Since taking over as the head coach of Williams women's tennis five years ago, Alison Swain '01 has consistently used the fall portion of her schedule to assess her team and focus on improvement.
This fall will require Swain to do more rebuilding than she has had to do previously as she will need to replace half of her doubles pairings and a third of her singles lineup from last spring.
Swain will get no sympathy from any coach in Division III, after winning a record fifth consecutive NCAA title in May of 2012.
NCAA Tournament play is held in the spring so Swain has ample time and plenty of opportunities to help her returning and incoming players build their games.
Lost to graduation were Kristin Alotta, Caroline Capute and doubles standout Taylor French. This trio competed all four years in the Eph lineup for Swain.
Alotta, who played #1 singles and #2 doubles last spring, graduated with 109 singles and 96 doubles wins and was named the 2012 ITA National Senior Player of the Year. She ended her college tennis career as the #4 ranked singles player in the country. Capute played primarily at #6 singles and at #3 doubles, recording 133 total victories in her purple career. French, notched 87 doubles wins and was twice tapped with All-Conference honors during her time in the Purple Valley.
|Captain Nancy Worley '13|
The graduated Eph trio combined to post 199 singles wins and collect 245 doubles wins on their way to winning four straight NCAA titles.
The 2012-13 Ephs are the lone team in NCAA Division III play returning three players who finished the 2011-12 season ranked in the top 50 in singles play; Kara Shoemaker (16), Nancy Worley (42) and Kathleen Elkins (43).
This year, the senior leadership will come from just two players. The ever-steady Nancy Worley returns for her final campaign, owning 68 singles wins, 34 doubles wins, and three NCAA team titles. Worley has been a staple of the Eph lineup since her freshman year providing several clutch victories including the deciding point in the 2011 NCAA Championship match.
The only other senior on the team is Veranika Li. She has won all 15 of her singles and all 10 of her doubles matches at Williams to date. Last fall she studied in Prague and upon her return developed into the role of a player-coach for the Ephs. Li adds depth and leadership to the Eph roster and will step up as co-captain in her senior year.
"Nancy and Veranika are exceptional leaders," said Swain. "Two of the hallmarks of our program are hard work and a team-first attitude. Both these women are our best examples of these qualities. On-court, Nancy and Veranika convey a calm and determined demeanor which provides the team with a steady source of competitive confidence."
Junior Kara Shoemaker exploded on the Eph tennis scene this time last year, moving up five spots in the Ephs singles lineup from her freshman year climbing from #7 to #2.
Shoemaker's elevation on the Eph singles ladder was recognized by many earning her ITA Northeast Player to Watch honors. In 2011-12 Shoemaker went 22-8 in singles earning her All-America status.
|Kara Shoemaker '14|
Shoemaker played in just seven doubles matches as a freshman, but as a sophomore she played #1 doubles with a record of 19-17. In the spring campaign, she and partner French posted wins over 3 top 10 nationally ranked doubles teams.
"I knew Kara's tennis game had a big upside when I first saw her play on the junior tennis circuit," commented Swain. "Over the course of the last two years, she has improved a couple of key areas of her game, including her overall court sense. Also, not to be underestimated, she possesses the drive and work ethic to improve.
Kara, along with Nancy Worley and Kathleen Elkins, return this year with a breadth of match experience that is invaluable to a team like ours."
Junior Kathleen Elkins, who played #4 singles her first two seasons and at #2 doubles last year, will be studying in Spain during the fall semester, but will return in January ready for the spring championship season. Elkins has already amassed an impressive 100 wins at Williams; 53 in singles and 47 in doubles play.
Sophomore Rebecca Curran split time at #4 and #5 singles in her debut season and she impressed with 24 wins in singles and 20 wins in doubles play. Teaming with Caroline Capute at #3 doubles, the duo notched a perfect record in NCAA Tournament matches.
Sophomore Maria Pylypiv who played #6 singles in the NCAA Championship match registered 21 singles wins and 10 doubles wins in her first season of intercollegiate play. Pylypiv is expected to be a presence in the Eph lineup this fall.
Another sophomore who is expected to challenge for a spot in the Eph lineup is Monica Pastor. In singles play last year Pastor was 10-0 and won the B Flight at the New England Women's Intercollegiate Tournament (NEWITT). Her doubles record was 9-1.
|Captain Veranika Li '13|
"Rebecca, Monica and Maria all improved their tennis games remarkably last year," Swain stated. "I'm thrilled to have the three of them return as seasoned collegiate players. With the largest in-coming first year class in my coaching history, I also expect them to take on more of a leadership role as we get started with practices this fall."
Joining the above six returnees are four first year candidates. Swain is confident that some of her first years will be in the mix from the start for a berth in the Eph lineup.
The four incoming first years hail from the next valley over and around the globe and include Maya Hart (Amherst, MA), Riqui McCoy (Doha, Qatar), Kate Pollan (Bradenton, FL), and Alex Stone (Short Hills, NJ).
Swain is anxious for the fall portion of her season to begin so she can avail of the opportunity to work with this year's team to reach their on-court potential. Opportunities abound throughout the Eph lineup, especially in the fall so the intensity level in practices should remain high.
The Ephs will start their season at home when they host the two-day Lindsay Morehouse Invitational on September 8 and 9. Play will begin at 10:00 AM on Saturday and 8:00am on Sunday on the Torrence M. Hunt '44 Tournament Courts.
Other fall tournaments include the ITA New England Regional at MIT and the NEWITT, which is co-hosted at Mount Holyoke and Smith.
In addition the Ephs will be playing at Wellesley on September 23 and at Amherst on October 6 in dual matches.
"I'm always excited for the start of a new year," said Swain. "The student-athletes that come to Williams are truly exceptional. I love the anticipation of seeing what we can become as a group each year and where our hard work, tennis skill, and team culture will take us."