Jan. 13, 2005
First-year head coach Damon Coupe arrived on the mission campus last summer, and in just one fall season, has transformed the attitude and expectations of the Bronco women's program to a higher level.
In his first meeting with the squad, Coupe had each team member independently write down goals for the coming season. Each list had one thing in common: get nationally ranked.
With that in mind, Coupe implemented a more offensive strategy to his players' games and started to help them believe in themselves, and in each other, that anything and everything is possible.
"This team is taking control of its destiny," he explained. "Our strength is founded on our belief in each other and the belief we have with ourselves. They put in a lot of hard work this fall, changing their attitude, work ethic and strategies on the court, and now have gained the knowledge they can go out and win, against any team."
Coupe said these efforts have not gone unnoticed, as other coaches have commented to him about the toughness the Broncos are displaying.
"That's a compliment and a tribute to their hard work and dedication to having a new coach and buying into the system and really absorbing everything I ask of them and putting it to work. We're going to continue turning heads this spring."
Santa Clara's heart and soul lies in its senior class of All-West Coast Conference players Janalle Kaloi and Catherine Cochrane. Kaloi has the opportunity to establish herself as one of the all-time bests in the Bronco program and Coupe said his coaching staff has spent the fall trying to prepare her to take the opportunity and seize the moment as it approaches this spring. She is currently sixth in all-time singles victories and seventh in combined doubles wins.
"She definitely possesses the game and the mentality for her success and show it this fall with her performances at the All-American and ITA Regional tournaments. She can compete with any of the top-level players in the country."
Cochrane has frequently been described as one of the hardest hitters in the collegiate game. Coupe said he is working with this four-year starter to control her power and develop her ability to dictate the points so that she can really start to dominate players on the court.
2005 team captain Jessie Strunk is a junior on the squad has shown tremendous improvement during fall play, said Coupe. Strunk advanced to the semifinals of the Saint Mary's Invitational this past fall and according to her new coach, has taken an offensive approach to her game and "has really begun to push top players."
The sophomore trio of Erika Barnes, Kimberly Daniel and Kelly Leathers made an immediate impact on the program as freshmen last year, and look to continue growing their games as the program grows as a whole as well.
Barnes and Leathers paired together in 2004 as one of the strongest Bronco tandems in program history, earning All-WCC honors in the process. Both showed potential this fall to elevate their games to the next level and the hard work Coupe has seen in his short tenure leads him to expect positive results in the dual season. Daniel is described as a player many can relate to, with her baseline style that showcases spin and control.
Adding to the Broncos' depth are returners Casey Knutson and Kristen Ruso, both of whom saw limited action due to injuries this fall. Jessie's younger sister Chelsea Strunk is also joining the roster, along with fellow freshmen Myra Davoudi of San Jose and Flavia Miracle, from Bradenton, Fla.
"From what I've been told, Casey is an extreme competitor and has the fight and the grit to really compete with top-level players," Coupe described. "And Kristen possesses a lot of power which she is perfecting at how to harness. The newcomers made an immediate impact in the fall and we're looking forward to their competitive spirit in the spring."
The confidence and belief the Broncos are growing as a team will be displayed for the first time in 2005 with the start of the dual-match schedule on Jan. 16 against Cal State Fullerton. Coupe said he is looking for his players to give everything they have and "lay it all out on the court... for themselves and each other," and although would prefer a win in his coaching debut, would still find happiness with the team's competitive spirit, regardless of score.
Opportunities to become a nationally-recognized program will follow with the continuation of the team's schedule. Matches against ranked teams such as Cal Poly, Washington State, Pacific and Loyola Marymount, as well as a strong field at the UC Irvine tournament and the onset of league play, will open the door for the Broncos. Defeating such teams will allow SCU to establish itself as program to contend with.
"Our schedule is providing an opportunity to produce a really great record this season," Coupe said. "We looking to take full advantage of knocking off many ranked squads... not just compete, but win in these contests."
One of the main highlights on the home slate is Pacific-10 opponent Washington State. Ranked 65th nationally, and competing in one of the strongest tennis conferences in the country, the Cougars will provide a solid challenge for the Broncos to measure themselves against.
Fans can expect to watch a more offensive-minded Bronco program, with teammates who carry a stronger belief in their abilities on and off the court. Coupe said he saw the team come together during fall play and expects that bond to grow as a stronger unit as the spring season progresses.
"I told the team in the fall that this year is going to be one of their most memorable years," he shared. "They are laying the foundation for this program and taking it in the right direction. Sure, we're going to have ups and downs, but it's all going to be beneficial as we head toward our goal of becoming nationally ranked. We're going to be ready to play in January, but we'll be peaking come March and April and looking to make our mark in collegiate tennis. Our opponents will know we're playing to win big.
"This is not the same women's team that people have come to know in the past," Coupe concluded. "This is a special team that is going to do some great things this year."