Falcons Open Season at WSU Cougar Classic

    Senior Christen Monreal
    Senior Christen Monreal

    Sept. 23, 2010

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    The Air Force women's tennis team opens its 2010-11 campaign this weekend at the Washington State Cougar Classic in Pullman, Wash. Action begins on Friday, Sept. 24th and will conclude on Sunday, Sept 26.

    Head coach Kim Gidley enters her 13th season as the program's winningest head coach with 149 victories. The Falcons will send six players, including freshman Anastasia Hueffner, to the tournament. Joining Air Force and Washington State are Boise State, Idaho, Gonzaga, Eastern Washington, Montana, Montana State, Seatllu University and Portland State.

    For updates throughout the tournament, please check the women's tennis page at www.goairforcefalcons.com.

    Here is the 2010-11 season preview:

    The rebuilding process is nearly finished and after last year's impressive performance, the Air Force women's tennis team will receive higher expectations and expect better results in 2010-11. The Falcons improved from six wins in 2007-08 to 16 last season, the most since 1999, and return five of the top singles players from the spring of 2010.

    Add to that nucleus a top recruit and head coach Kim Gidley feels confident about her team continuing to improve this season. Gidley, who enters her 13th campaign at Air Force as the program's all-time leader with 149 victories, hopes her squad can improve on its 16-12 overall and 2-6 league record.

    Leading the way are two seniors that have been instrumental in the turnaround the past two seasons. The team's reigning MVP, Christen Monreal, returns after playing 22 matches at the No. 1 singles position in 2010. She won 10 matches at the top spot and 18 overall, falling just short of her third 20-plus win season. She had a solid doubles season as a junior, going 13-4 overall and 12-3 in dual matches with Christine Molina.

    Sarah Cassman also returns for her final season with the Falcons. The two-time ITA Academic All-American and ITA Arthur Ashe Jr. Sportsmanship winner for the Mountain Reginon won a career-high 25 singles matches last season, the third-highest total on the team, and was 18-10 in dual matches. Cassman was a standout at the Nos. 5 and 6 spots, producing a combined 15-7 record. She is the first Falcon in the Division I era (since 1996) to win at least 20 singles matches in three straight seasons.

    Tahlia Smoke is back for her junior campaign. Smoke made history last fall when she became AFA's first female to be nationally ranked in the Division I era, making the rankings at No. 102 after going 5-0 in singles. She finished the season with a 21-12 overall record and was 16-12 in dual matches, most of them at the No. 2 position. Smoke should enter the season with a bunch of confidence after winning the doubles title and finishing third at the ITA Summer Circuit Event held at the Academy in July.

    Junior Megumi Voight returns to the team after taking her sophomore season off. The four-star recruit out of Alpharetta, Ga., should make an immediate impact in the singles and doubles line-up.

    The two members of the sophomore class exceeded any and all expectations put on them last year as freshmen. They both won at least 20 singles matches in '09-10. Leading the way is Melissa Cecil, who posted 28 overall singles victories, the most by a Falcon in the Division I era (1996) and the most since Laura Simmons won 31 matches during the 1993-94 season. Cecil, who was named the MWC Player of the Week and the USAFA Athlete of the Week in January, finished the campaign with a 28-12 overall record and was 19-6 in dual matches. Cecil also won 16 doubles matches during her first campaign at AFA.

    Molina also had a huge season as a freshman by winning 27 singles and a team-high 23 doubles matches. She is just the third player (Brooke Parsons and Kat Bushey) in the Division I era to win 50 total matches in one season and tied Cassman for the team-lead with 18 dual match singles victories.

    Joining the team this season is freshman Anastasia Hueffner (Portland, Ore.). A product of Lincoln High School, she led her high school team to the state championship last season as a senior while holding a USTA National Ranking in singles and doubles for the last several years. Hueffner, ranked as high as No. 2 in Oregon and No. 3 in the Pacific Northwest Section, is expected to make a big impact in both the singles and doubles line-ups.

    The Falcons will play four tournaments this fall, including the annual USAFA Invitational, which will be played Oct. 1-3 at the Academy. Air Force will also travel to Washington State, Harvard and Florida International.



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