Toreros Jump Up To No. 45 in the ITA Rankings

USDTOREROSDOTCOM Stephanie Hoffpauir and the Toreros open up WCC play with a season-high No. 45 team ranking
Stephanie Hoffpauir and the Toreros open up WCC play with a season-high No. 45 team ranking

March 19, 2013


No. 45 San Diego (5-6, 0-1) vs. Gonzaga (9-4, 0-2)

Friday, March 22, 2013, 11:00 a.m. Spokane Racquet Club

No. 45 San Diego (5-6, 0-1) vs. Portland (7-6, 1-1)

Saturday, March 23, 2013, 10:00 a.m. Louisiana-Pacific Tennis Center

LAST TIME OUT: The Toreros entered the weekend on a four match losing streak, but were able to notch a pair of wins, highlighted by a 5-2 upset over 6th ranked Nebraska Sunday afternoon. First the Toreros escaped a loss to Wake Forest (1-11) on Saturday with a 4-3 victory at the Lomas Santa Fe Country Club. After losing the doubles point, the Toreros rallied to win four singles matches to snag the victory. Mikayla Morkel-Brink earned her first win of her Toreros career with a 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 win at the No. 5 and Cara Brown sealed the victory with a 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 win at the No. 6.

The Toreros followed that with their biggest win of the season, a 5-2 victory over 6th ranked Nebraska (15-2), who had won ten matches in a row. After once again losing the doubles point, the Toreros had to make up ground in singles play. After Stephanie Hoffpauir lost to Nebraska's 10th ranked Mary Weatherholt, the Toreros would win the next five singles matches with freshman Marta Stojanovic clinching the huge win for USD.  "I don't know what it was, but there was something about today," Head Coach Sherri Stephens said after the match. "There was a sense of peace, but at the same time I felt the girls were ready to play and they competed extremely well. I'm hoping that all of this, all that we've worked for, has now shown itself in this match and we can continue that the rest of the way through the end of the season."



SCOUTING THE BULLDOGS: The Zags were in Orlando last weekend where they won all three of their matches (Robert Morris, South Carolina State, and Radford) to improve their overall record to 9-4... The Bulldogs have played two WCC opponents thus far, losing to Saint Mary's and Portland, both by a score of 6-1... Samantha Polayes holds an 11-1 singles record (9-1 at the No. 4) and has won her last seve matches... Franziska Koehler is 7-2 (6-0 at the No. 6) in singles and has won four matches in a row... The Bulldogs No. 1 doubles pair holds a 6-3 record... Gonzaga coach D.J. Gurule is in his sixth season as the Zags head coach. Last year he had a program-best four players earn All-WCC Honors... The Toreros are 4-0 all-time against Gonzaga and beat them 7-0 last year. 

SCOUTING THE PILOTS: The Pilots enter the week with a 7-6 overall record. They are 1-1 in conference play, losing to Saint Mary's 5-2 on February 6th and beating Gonzaga 6-1 on March 9th... The Pilots are 0-3 against ranked teams... Portland has yet to play a match outside of Oregon, Washington, or Idaho, although the Pilots will travel to BYU on Wednesday... Portland head Coach Susie Campbell-Gross (20th season) is the winningest coach in program history and has been named WCC Coach of the Year twice... The Toreros have never lost to Portland, holding an 8-0 all-time record. USD beat Portland 7-0 last year.

IN THE MIX: After knocking off No. 6 Nebraska, the Toreros jumped up to No. 45 in the latest ITA team rankings. The Toreros had fallen out of the rankings for the first time all season last week, but it didn't take long for them to make it back in. The No. 45 ranking is the highest the Toreros have had all season. They were at No. 48 to begin the season

TORERO FIRSTS: On Saturday against Wake Forest, junior Nicole Ramser made her Torero debut playing at the No. 3 doubles spot with Mikayla Morkel-Brink. The duo was edged out 8-6, but Morkel-Brink later earned her first win of her Torero career at the No. 5 spot in singles where she won 2-6, 6-3, 6-4

