Are you better this year as a team as a whole?
"I hope so. You know, we still have, I mean, it's very early in the season. And we have Caitlin Burke, who was close to being a redshirt freshman for us last year. She came back, she did a phenomenal job the last month of the season for us. She has gone undefeated in dual match play for us this year. So she's right now playing No. 2 singles, and, you know, last year she started off at six and finished at three, so she's a spot higher than where she was and that's going to be a learning curve for her to handle. And this week's going to be very telling for that against this kind of competition.
"Nicole Beck, who was a medical redshirt for us last year, she's in the lineup. And, you know, two weekends ago was the first time she was able to make three days in a row of competition, so that was for us monumental. And if we can keep her healthy, that's obviously going to be very important as well. So far what we've seen, we have improved with all of the returning players, and that's what we look for, just to continue to develop every single day."
Patti, is it a given that you host this tournament every year, or do you go through discussions to determine this?
"It's a given as long as our administration continues to want to host it. We're the only school in the country that has 12 indoor courts. We are the only on-campus facility that can host this event without having to separate and go, like, for instance, Illinois men is hosting it this year. They're hosting it actually at Midtown Tennis Club in Chicago, so they're hosting it off of campus. In the past on their side it's typically been held at Kentucky and Washington, and they use two sites.
"So for the women, we've stepped up to the plate and done a phenomenal job. The coaches, the players, nobody would want to come anywhere other than Madison and hopefully that's the way it continues to be. It's just a phenomenal tournament. As a collegiate player, you want an opportunity to come here this weekend. That's something that you just, you're chomping at the bit, so to speak, to get a chance to be here for this weekend."
Patti, could you talk a little bit about some of the teams that'll be here, a little bit of the level of competition?
"Virtually every top team in the country will be here. We have Stanford, who's the defending national champion. They've won, I believe, eight titles in a row. As a matter of fact, I think on Wednesday they're going to be honored by Governor Doyle down at the Capitol in the afternoon at 3:30. So, you know, they have a great history at this event. Clemson is going to be here, UCLA, Georgia, Duke, you name it, all the powerhouses in our sport will be here."
How does this tournament benefit your players? Is it what you said before, just getting that chance to play those top players, top teams?
"Yeah. Every athlete wants the chance to play against the best. That's something that you strive for. And when you get that opportunity you want to relish it. So for us it's huge in that capacity. It's also huge in the ability for us to recognize, you know, where we are at this level because for NCAA, for tennis it's the Sweet 16. You start with a round of 64 and you get down to the final site, which is around the Sweet 16. And that's, you know, that's what we strive for every year and that's where we'd like to be. So for us, we use it as a measuring stick and a barometer to find out where are we, what do we need to do to get, you know, to that level if we're not there in a given year."