Women’s tennis settles for third place at New Englands

Women’s tennis (4-1; 3-1 in the NESCAC) finished in third place at the three-day New England Div. III (NEWITT) Championships which was hosted by Amherst.

At their concluding tournament of the fall season, the Ephwomen finished behind Tufts and Amherst, which came away with the championship.

The Ephwomen began the tournament with a fury, sweeping all nine games in which they competed on Saturday. Caroline Wasserman ’03, Steph Hall ’04, Julie Mallory ’04, Alex Maclennan ’06, Kate Troy ’04 and Brittany Binet ’05 were all victorious in their singles matches.

The Ephwomen were equally successful in doubles play as the pairings of Wasserman/Hall, Mallory/Troy and Maclennan/Tracy Cheung ’03 all advanced.

At times during the regular season, the Ephs had struggled during their doubles matches so the fast start at the tournament gave the Ephwomen reason to be optimistic.

The next day, however, the Ephwomen displayed strong will and courage but could not match the success they enjoyed the day before. Hall, Troy and Binet each advanced to the finals in their respective flights. Unfortunately, Wasserman, Mallory and Maclennan each tasted defeat in their respective semifinal matches.

The silver lining to all the hard work that the Ephs put in to Saturday’s matches came in the form of another strong round of doubles play, as all pairs advanced to the semifinals. By the end of the day, the Ephwomen were tied with Amherst for first place.

The Ephwomen entered the final day of the tournament confident that they had a legitimate shot at the title, but after a long day of grueling matches they had to leave Amherst with a hard-earned but nonetheless disappointing third place trophy.

The final tally of points was close, but ultimately the difference came in the doubles flights, where the Jeffs pulled away with a sweep.

“New England is always tough because it’s really all about the individual,” Hall said. “It’s just a different setting and I think that affects a lot of people. You also play three or four matches a day so it is really tiring physically.”

“The weekend was very disappointing for us as a team,” Cheung said. “What it showed us was that there is something going on with the team and we have to pinpoint it.

“There are things that we need to work on. I don’t think we’re far from our goals but there are some things that we need to work on.”

Hall won the second flight and Troy won the fifth flight of singles. Wasserman/Hall, Mallory/Troy and Maclennan/Cheung all lost in the semifinals in close pro-sets by final counts of 8-6, 8-5 and 8-6, respectively.

“I beat the girl who I lost to last weekend at Amherst so that was nice,” Hall said. “In doubles we just didn’t play well. There’s really nothing more to say.”

“It was disappointing in that I don’t think we played up to our full potential,” Troy said. “We had hoped for better results and this is going to give us a lot to work towards in terms of the spring season – obviously this isn’t how we wanted to end the weekend.

“We went in with the goal of coming out on top and it’s always disappointing to fall short.”

The tournament concluded the first fall season for Head Coach Sarah Marks, who is filling in for Julie Greenwood, currently on sabbatical at Stanford. The team will practice during the off season and looks to become the first team in NCAA Div. III history to three-peat, after becoming the first to repeat championships last year.

“This was the first time in many years that there were several teams in contention for the New England title, and that made for a lot of great competition throughout the weekend,” Marks said. “While we didn’t finish as high as we would have liked, I think it was a valuable learning experience that will really help our team continue to improve and will make prepare us for the challenges that await us in the spring.”

Earlier this week, in their last dual match of the fall season, the Ephwomen suffered their first defeat in a loss to archrival Amherst (7-1) in the most intense and trying match the Ephwomen had played in all year.

The Ephwomen had only lost one doubles point before heading into Lady Jeff territory; unfortunately, they were swept in doubles en route to a 6-3 loss. Wasserman/Hall, Mallory/Troy and Cheung/Maclennan put forth strong efforts but all fell short.

“It’s always just a really good match and this year it was very close,” Hall said. “I feel like our doubles is what allowed them to win.”

The Ephwomen fared better in singles, splitting the points with Amherst. Unfortunately the Ephwomen would have had to win five of the six points in order to win the match. Mallory, Troy and Binet were all victorious in their games.

“Our match against Amherst was incredibly close and came down to a few points in each of the doubles matches that could have changed the momentum of the whole day,” Marks said. ”Even though we got off to a slow start, the team bounced back to play some really tough singles matches and nearly came away with it in the end.”

The weather was symbolic of the trouble the Ephwomen would face as strong winds and heavy rain drove the fierce rivalry indoors. The defeat marked the first dual match the women’s tennis team had lost in 39 matches.

“It was really disappointing to lose to Amherst,” Cheung said. “They are definitely not a better team than us. I strongly believe that we have a better team. What it came down to that day was a matter of who wanted it more, and on that day they played like they wanted it more than we did.”

Amherst is in the midst of one of their best seasons in recent years. The Jeffs played very solidly last weekend in the ITA Tournament at Bowdoin. At the ITA, Williams defended their doubles crown, but the Jeffs escaped with the singles trophy.

With their fall season concluded, women’s tennis will turn its sights towards the spring.

The disappointing end to the 2002 women’s tennis year proves that there are kinks to be worked out of the system, but a third consecutive Div. III title in the spring would erase any bad memories from the fall.