Women’s tennis gains steam going into NESCAC Tourney

After ending the 2002-03 fall tennis season with a 5-1 record, falling only to league rival Amherst, women’s tennis team has picked up right where it left off. Keeping consistent, the team will head into this weekend’s NESCAC Tournament with a 4-1 record for all spring contests (9-2 overall).

Missing a few contributors and defending back-to-back NCAA titles and a NESCAC championship win, the remaining Ephs have their work cut out for them. As does interim Head Coach Sarah Marks ’00, filling in while Julie Greenwood ’96 is on sabbatical at Stanford University. Marks has done an extraordinary job thus far and will be bringing a sound squad into the final few weeks of the season to defend their titles.

After spending the winter practicing with only indoor facilities, the Lady Ephs took the number six national ranking and made the trip down south to Georgia for spring break. In their first action outdoors since the fall, they fell in a scrimmage against Shorter College. After that the Ephs re-grouped and went on a three game tear against several ranked opponents in the Fab Seven Tournament held at Emory University.

The wins began with a 7-2 victory over ninth-ranked Rhodes College (Tenn.). Rhodes entered the match with a record of 13-1 and 10 consecutive wins. The Ephs took two of three doubles matches and then went on to win five singles in straight sets. Their second match of the Fab Seven was against Claremont-Mud-Scripps (CMS), ranked 10th nationally. Another victory came in similar fashion, as Williams moved on with a 6-3 win.

Three into the tourney and everything seemed to be clicking for Marks’ team, as they took care of number five ranked Gustavus Adolphus 6-3. The doubles tandems continued to compete solidly, despite being paired with partners that they had never played with before.

Due to the absence of Caroline Wasserman ’03, the doubles pairings had all been rearranged at the beginning of the spring season. The final match in the tournament came against host Emory, ranked first in the country and returning the core of the team that Williams had beaten last year in the NCAA Finals. Now tops in the nation, Emory played with a chip on its shoulder and came away with a difficult 9-0 victory on theat team’s home courts.

“In our five matches over spring break we faced a wide variety of playing styles,” Julie Mallory ’04 said. “This was an ideal springboard into the rest of our season.”

This was clear in their match against Bowdoin, the first since they’ve returned to the Northeast. A game against Skidmore scheduled prior to Bowdoin was cancelled due to the weather, and the tentative make-up for that is scheduled for April 23 in Williamstown. At host Smith College, Williams blanked NESCAC opponent Bowdoin (11-6) by a score of 9-0. Bowdoin brought an impressive record to the table, as well as a five game winning streak. In the Eph victory, Williams dominated doubles and singles play, taking the first five singles matches in straight sets.

Next on the calendar for the Ephs is the NESCAC Tournament, April 18-20, which they will be hosting after winning the tourney in the 2001-02 season.

“NESCACs next weekend will be a great opportunity for us to use what we’ve been working on since spring break,” Kate Troy ’04 said. “Also, it being held at Williams will prove to be an advantage.”

During NESCACs and the following week, the team will get another shot at both Amherst and Tufts, two squads who finished ahead of Williams this past fall in the New England Women’s Intercollegiate Tennis Tournament (NEWITT). Amherst also defeated the Lady Ephs in a dual match, which ended a 39-meet win streak. These matches will be telling and will contribute to the seeding they get going into Nationals in May. According to power rankings, the best teams in the country qualify for the National NCAA Tournament, thus each team’s top six singles and top three doubles. Individuals are held following the team event, in which the top 32 singles players and top 16 doubles teams qualify.