Monday press conference: Patti Henderson

UW women's tennis coach discussed her team's recent performances and the season-to-date

"So far we've had a good season, although our streak came to an abrupt halt yesterday down in Bloomington, which was unfortunate, although, as I spoke with the team yesterday after that loss, the positive thing out of that situation was we just finished, it was a very, it's been a tough couple of weeks. We just had five matches in eight days. We had spring break and had to come back early from that to play Michigan and Michigan State and then Notre Dame, and then travel to Penn State and Indiana, which is a challenging travel trip. So we finished that stretch of five matches 4 for 5 and so that was very positive.

"On the thing that we need to learn from that is I felt like yesterday against Indiana was the first time in probably a month where we had some people have, you know, mini-breakdowns, so to speak, and weren't able to regroup, which they'd been able to regroup in the past three weeks from those situations.

"And so I feel like right now we're just looking forward to, we're home for the next two weeks. It gives us an opportunity to finally get back and actually address some of the things, that even though you may sort of see some things creeping up, we weren't really in a situation where we could address them a lot because of our competitive schedule. So now we're at a point where we can look at that and work in earnest at a couple of those areas and hopefully regroup and go into this weekend and play some solid tennis."

You've had NCAA tournament teams before, but how does this compare? Is this one of your better teams, do you think, on just the whole, the depth of it?

"What this team has proven to show is that they're very, very resilient and they have great perseverance, and, for the most part, like as I mentioned, Sunday was an exception to the rule. So, you know, most of the time these young ladies are stepping onto the court, and whatever the situation, they're going to fight to the end. You can't ask for more than that out of any student-athlete. And so I feel like we've got that on board.

"We're young. Four out of the six spots we have are underclassmen, are two freshmen, two sophomores, and then two seniors. So, you know, in the big picture, we're young in that regard as well. And that's, I think, been in a situation for doubles, because that's been an area that we've been trying to solidify some doubles combinations for us so that when we step onto a match we start with doubles that we know what we're going to get.

"Right now in the singles court, we know what we're going to get nine times out of ten from each of our athletes. And on the doubles, we don't have that same assuredness of what exactly we're going to see, and we're working to find that balance and make sure that we can be and put forth a very competitive effort on the double side of things."

Can you tell us a little bit about Kaylan Caiati and Caitlin Burke as singles players, but also work together in doubles? Is that right?

"Yeah, you're right. Well, Kaylan Caiati is every tennis player's worst nightmare basically. I look at as a coach, for me, I look at it as, you know, you're going to play somebody and you've got, you know, what's between their ears, their head, their heart, and their skill level. And Kaylan Caiati's heart and head are unbelievable; never in doubt, never questioned. And so, therefore, she gets the most out of her talent.

"And, you know, if you're not ready to play her, she is going to drive you nuts, and she's proven to do that this year and last year too. So she's, you know, a little bit reminiscent of Barbara Urbanska on our team who was somewhat similar. You know, her talent level was not, you know, as high as some other players, but, boy, step out on the court and you know she's going to use every faculty that she's got to come out with a W and that's how Kaylan is.

"And Caitlin Burke, you know, she's a phenomenal tennis player. She was, you know, one of the most storied tennis players out of the state of Wisconsin. Great talent. She, you know, last year spent the first eight months and she was unable to play, you know, showed a lot of courage in just stepping in and playing in the last month of the season for us. Did it, you know, did a great job there, got a lot of experience, moved away from the lineup from six to three.

"And this year, she stepped in at two and she's done a phenomenal job. No, she didn't do as well as either (assistant coach) Erin Boisclair or myself had expected. She played at one this weekend. She was coming off of like an eight-game winning streak or something, playing very, very solid. And I think that's, you know, that's part of her growing process... Erin and I both know she's going to improve from that and learn from that and use that experience to her benefit."

So will she stay at No. 1 or is that a fluid situation as the season goes along?

"Fluid, that's a good word. Fluid. It's fluid. It's definitely fluid. In all honesty, if you had told me going into this weekend that we would have been 1-3 at positions 1 and 2 for us, I would have said no way. You know, we're going to be 2-2 at a minimum and 3-1 or 4-0. So what do we do? Erin and I haven't decided exactly how we're going to handle that, but fluid it is. Good word."

Patti, if you go by rankings, and Pat before said Minnesota's ranking was a joke, is Wisconsin the best team in the Big Ten if you go by the rankings?

"Northwestern is the best team. They're No. 2 in the country. So they're very, very good... They have proven in the last five years or so in our conference to be very deserving of that. And, you know, they are a level above. I mean, when we played Northwestern, we played them very, very well. We lost 5-2, but we played them very, very well.

"After Northwestern, you know, I think we have the ability, absolutely, to be 2. We could also be No. 11. In our conference, every single team right now is ranked. We have every team in the conference that has a national ranking. I think it shows the parity when you see we beat Michigan 4-3, we beat Notre Dame 4-3, we lose to Indiana 5-2 and probably should have been a 4-3 match. So, you know, there's a lot of parity, and I think the key is just riding those waves of confidence when you have them and then regrouping from them and going forth from there."

Coach, can you talk a little bit then about specifically what do you expect from Iowa and Minnesota then this weekend?

"Yeah. Iowa has a new coach who's actually, you know, friend of mine, a fellow Canadian, Daryl Greenan, and he just stepped in at sort of like Thanksgiving time with their program, after they had been coachless for the fall. I think he worked at Alabama as an assistant coach there, where Jenny Mines and he had done a great job and got that team ranked in the top 20, so he knows what he's doing. He knows what it's about.

"I think he's definitely working the girls very, very hard there, and they've, you know, they've responded. I mean, they're having a good year. I mean, they lost this weekend to Michigan. I don't know how they did against Michigan State. But they're talented. They have some very good players and you have to be ready to play. And Minnesota, likewise, is a much better, much improved team from the last two years. So they're going to be tough as well."

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