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Courtesy: Gonzaga Athletics

Women's Tennis Opens Spring Season At Home Against Seattle U

Courtesy: Gonzaga Athletics
          Release: 01/28/2012
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SPOKANE, Wash. - After taking three months off, the Gonzaga University women's tennis team is ready to get back onto the court and open its spring season.

The Bulldogs open the dual season with a four-match home stand starting with Seattle University Sunday at 10 a.m. at the Spokane Racquet Club.

The Bulldogs reported to practice last week, the first gathering since the end of the fall season in October. D.J. Gurule, in his eighth year at the helm, said the Bulldogs had a longer break than usual but he's not worried about having only a week to prepare for the spring season.

"We are ready and excited to get back onto the court. We actually had a little hit the day before school started but nothing formal. There wasn't a reason for us to come back early," Gurule said.

After the Bulldogs put together an impressive run in the fall season, Gurule said he will use this home stand to determine who will travel during their upcoming eight-match road stretch.

"It seems year after year we always have a very highly competitive team, and this year is no different," Gurule said. "We're lucky to have our first four matches at home. To be able to have our full squad here will definitely help us. After these matches it will help determine the travel squad."

The Bulldogs compiled for a record of 45-42 in singles in the fall season. Senior Kristina Zauere and freshman Kylie Peek both enter the spring season leading the Bulldogs with seven wins and freshman Katie Edwards is right behind them with six.

Edwards and Peek had a strong performance in their collegiate debut at the University of Texas - San Antonio Roadrunners Fall Tournament. The two met in the final round in one of the main draw finals, with Edwards picking up the victory 6-4, 7-6 (7-1) to become the first freshman to win a tournament title since Rika Mehndiratta in 2008.

Peek had another impressive run at the Eastern Washington University Fall Classic. She reached to the final round in one of the main draws but came up short from clinching the title. Also in the tournament, Zauere was eliminated in the first round of the main draw but she bounced back and won the consolation bracket title.

Also returning this spring are seniors Sophie Lantta and Madeline Parker, juniors Prue Teitzel, Britta Stime and Taurie Bjerken, sophomore Hanley Caras and freshman Alexandra Tallas.

The Bulldogs didn't have a strong performance in doubles as they did in singles last fall. Gurule made 12 different pairings and altogether they went 19-23, with the team of Zauere and Teitzel leading the effort with four wins.

Gurule said he has seen an improvement in doubles since practice resumed last week.

"We're definitely a lot closer than we were in the fall. I think we have a better idea of who we want together and what's going to work," Gurule said. "I want to see them play matches against somebody besides each other and see how the pairings work. But I'm confident with where we are at with doubles. We'll make a couple of tweaks here and there but I think we are ready to start the season."

Gurule said he has been very pleased with the leadership of captains Zauere and Lantta so far.

"They are digging in. They are doing a great job shaping the team atmosphere," Gurule said. "But their real work starts once we start the season and making sure our team is one cohesive unit that's fighting for the same goal."

The Bulldogs schedule has a different look this year. The 2012 spring season will mark the first time all nine West Coast Conference teams will compete in a single round robin bracket. Gonzaga will play 10 straight non-conference matches before playing nine of the remaining 12 against West Coast Conference opponents.

The WCC will be tough this year for the Bulldogs. Four of the schools entered the spring season ranked in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Top 75 rankings. Pepperdine University led the pack at No. 26, followed by the University of San Diego at No. 33, Saint Mary's College at No. 41 and Santa Clara University at No. 70.

The Bulldogs goal this season is to get the highest seed and win the WCC Championships, which will be April 25-28 in San Diego, Calif. But the road to the WCC Championships will be a challenge.

"The end of March and into April is loaded and tough," Gurule said. "It seems like it comes up on us faster and faster but it will definitely be a busy April. If we stay healthy, we'll be in good shape."

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