It has been a pretty good run for women’s tennis. The team has lost only one of its last 21 matches and that was to a Div. I Dartmouth team in the fall of 2001. Last year, the spring season treated the team well as they went on a spectacular 15-match winning streak to earn its first NCAA title over Trinity (TX) in Texas.
The Ephs fell three points short of repeating as New England champions this past fall thanks to arch-rival Amherst, but that was with a lineup that did not have two significant players who led the Ephs to the 2001 NCAA title.
Caroline Wasserman ’03 and Tracy Cheung ’03, who were studying abroad at the time, did not compete at last fall’s New England Championships.
“I think obviously if you haven’t played in a while your performance is going to suffer,” said Cheung. “At the same time, if your effort and determination and intensity is still there when you return there’s no reason that you can’t quickly reach and overcome the level you were used to playing at.”
Unfortunately for Head Coach Julie Greenwood and the Ephs, a slipped disk in her back will sideline the All-American Wasserman during the spring season.
The Ephs return players at seven of the 12 positions from last year’s NCAA championship match. Lost to graduation were Brooke Gibson ’01 who played number four singles and teamed with Alison Swain ’01 at number three doubles.
While Greenwood lost two NCAA tournament-tested players to graduation and one to injury, she will welcome back one NCAA tournament-tested player in two-time All-American, Jasmine Bradley ’02. Bradley is another player back after spending time abroad, although she spent the entire 2000-01 academic year studying overseas.
At number one singles is tri-captain Selma Kikic ’02. Kikic is a three-time All-American who has won the last two ITA New England singles titles and teamed with Steph Hall ’04 last September to win the 2001 ITA New England doubles title.
Along with great skill, Kikic brings a sense of team unity and competitiveness that is rarely found in Div. III. Kikic is the heart of the Williams lineup. This past fall Kikic also won the number one singles title at the New England Div. III championships.
“Selma is an exceptional player, competitor and leader. Her presence on this team is absolutely invaluable,” said Greenwood.
Wasserman was projected to return at number two singles prior to her injury. Wasserman was a NCAA singles semifinalist in 2001 and was undefeated in #2 singles and #2 doubles during the 2001 NCAA tourney.
Either Julie Mallory ’04 or Cheung will move into Wasserman’s number two singles spot. Last fall, Mallory won the number two singles title at the 2001 New England Div. III championships and she also played at number three doubles. In her first year on campus Mallory played number six singles in the NCAA title match and it was her gutsy come-from-behind triumph that sealed the title match for the Ephwomen.
“Julie’s game and competitive temperament have grown tremendously,” said Greenwood. “She showed in the fall that she is ready to compete successfully at or near the top of our lineup and I am excited about the potential for her to build on that success this spring.”
“Our schedule this spring is a really strong one,” said Mallory. “Our first matches will be in San Diego, and, new to the schedule this year, we’re going to be able to play a few other strong southern teams as the year progresses.
“I think this intense schedule will really push us and prepare us well. We have an impressive line-up and I see nothing stopping us as the spring season sets in. In terms of Amherst, we always are prepared for a challenge, and though we beat them in our duel match this Fall, we defintiely want revenge from our loss to them at New Englands.”
Cheung played number three singles last spring and number one doubles with Kikic, so if she does not move up to number two singles she will be right at home at number three.
She is a talented athlete with an aggressive all-court game and provides tremendous competitive leadership. Cheung will likely play a significant role in doubles as well; last spring she advanced to the semifinals of the NCAA doubles with Kikic and earned All-America honors.
Gibson played number four singles in the historic win over Trinity (TX) last May. Greenwood will have to decide between a duo of sophomores and Bradley to fill Gibson’s spots. The likely candidate will be Kate Troy ’04, who played #5 singles on last year’s championship team and finished second in New England at #3 last fall.
Bradley and Hall will likely battle for the fifth and sixth slots on the team. They flip-flopped in the lineup in the fall, with Hall ending up one spot ahead of Bradley. Hall is coming off a strong fall season that saw her team with Kikic win the ITA New England doubles title and advance to the finals of the New England Div. III championships at number four singles.
Bradley took the number five singles title last fall at the New England Div. III championships and teamed with Troy to advance to the finals of the number two doubles. She is incredibly experienced and competitive and Greenwood is expecting her to be a huge presence on the team this spring.
“Jasmine finished the fall playing great tennis after struggling a bit to get back her competitive edge after a year away and I expect her to be a solid member of the singles and doubles lineup this spring,” said Greenwood.
“She has the ability to really do some damage.”
Brittany Binet ’05 had an impressive fall campaign playing at number six singles and advanced to the finals of the New England Div. III championships. She is improving rapidly and will contend for a spot in both singles and doubles.
Tentatively, Greenwood is looking at the following parings in doubles play: Kikic and Hall, Cheung and Bradley/Hall and Troy and Binet/Mallory.
“I am very excited about the challenges and opportunities that will be presented to us as the NCAA Div. III defending champions,” said Julie Greenwood. “Our spring schedule is the most demanding and competitive that we have ever faced and should provide us with the experience we will need to play our best by the end of the season.”
“We have the talent and the leadership to repeat the success we had last spring,” said Cheung. “Everyone is focused and determined, it should be an exciting spring.”