TORERO SPOTLIGHT: Freshman Shani Blecher, who has won three singles matches in a row, has caught the eyes of not only her opponents but of as well. Student reporter Michelle Human sat down with Shani and wrote a wonderful piece on her talking about the transformation from life in Israel to collegiate tennis in San Diego. To read the story, click here

BRINGING UP THE REAR: Senior captain Cara Brown has been solid at the No. 6 spot all season long. Brown has won three of her last four and has an overall singles dual match record of 7-2 

DOUBLE TROUBLE: The Toreros have not won a doubles points since their 2013 season opener against Cal State Fullerton. However, behind strong singles play the Toreros have been able to win five of their eleven matches, most of which came against ranked teams.

GOING AGAINST THE BEST: Nine of the Toreros' first eleven matches have been against ranked opponents, with four of them coming against teams ranked in the top ten. The Toreros are 3-6 in those matches, most recently knocking off No. 6 Nebraska who had won ten matches in a row. The win gives the Toreros a huge boost of confidence as they enter conference play this weekend. "More than anything, this proves to the girls what we kind of knew, that we are just as good as most of the teams in the nation. We've been tested several times this year by some top teams, but we haven't quite broken through," Stephens said after win over Nebraska. "I think the girls were unsure if they could do it, and were starting to get a little nervous." 

CONFERENCE UPDATE: There are three WCC teams currently ranked by the ITA. USD holds the highest ranking at No. 45. Saint Mary's (7-6, 3-0), who was picked to finished second in the preseason poll, currently sits at No. 52. LMU (5-5, 0-0) entered the rankings for the first time all season at No. 75. Pepperdine, who was the preseason pick to win the WCC, has struggled so far this season and is currently 2-9.


IN THE MIX: After the Toreros fell out of the ITA rankings this week, there is now only one WCC team ranked. Saint Mary's (7-6, 3-0), who was picked to finished second in the preseason poll, currently sits at No. 45. Pepperdine, who was the preseason pick to win the WCC, has struggled so far this season and is currently 2-9.

PLUGGING THE PROGRAM: The Toreros 2013 promotional video has been released. The video highlights the program's proud history, the new court surfaces at the Hogan Tennis Center, and the current Toreros tennis players. The video was shot and edited by senior captain Cara Brown. The video can be seen below.


PRESEASON PRAISE: The Toreros were picked to finish third in the 2013 WCC preseason poll and junior Anna Depenau was one of six WCC players named to the preseason WCC all-conference team. The Toreros, who won their first WCC Championship in school history last season, received 54 points overall. No. 64 USD came in behind conference favorite Pepperdine (who is now 0-8) and Saint Mary's (7-6, 3-0). The Waves, who had three players named to the preseason all conference team, received six first place votes and 61 points overall, while the Gaels received three first place votes and 56 points overall.

2011-12 IN REVIEW: The 2011-12 season was one of the best seasons in USD women's tennis history. The Toreros went 13-9 and 9-2 in WCC play on their way to winning their first WCC Championship in school history. The Toreros finished the season ranked No. 50 and qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year, where they fell to No. 28 Vanderbilt 4-1. Head Coach Sherri Stephens received WCC Coach of the Year for the third time in her career and for the second straight year after helping the team earn seven All-WCC selections. Highlighting the honors were senior Juliette Coupez and sophomore Anna Depenau, who both earned first-team All-WCC recognition in singles. Junior Laura Claus earned honorable mention honors as well. In doubles, Depenau and senior Maja Sujica took home first-team accolades, while Coupez and Claus were named to the second team.

MEET HEAD COACH Sherri Stephens: Coach Stephens is entering her 29th season with the Toreros and has a career record of 334-299 (.528). Stephens arrived at USD in the fall of 1984 and immediately began to reshape the women's tennis fortunes. During her time coaching the Toreros, she has advanced her team to the NCAA Tournament 11 times (1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2011 and 2021). The Toreros have finished among the nation's top-25 in eight seasons, with a high of #14 in 1989, (18-8 overall record), which was USD's first team to advance to the NCAA's. Stephens has also had five Toreros receive a total of twelve NCAA All-American honors: Tonya Fuller (1991), Laura Richards (1992, 1993), Julie McKeon (1992, 1993, 1994), most recently Zuzana Lesenarova (1997, 1998, 1999, 2000), and Katarina Valkyova (1999, 2000).

