Women’s tennis defends NCAA crown

As the defending national champion, women’s tennis will be the team to see this upcoming spring season. If the way the women started out in the fall is any indication – winning the New England Women’s Intercollegiate Tennis Tournament (NEWITT) and playing their way to a spotless 4-0 – then bringing the Ephs down off their winning streak will be no easy feat.

During fall play, the team had graduated two of its valuable senior players, Allie Rottkamp ’08 and Annie Schneidman ’08. The team looks like it should have no reason to be worried, though. The team received great effort from its eight returning players, and Taylor French ’12, Kristin Alotta ’12 and Caroline Capute ’12 proved themselves to be a powerhouse of freshman talent. French and Alotta established their doubles prowess by going undefeated in the Middlebury Doubles Tournament in late September and recording a strong showing in the ITA Tournament. Capute demonstrated her strength in singles play early in the season, in the Wellesley match in mid-October and in the NEWITT.

“Every match we play in the fall is important in gaining confidence and becoming aware of the strengths and weaknesses we have as a team and in our individual games,” Head Coach Alison Swain said. “The fall certainly left us with a lot of confidence in our team’s ability to compete and play well; however, it also left us with a list of improvements that we are aiming to make this spring.”

The No. 1 doubles team of Nikki Reich ’11 and co-captain Cary Gibson ’09 will be an invaluable asset to the Ephs during the spring campaign. Reich gained the win that secured the NCAA Championship for the team last spring, and the doubles duo defeated Amherst’s No. 1 and No. 3 teams in the NEWITT.

Perhaps the team’s greatest advantage this spring is that they return two key players that could not be with the team in fall: Lucy Marchese ’11 is finally back in action after recovering from knee surgery, and Grace Baljon ’10 has returned from studying abroad. Meanwhile, Katie Freidman ’11, co-captain Annie Hancock ’09, Genny Loomis ’10 and Ashley Parsons ’10 are all returning members of the NCAA 2008 Championship team, and their experience and skill will be useful as the Ephs seek to defend their national title.

“We know that we have an ‘X’ on our backs, being the defending national champions,” Swain said of her team. “We have talked about how every team in the country is making a win over us one of their goals. But we also know that we have an incredibly determined, hard-working team, and I think everyone is looking forward to this new challenge.”

The team will open its season during its spring training trip to Georgia, where the Ephs will play Sewanee at Woodward Academy on March 22.