Jan. 20, 2006
Santa Clara, Calif. - Coming off of one of the best seasons in school history, the 2006 edition of the Santa Clara women's tennis is primed and ready to make another dent on the collegiate scene. The 16-7 record last year marked the most victories for a SCU squad since 1997, with a win percentage of .696, just shy of the program-best .700 established in 1980. The success that the Broncos experienced also propelled them into the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings for the first time ever, making a debut at No. 70 in the country. The future looks bright for Santa Clara and second-year head coach Damon Coupe expects a lot out of his team in the coming months.
"We have the ability to have tremendous success this year. I am looking for this team to understand that their hard work and dedication has rewards if they allow themselves to play with confidence," stated Coupe regarding his team's prospects. "We learned a lot last year having so much success and I hope we can continue that this year and move forward."
Although Santa Clara lost three major components of last year's line-up in Catherine Cochrane, Janalle Kaloi, and Jessie Strunk, Coupe will still be able to count on a core of players to take the reigns of the program. Junior Kelly Leathers is one athlete that he will expect to provide upperclassmen leadership and guidance, not only because of her gritty attitude on the court, but for her superb tennis abilities. Leathers' 20 wins at mainly the No. 2 spot in 2005 placed her fifth in the Bronco recordbooks for the number of victories in a single season and she also played the No. 1 position in doubles. She also earned All-West Coast Conference Honorable Mention accolades as a sophomore.
"I will definitely lean on our team captain, Kelly Leathers, for her guidance. She is extremely mentally tough when she plays and the new players can learn a lot from watching her," said Coupe.
Red-shirt junior Casey Knutson will be another Bronco who will be relied upon to provide stable leadership for the team, as her experiences as a student athlete on the Mission Campus are invaluable to her teammates, both on and off the court. As a sophomore in 2004, Knutson played mainly in the No. 3 and 4 spots in singles and is expected to once again challenge for a singles spot near the top.
"Casey Knutson is our most veteran player who brings a lot of maturity to the team. Many of the girls look to her for inspiration," commented Coupe.
Other returning letterwinners who figure to make a difference for Santa Clara include juniors Erika Barnes and Kim Daniel, solid competitors who will add depth in the singles and doubles line-up. Sophomores Myra Davoudi and Flavia Miracle are finally healthy this season after coming off of an injury riddled first-year campaign to give Coupe many options with his starters. Sophomore Ashley Lester enters her first year of collegiate competition and has been a welcome addition to the team.
Along with the veteran leadership the Broncos possess, several fresh faces will infuse the team with their enthusiasm and talent. Stephanie Galainena, Samantha Georgino and Stephanie Herrmann comprise SCU's Class of 2009 and the trio has already made their presence known in the collegiate ranks.
"Our freshmen have made an instant impact on the team," declared Coupe. "They bring an attitude of confidence when they step on the court that has pushed the rest of the players to step up their own games. Their aggressive instincts still need to be fine-tuned, but they have stepped up our quality of doubles."
Last season, doubles was considered a weakness of Santa Clara's, but Coupe is ecstatic with the play of his teams thus far and believes it will no longer be an Achilles Heel of the squad in 2006. Though no formal line-up has been settled upon, the tandems of Leathers and Georgino, Myra Davoudi and Galainena, and Erika Barnes and Knutson are strong contenders for the three doubles positions.
"We have new teams that have meshed well together," remarked Coupe. "Our doubles have been fantastic so far. We have really become the aggressor when we take the court. This is how doubles is supposed to be played."
The national recognition the Broncos received last season gave them a taste of what it means to be one of the elite programs in the country and with that experience only a year removed, Coupe is hoping it will push his team to fulfill their potential in 2006. One way SCU expects to be the best it can be is by playing a difficult schedule and Coupe has done an excellent job in arranging quality opponents throughout the season. In addition to Pac-10 schools Oregon and Washington State, Santa Clara will be challenged by nationally-recognized teams in Pacific and UC Santa Barbara, along with tough regional squads like Cal Poly, Eastern Washington, Fresno State, and Sacramento State. Coupe also recognizes the strength of the West Coast Conference and that league matches will be much more competitive than in recent memory. Santa Clara kicks off its season at the Degheri Center against Cal Poly on Sunday, January 22. Game time is set for noon.
"We have a much tougher schedule this year than in years past. I have focused on playing as many ranked teams as possible," said Coupe. "Our conference schools have become much more competitive this year. We do not have any walkover matches."
The Santa Clara women's tennis program is on the rise in the collegiate arena and with a great blend of experience and youthful exuberance in 2006, the sky is the limit for the Broncos and a foundation has been set for a bright future to come.
"This team has the potential to solidify themselves in the national rankings. We have the talent - now we just have to believe in ourselves," explained Coupe. With our returners having the success from last year, we are poised to turn some heads."