Stephens wrapped up her 28th season (2011-12) at USD by leading the Toreros to their first ever WCC championship with a 4-2 win over Pepperdine and garnering her second consecutive WCC Coach of the Year honor. Stephens' squad made their 11th overall trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2011-12 and second in a row. In 2010-11, Stephens helped lead the Toreros to a 19-6 record, the highest win total in her tenure at the University of San Diego, and winning her second-career West Coast Conference Coach of the Year honor. Stephens guided the Toreros to their first NCAA appearance since 1999, defeating UNLV in the first round by a score of 4-2 before falling to host UCLA 4-0 in the second round. The second round finish matched the best NCAA finish in USD history and the fifth time Stephens has led the Toreros to the second round.

Under Stephens' guidance the Toreros came in second in the WCC Championships behind Pepperdine in 2011 and placed all six regulars on the All-WCC singles and doubles teams. The Toreros also posted their best team winning percentage in 2011 with a .760 mark under Stephens, while also setting a new team record with a 14-1 record at Hogan Tennis Center and tying the team record with nine dual match shutouts on the year. Stephens helped guide USD to a team-record 11-consecutive dual match victories and their highest ranking (23rd) since the 1994 season. The Toreros also spent five straight weeks in the Campbell/ITA Top-25 after opening the season with a No. 67 ranking.

In 2010, Stephens notched her 300th career win en route to a 13-12 dual record, a final ITA ranking of #65, and a third place finish at the WCC Championships. Also in 2010, former Torero great, Zuzana Lesenarova, the 1999 NCAA Division I Singles Champion and four-time ITA All-American, was inducted into the WCC Hall of Honor.

With Coach Stephen's leadership, the Toreros have gained respect as a national contender and she has turned the women's tennis program into one of the most respected programs in the nation. Coach Stephens has had two memorable seasons (1998-1999, 1999-2000) with the Toreros. During the 1999-2000 season, USD women's tennis team, which finished with a national ranking of 75 had two individuals appear in the NCAA Division I Women's Tennis Tournament held in Malibu, CA. Zuzana Lesenarova advanced to the third round of the singles tournament, eventually losing to Stanford's Laura Granville in three sets (6-0, 4-6, 6-3). Katarina Valkyova lost in the first round to Cincinnati's Kara Molony in three sets (6-0, 3-6, 6-3). The Lesenarova/ Valkyova duo entered the NCAA doubles tournament ranked No. 1 in the nation, but had to withdraw due to injury. Both Lesenarova and Valkyova earned NCAA All-American honors in 2000.

In the 1998-1999 season, her squad finished 14-11 overall, advancing to the 2nd round of the NCAA's and finishing with a national ranking of 28. Zuzana Lesenarova won the 1999 NCAA Singles Championship, holding her No. 1 ranking all spring and winning three of four ITA Grand Slam events. Kataring Valkyova was a third alternate at the NCAA's and she advanced to the quarters where Lesenarova dealt her a three-set loss. The duo teamed up in doubles play to advance to the NCAA semifinal round. Lesenarova and Valkyova were named 1999 NCAA All-Americans.

Well-respected among her peers in the coaching profession, Stephens has been a featured speaker at several ITA Coaches' Conventions. Twice she has had the privilege of coaching at the Olympic Sports Festival (1993/South, 1995/West), with her 1995 squad winning the gold medal. She was named the 1994 Female Coach of the Year by the USTA, Southern California Section/San Diego District. Sherri has been involved with numerous administrative positions within collegiate tennis such as: the NCAA Ranking Committee, the NCAA Rules Committee, and as Tournament Chairman for the All-American National Championships the past five years. She also runs summer camps every year.

Stephens is a native of Phoenix, Arizona, and was a nationally ranked player on the junior circuit before enrolling at the University of Arizona. After completing her collegiate playing career in 1979, she began her coaching career as an assistant for the Arizona Wildcats.