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Zags Look For Break-Out Season In 2007

Jan. 19, 2007

SPOKANE, Wash. - Entering his third season as head coach of the Gonzaga University women's tennis team, D.J. Gurule is looking forward to 2007 being the Bulldogs break-out season.

The Zags bring a mixture of experience and youth to the courts this season, hoping that all of their hard work will pay off and they will continue to make big strides towards solidifying their play in the West Coast Conference.

"This is the best team I have coached in my three years at Gonzaga," said Gurule. "Both talent wise and as the hardest working team I've worked with. They play together great on the court and more importantly, get along off the courts."

In order for Gonzaga to produce its breakout season, Gurule will rely on a solid group of upperclassmen to pace the Zags.

"The girls that were new to the program in my first year, are juniors now," stated Gurule. "They should be able to add a lot and make a big difference as the season moves forward. The later it gets in the season, their experience should really start to make a big impact."

Leading the pack of returning veterans for GU are juniors Emily Anderson and Sydney Lederhouse, both co-captains for this season.

Anderson is coming off of an impressive sophomore season in which she posted a 12-11 record playing in the No.1 position. For her efforts, Anderson was honored with an All-West Coast Conference honorable mention selection. With the honor, Anderson became the first GU women's tennis underclassmen awarded the distinction and the fourth to earn the honor in program history.

"Emily has got a lot coming back this season," added Gurule. "I am really excited for her play this season and expect her to contribute a lot to this squad, especially playing in the top spot."

Lederhouse battled injuries last season en route to a 4-10 singles record. Lederhouse posted a strong fall season in 2006 and is expected to continue to add to her success in the spring season.

"Sydney is battling back from injury," said Gurule. "We are expecting her to be 100 percent healthy this season. Last year she wasn't healthy until March and it was tough trying to get that rust worn off in the final two months of the season."

Joining the mix this season is Michigan State University transfer, Aglaya Kokurina. The sophomore from Uzbekistan is anticipated to make an immediate impact and help add depth to the lineup for the Zags. Kokurina joins the Bulldogs after going 4-1 in singles play last season, including starting the season with a four-match win streak.

"Aglaya just joined the team this spring," said Gurule. "Since joining us, she has really lit a spark. She'll contribute to the team. She brings an excitement to the squad and, once she gets used to our climate and system, she will be a great addition."

Other veterans on the GU roster this season are seniors Kimberly Aigner and Kendall Bates, junior Erin Humphrey and sophomores Courtney Lau and Carrie Schofield.

On the doubles side, Gurule expects Gonzaga to be a strong threat to opponents this year.

"The doubles teams are going to be a big part of our success this year," said Gurule. "We have two really strong teams. If we can win on the doubles side, we will be able to really springboard into the singles and play well."

Anderson and Bates will join forces for one of the doubles teams, while Lederhouse and Humphrey will also join together to form another doubles duo.

"Emily and Kendall have played together for over a year now and have really gelled," added Gurule. "They understand each other and have been playing well together. Sydney and Erin are going to be great. They have played together since their freshman year and really work well together. I believe on any given day they could beat anybody in our conference or anyone we play this season."

The Zags will play a tough schedule in 2007, playing six teams that were nationally ranked prior to the start of the spring season, including four non-conference ranked opponents, highlighted by No. 8 University of North Carolina. The meat of the schedule includes matches against strong regional teams such as Boise State University and Washington State University, both of which are ranked. West Coast Conference play will also pose a challenge, with dual matches against No. 57 University of San Diego and No. 68 Loyola Marymount in addition to the WCC Championship. Rounding out the ranked opponents for GU is No. 73 UC - Santa Barbara, who the Zags will host in Spokane on April 15.

Gonzaga will open the 2007 spring season Saturday, when they travel to Pullman, Wash. to face No. 66 Washington State University at 10 a.m.

"It's taken a while but our team now understands our system and what we want to do," added Gurule. "They know what we expect from each of them. I think everyone is on board and is ready to have a break out year. If we can stay healthy, I expect us to do well."