freshman season, improving her serve and transition game, and can be expected to challenge for time on the courts this spring.
The freshman class features three newcomers who are expected to make immediate impacts on the squad's season. Erika Barnes is from Southern California, Kimberly Daniel is from Edmonton, Alberta and Kelly Leathers is from Sacramento.
"The three newcomers move very well and can dictate point play with their ground game," Guidace explained. "They have learned the transition game during the fall and will begin to implement this style of play to their games this season."
"Our strength will be our depth," the head coach summarized. "Janelle, Cat and Sofia will probably lead us in the top half of the line up, but we're so deep beyond that; all the players at any point in time could be in our top six."
Guidace and her staff are focusing workouts on enhancing each student-athlete's game within the team unit, concentrating on developing a style each player can feel confident using against any opponent.
"The girls are really determined to work hard," she explained. "They want to be pushed and they are all very competitive. They also want to understand the game a little bit more and understand how to successfully win points against any style of player They were very responsive in the fall as we made the change and set some structure. I think they have a lot of aspirations for doing well; this will motivate us every time we step onto the court."
The Broncos' goal is to best their third-place finish at the West Coast Conference Championships, achieved the past two seasons. Given the coaching transition in the fall, the team has been taking small steps to catch up, keeping the focus on a day-to-day level and not getting too far ahead.
The team's 22-match schedule features 12 home contests and only two road trips. The challenge of this year's slate of matches lies in the seven ranked opponents the Broncos will battle through the spring.
"We have the luxury this season of playing the majority of our matches on our own courts," Guidace detailed. "We have a tough schedule and we'll be tested early on. We open against Cal Poly, a ranked program that is growing every year. Playing Hawaii, Pacific, UC Santa Barbara and UC Davis at home plays into our favor because we're so comfortable on our home turf.
"Even our away matches against Pac-10 powers California and Stanford, will not involve much travel; will be fresh and ready to play every time we're out on the courts.
"I think it's important just to make sure that our fans and the Santa Clara community recognize that our team is tough," Guidace concluded. "We've talked extensively about being in the moment, not dwelling on the past and looking positively toward the future. We feel that's the best way to approach our season. Let the student-athletes do what they do best and we'll take care of the rest."