40 in 40 - 2000's Women's Tennis Dominance
Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Title IX, wmubroncos.com takes a look at 40 key moments/females in the history of women's athletics at Western Michigan University. Though the selection process, an effort was made to highlight a moment and player/coach from each of our current women's sports programs, as well pay respect to our women's legacy sports. A different feature will be released each of the 40 days, July 24 through Sept. 1.
WMU Women's Tennis 2005-08
32-0 Mid-American Conference Record
Four Consecutive Conference Championships
Reached #49 National Ranking in 2006
The Western Michigan women's tennis program has long ranked among the very best in the history of the conference, having finished no lower than third place since Betsy Kuhle took the reins of the program. The program's highlights are numerous, including their first conference championship in 1984 and a three-year stretch at the end of the 1990s that saw the Broncos win three straight conference championships and make it to two NCAA tournaments.
However, the most dominant stretch for the Broncos came in the mid-2000s, when conference opponents were quite literally unable to knock the Broncos off their perch. To hear Kuhle tell it, it was a perfect storm of factors that led to the team's prominence.
"That was a great time in our program's history," said Kuhle. "It was really sort of the beginning of the international player arriving in the United States. They had been here to that point, but not to to the magnitude as it was at that time."
"And then, we just happened to get a bunch of kids that were best friends," said Kuhle. "Hard working, talented, good students...those players were the most disciplined group I've ever had."
In 2005, the Broncos shot to #55 in the national rankings with a 20-6 overall record and a perfect 8-0 mark against MAC competition; after a 4-3 win over powerhouse #70 Marshall and a 5-2 win over perennial conference challenger Miami, the Broncos would proceed to drop just two points total in their final seven MAC regular season matches. Kuhle says that the explanation for the group's continued success is simple.
"Winning is an addiction," said Kuhle. "Once we beat Marshall, we wanted to dominate."
It would be just the start. In 2006 the Broncos again posted a 20-6 overall record, topping out at #49 in the nation and again sweeping through MAC play. The Broncos were so dominant that season, it was an accomplishment for MAC opponents just to put points on the board; WMU won all of their matches by either 7-0 or 6-1 scores, and recorded three straight 4-0 shutouts in the MAC Tournament to reach the NCAA Tournament.
"That 2006 team was probably the best I've coached here," said Kuhle. "Ryan Tomlinson and I would joke and say we could have just driven up, dropped them off, gone out for a cup of coffee, and come back at the end of the match. It wasn't about us."
Malena Remynse would take MAC Player of the Year honors as the Broncos' No. 1 singles player, while Kerstin Pahl would start her illustrious career by being named the MAC Freshman of the Year.
The Broncos would continue the dominance in 2007 with a 22-7 dual match record and an 8-0 record in MAC play. WMU would again blow through the MAC Tournament, shutting out Northern Illinois and Bowling Green before downing Buffalo 4-1 and earning their second straight NCAA Tournament berth.
The Broncos would go undefeated in conference play one more time, posting an 8-0 record during the 2008 season en route to their fourth straight conference championship. The Broncos would finish the season ranked #60 in the national rankings, with Pahl earning MAC Player of the Year honors as a junior with a 17-6 dual match singles record and a perfect 8-0 record against conference's other No. 1s. Noriko Saruta would graduate as the program's career leader in wins with 212.