Women’s tennis returns 8 to defend NCAA title

After capping last season with an NCAA title, its first since 2002, and advancing Cary Gibson ’09 and Grace Baljon ’10 to the NCAA Singles final, women’s tennis hopes to follow up on last season’s successes.

Although the summer gave the girls some time for rest and relaxation from the demands of the two-season sport, it also provided an opportunity to work on individual and specific goals in order to strengthen the team as a whole.

“Many of the players on the team have demonstrated improvement from the spring already in just the first few days of the fall season,” Head Coach Alison Swain said. Swain returns to the helm of women’s tennis after leading the team to a NCAA championship in her first year.

After graduating four seniors and adding three first-years, the team does have some shifting to do in the lineup. Minor changes and small improvements will go a long way when the Ephs compete in a challenging schedule.

The team returns co-captains Gibson and Annie Hancock ’09, both of whom are substantial assets for the team. Gibson played No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles, is a three-time doubles All-American, two-time singles All-American and is currently ranked the No. 2 singles player in the country. Hancock played No. 6 singles and No. 3 doubles for the Ephs last year.

Grace Baljon ’10, who played No. 2 singles and No. 2 doubles last year, in addition to earning singles All-American distinction and being ranked No. 3 in the country for singles, will be abroad this fall, but the team looks forward to her return in the spring season. The team also returns Ashley Parsons ’10, who played No. 3 singles last year, and Genny Loomis ’10 who has shown vast improvement in the past year after undergoing hip surgery.

The notable rookies of last year who pulled through with clutch performances are back this year as sophomores and ready to keep impressing. Nikki Reich ’11 played No. 4 singles and No. 3 doubles last year, and also won the decisive match in the NCAA championship last season. The team noticed the loss of Lucy Marchese ’11 when she tore her ACL last spring, but she returns this fall ready to go. Katie Friedman ’11 is yet another asset.

Fresh talent on the team includes first-years Kristin Alotta ’12, Caroline Capute ’12 and Taylor French ’12.

Looking forward, the Ephs will be taking on some stiff competition to start off their season. Looming contenders include Wellesley, who finished last season in the top 10 in the country, and of course Amherst. In the NESCAC, their greatest competition will be Amherst, Middlebury, Bowdoin and Tufts.

“It is going to be an exciting year with a lot of tough teams out there,” Swain said. “We plan to use our confidence after winning the national title to our advantage, but all the girls are aware that it will take a lot of hard work to continue to compete at the top of Div. III tennis.”

The girls open the season at 4 p.m. on Sept. 16 when they travel to Wesleyan.