Shani Blecher and Laura Claus entered the ITA doubles rankings at No. 58
March 27, 2013
No. 51 San Diego (7-7, 2-1) vs. BYU (7-7, 1-2)
Friday, March 29, 1:30 p.m.
No. 51 San Diego (7-7, 2-1) vs. No. 56 San Diego State (9-4)
Monday, April 1, 11:00 a.m.
Both matches will be played at the Hogan Tennis Center
LAST TIME OUT: The Toreros just returned from a three match WCC road trip, where they went 2-1. The Toreros kicked off the road swing with 6-1 win over Gonzaga on Friday. USD earned the doubles point after Laura Claus and Shani Blecher won 8-4 at the doubles No. 1 and Cara Brown and Marta Stojanovic won 8-5 at the No. 3. In singles, Laura Claus, Stephanie Hoffpauir, Shani Blecher, Anna Depenau, and Cara Brown all took care of business to give the Toreros the 6-1 victory.
On Saturday, the Toreros won 5-2 at Portland. After sweeping doubles play, the Toreros won four singles matches to claim their second WCC victory. Shani Blecher, Anna Depenau, Marta Stojanovic all won in two sets at the No. 3, 4, and 5 spots. Cara Brown won at the No. 6 by default.
On Tuesday, the Toreros took on Saint Mary's in a battle for first place in the WCC. After the long road trip the Toreros were a bit banged up and were forced to retire in two of the singles matches on their way to a 5-0 defeat. The Toreros lost the doubles point after losing at the No. 2 and 3, and then dropped singles matches at the No. 2 and 1.
SCOUTING THE COUGARS: The Cougars and Toreros both hold a 7-7 overall record. This match is a big one in the WCC race since the Cougars are 1-2 and the Toreros are 2-1... After opening WCC play with a 5-2 win over Portland, the Cougars lost consecutive matches on the road to San Francisco and Santa Clara... Aubrey Paul, BYU's No. 6, holds a 9-3 singles record, which sets up a showdown with the Toreros Cara Brown (8-2 in singles)... The Cougars feature two strong doubles tandems. Morgan Anderson and MacKenna Maddox hold an 8-2 record at the No. 2 and Aubrey Paul and Desiree Tran are 8-1 at the No. 3... Lauren Jones-Spencer has been the BYU coach since 2010. Before that she was an assistant for two years... The Toreros hold a 7-6 advantage in the all-time series and beat the Cougars 5-2 in Provo last year.
SCOUTING THE AZTECS: The No. 56 San Diego State Aztecs hold a 9-4 overall record... They will face Sacramento State on Thursday... The Aztecs are 3-0 against WCC teams this season with wins over St. Mary's (4-3), LMU (6-1), and Pepperdine (5-2)... The Aztecs are led in singles by Laura Antonana, who is 10-3 at the No. 3... Tami Nguyen holds a 9-4 record, playing primarily at the No. 5... Peter Mattera is in his 20th season with the Aztecs. He has led the team to 15 winning seasons and holds a 275-189 career record... The Aztecs lead the all-time series 22-13, but the Toreros won the last time these teams met 5-2 at SDSU last season.
IN THE MIX: The Toreros dropped six spots to No. 51 in the latest ITA team rankings despite going 2-0 over the weekend... Laura Claus remained in the singles rankings but dropped from No. 87 to 108... However, Claus and her doubles partner Shani Blecher made their debut in the doubles rankings at No. 58
WE'RE GOING STREAKING: The Toreros have been streaky for the entire month of March. USD opened the month with four consecutive losses, all of which were to ranked teams. The losing streak caused the Toreros to drop out of the ITA team rankings for the first time all season, but the team responded with a four match win streak. The streak was highlighted by an upset over No. 6 Nebraska, which helped vault the Toreros back into the rankings.
DYNAMIC DUO: Laura Claus and Shani Blecher entered the ITA's doubles rankings for the first time of the season. The tandem is 6-3 on the season, playing at the No. 1 and 2. Two of their three losses came to against doubles pairs ranked in the top 25.
BRINGING UP THE REAR: The Toreros back end of their singles lineup has been the team's anchor to success. The team holds a 10-4 record at the No. 5 spot with freshman Marta Stojanovic going 6-2. The Toreros are 7-4 at the No. 6, where senior captain Cara Brown has a 7-2 record.
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 USDToreros.com 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.
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 just in time for conference play "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."
WCC WATCH: There are only two WCC teams currently ranked by the ITA. Saint Mary's (9-7, 4-0), who was picked the finish second in the preseason poll, holds the highest ranking at No. 43. USD (7-7, 2-1) sits behind them at No. 51. LMU (7-5, 0-0) broke into the rankings for the first time last week at No. 75 but fell out despite going 2-0 last week. Pepperdine, who was the preseason pick to win the WCC, has struggled so far this season and is currently 3-10.
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.