2013 Willamette Women's Tennis Season Preview

Poltavski, Gutierrez top young Bearcats roster

By Timothy Walsh, Assistant Athletics Communications Director

SALEM, ORE. -- With a roster that includes one junior, two sophomores, and five freshman, the youngest Willamette University women's tennis team in some time will open the 2013 spring season on Saturday, Feb. 9 against the University of California-Santa Cruz.

The neutral-site matchup between the Bearcats and the Banana Slugs is set for 3 p.m. (PST) in Walla Walla, Wash.

"We're pretty young team this year," Head Coach Becky Roberts said. "But we have the chance to be pretty good."

In the first NCAA Division III Women's West Region Rankings for 2012-13, released by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA), Willamette was ranked 13th.

Leading the way for the Bearcats will be one of the team's two sophomores, Denise Poltavski (Woodland Hills, CA/El Camino Real HS), who made waves this fall with a solid run during the USTA/ITA Northwest Small College Championships.

Entering the tournament as the #7 seed, Poltavski won four consecutive matches in straight sets en route to a hard-fought semifinal loss. She is ranked #12 in the West Region in singles according to the ITA's fall rankings.

Poltavski was named Second Team All-Northwest Conference last season, after earning a 13-2 record playing mostly at #3 singles.

Sabrina Gutierrez (Jr., Newbury Park, CA/Newbury Park HS) will begin the year at the #2 singles spot, where she compiled a 9-6 record in 2012 and also earned Second Team All-NWC honors. Still, Roberts expects Gutierrez to push Poltavski for the top singles spot, and the two will pair up at #1 doubles.

"Denise and Sabrina are both from Southern California, where tennis is very intense," Roberts said. "They both have tournament experience, and should be able to step in and be competitive."

At the remaining singles positions, Willamette will turn to a deep and talented freshman class: Rachel Heringer (Salem, OR/South Salem HS), Steph Matsuura (Hilo, HI/Waiakea HS), Emily Guimont (El Dorado Hills, CA/Folsom HS), and Mandy Carlson (Boise, ID/Bishop Kelly HS).

Heringer and Matsuura will compete together at #2 doubles.

The #3 doubles team will rotate between the remaining players on the Bearcats' roster, including Yasmine Genena (Fr., Portland, OR/Lake Oswego HS), Lizzie Kubitz (So., Anchorage, AK/West Anchorage HS), and Holly Petersen (Fr., Rocklin, CA/Rocklin HS).

Roberts, the 2004 NWC Coach of the Year, has led the Bearcats into the conference tournament each of her 12 years in Salem. Despite the youth and inexperience on Willamette's roster, she expects that trend to continue.

"We have the opportunity to do it again this year," Roberts said. "[The NWC tournament] is definitely in the picture. We can compete with the top teams in the conference."

After Friday's season opener, Willamette open NWC play at Whitman College on Sunday, Feb. 10. The Bearcats will play their first home match of the season on Friday, Feb. 22, against Lewis & Clark College. Match time is set for 6 p.m. (PST) at the Courthouse Tennis Center (1379 Madison St. NE).

Denise Poltavski earned Second Team All-NWC honors last year. This season, she the 12th-ranked singles player in the West Region.

Denise Poltavski earned Second Team All-NWC honors last year. This season, she the 12th-ranked singles player in the West Region.

Sabrina Gutierrez, another Second Team All-NWC selection last year, will start the season at #2 singles for the Bearcats.

Sabrina Gutierrez, another Second Team All-NWC selection last year, will start the season at #2 singles for the Bearcats.