Women’s tennis takes aim at 3rd straight NCAA title

Women’s tennis begins its season as the defending NCAA champions for the second consecutive year, with its eyes set on claiming its third consecutive title.

The team is looking to do more than just claim a title, however: More important is overall improvement and success over the course of the season. “My goal each year is not about winning an NCAA championship,” Head Coach Alison Swain said, explaining that if the team were to earn its third consecutive title this spring, it would be “icing on the cake, and an outward testament of all our hard work.”

Swain said that what she concentrates on both in the team’s preseason training, which consists of a spring break trip to southern California, and in its season lineup is “creating a supportive, trusting and positive team environment, and [playing] with sportsmanship, positivity and a belief in our ability to achieve our best in the toughest of competitive situations.”

Despite the balmy reprieve from the chilly Williamstown tennis courts, the spring break trip will be mostly work and little play as the women take on some of the highest-ranked teams in the country.

The first part of the trip will find the Ephs matching up against seventh-ranked Pomona and 10th-ranked Redlands, as well as getting in some practice time at Pepperdine. Then the team will make its way back east to Virginia and compete in the Fab Five Tournament, hosted by Mary Washington. There, the team will face off No. 4 University of Chicago, No. 11 Carnegie Mellon and No. 2 Emory in just three days. The Ephs round out their trip squaring off against Div. I competitor James Madison and No. 6 Div. III rival Washington and Lee.

“My goal over spring break is to get everyone on the team more competitive experience against the other top teams in the nation and have everyone improving their play with each match,” Swain said. “All of the teams we play are nearly halfway through their spring seasons when we play them, while we are just at the beginning. Spring break is by far a time to build confidence in our game plans and gain experience competing in pressure situations.”

The team’s fall lineup remains the same, with one addition: Katie Friedman ’11 returns to the team from her fall semester abroad. The experience of Friedman and the other upperclassmen – co-captains Grace Baljon ’10 and Ashley Parsons ’10, Lucy Marchese ’11 and Nikki Reich ’11 – will help the team through those high-pressure situations, while the energy and talent of the newer members of the team – Kristin Alotta ’12, Caroline Capute ’12, Taylor French ’12, Veranika Li ’13 and Nancy Worley ’13 – will assist the Ephs as they fight their way to success.

Alotta finished strong for the Ephs last fall, capturing the ITA Northeast regional tournament championship, which is the individual championship for the fall season, to emerge as the region’s best singles player. The doubles team of Baljon and French fell just short of cinching the title in that same tournament.

The team’s current senior class has achieved two national championship ITA titles, was named the NEWITT flight winners and claimed multiple Little Three Championships during its time here – yet, those seniors have never won a NESCAC title. “I think it would be a great milestone for them to add to their collegiate tennis resumes before they graduate,” Swain said.

The Ephs’ first home competition of the season will be against The College of New Jersey on April 10 at 3 p.m.