Title defense for women’s tennis off on the right foot

Women’s tennis (1-0-0; 1-0-0 NESCAC) began its title defense by dominating Vassar by a score of 9-0 in the team’s season opener on Saturday.

The singles matches were easily won by the two-time defending champions, who didn’t lose a single set. In fact, the closest Vassar came to capturing a set was a still distant 6-3 in the third round, eventually won by Steph Hall ’04. All other sets were won by a score of 6-2 or better – in those matches the victors were Alex Maclennan ’06, Julie Mallory ’04, Hall, Caroline Wasserman ’03, Kate Troy ’04 and Tina Howe ’03.

“I just lost my focus for a little while,” Hall said half-jokingly about her 6-3 set. “I got a little ahead of myself.”

“[It was a] good match to have first,” Hall said. “First matches are always tough; it’s a good hump to get over.”

The Ephs were equally superior in doubles, again victorious without dropping a single set. The victorious pairs were Wasserman/Hall, Tracey Cheung ’03/Maclennan and Mallory/Troy.

The win could be taken as proof-positive that the team hasn’t skipped a beat despite the losses of its former Head Coach, Julie Greenwood ’96, and two of its strongest players in recent years, Selma Kikic ’02 and Jasmine Bradley ’02, who graduated last June.

The team now features two first-years, Maclennan and Courtney Bartlett ’06. Maclennan comes to Williams from Los Angeles, Calif., where she played for Harvard-Westlake, a prep school known for perennial athletic prowess as well as outstanding academics. Maclennan was the number one singles player yesterday. Bartlett, from the outskirts of Atlanta, GA, is still recovering from a case of mononucleosis she contracted over the summer and has yet to have played in a scored game.

“Still recovering and focusing on being positive,” said Bartlett. “I’m just hoping everything will fall into place in the future. As for our first match, the team played really solidly and everyone showed that they were mentally tough.”

The team also features two seniors who are rejoining the team after a year’s absence. Wasserman missed the 2002 season due to an injury. Howe also missed the 2002 season because she was studying abroad in the United Kingdom, where she played for the women’s Blues team of Oxford University. Wasserman and Howe are two of the team’s three captains; Tracy Cheung ’03 is the third.

Replacing Greenwood at the helm is fellow alum Sarah Marks ’00, who actually was a player under Greenwood during her years at Williams. Marks has her work cut out for her, however, as she is charged with the task of replicating the success of the Greenwood era.

Greenwood, who will be spending her sabbatical year pursuing her master’s degree in education at Stanford University, amassed an impressive 80-12 (.870) record over her five-year tenure as Head Coach. Her teams featured 11 All-Americans and became the first team to ever repeat as NCAA Champions (2001, 2002.)

There would not appear to be a more auspicious beginning to Marks’ tenure than the one her team turned in against Vassar. Marks’ knowledge of the game is as vast as it comes and is described by her players as personable and easy-going. In fact, when Marks was a senior at Williams she played with Wasserman, Howe, and Cheung.

“She’s great,” Hall said. “She played here so she knows the dynamic of our team.”

So should fans and foes alike expect a three-peat?

“It’s very possible,” Hall said. “It’s definitely a goal we’re going to shoot for, but there’s no pressure on us because no team had ever repeated championship seasons [until last year], let alone go on to a three-peat.”

Next week, the Ephs face Trinity College, whom the Ephs defeated last year in the regional finals, at home.