WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – Williams College women's tennis head coach Alison Swain '01, in her fifth year at Williams, is taking her fifth Eph team to the NCAA Division III Quarterfinals. May 21st in Cary, NC, Swain's Ephs (21-2) will play Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (22-3) at 3:30 PM in the Cary Tennis Park.
"Making it to the final eight is a huge accomplishment for any program," noted Swain. "The fact that we have achieved this feat for the past seven years is remarkable. I'm so proud of this team for all our accomplishments during the regular season. The NCAA Tournament is really a celebration, a chance to challenge ourselves among the best, and an opportunity to play great tennis on one of the biggest stages. It's something we as a team look forward to and really enjoy as a highlight to our season."
The last four times Swain took the Ephs to the NCAA Quarterfinals Williams has come home with the title, a feat that ties the Ephs with Emory University for most consecutive titles won. Overall the Ephs top Division III with six titles.
Most people would find it hard to believe that the Ephs and Swain never talk about the streak, as their primary focus is improving every day. "My role as coach is to honor the goals that the captains and team set together and then, to the best of my ability, help the team achieve these goals," stated Swain. "At this point in our program, I don't set results-oriented expectations for the team -- they set such a high bar for themselves. I try to provide perspective and help them celebrate our achievements throughout the season."
Swain's Ephs (21-2) are currently ranked first nationally and own a 19-1 record versus Division III teams and a 2-1 mark versus Division II teams. The two losses were to Lynn University (DII) and archrival Amherst in the NESCAC championship match. "I firmly believe that playing a challenging schedule is paramount to improving over the course of a season," said Swain. "I never set a goal of being undefeated in a season; in my mind, that means we haven't challenged ourselves enough. Our schedule this year was constructed to provide multiple opportunities to compete and to improve over the course of the entire season."
Of the other seven teams in the NCAA Quarterfinals the Ephs have already faced and beaten five. The Ephs have yet to play Chicago or Claremont-Mudd-Scripps this year. "The last time we saw Claremont was in last year's NCAA Quarterfinal," Swain noted. "They hadn't been in the NCAA quarters in a number of years then. This year, they are more tested and experienced. I expect them to be as good as any team in the final eight."
The 9th ranked Claremont Athenas will arrive in North Carolina riding a 13-match win streak. "A solid start in doubles is always important in a big match," offered Swain. "After that, I really think matches among similarly talented teams come down to competitive mentality-- how a team plays the big points. We will be focused on competing to the best of our ability, having positive energy, and a determined focus." In their last eight NCAA Tournament matches the Ephs have swept the doubles points.
|Ephs Captains (l. to r.): Caroline Capute, Kristin
Alotta & Taylor French
The winner of the Williams vs. Claremont-Mudd-Scripps match will advance to the semifinals and take on the winner of the Emory vs. Bowdoin match Tuesday at 12:30 PM.
After the NCAA Team Tournament ends senior Kristin Alotta and sophomore Kara Shoemaker will remain in Cary, NC to compete in the NCAA Singles Tournament. Alotta, the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Northeast Senior Player of the Year, advanced to the semifinals last year, while Shoemaker who did not play in the Ephs' top six a year ago, will be making her first appearance in the singles event. Shoemaker was recently named the ITA Northeast Player to Watch.
Both Alotta and Shoemaker, were named First Team All-NESCAC in singles. Alotta was also named First Team doubles with her sophomore partner Kathleen Elkins. Second Team All-NESCAC honors were awarded to Shoemaker (doubles), senior Taylor French (doubles) and junior Nancy Worley (singles).
Alison Swain earned NESCAC Coach of the Year recognition for the third time in five years.
"I'm extremely grateful for the example my captains [Alotta, Caroline Capute and French] have set for the team this year," said Swain. "All three are hands down fantastic competitors and players. They have also consistently managed their time well, worked incredibly hard, put the team first, and upheld the standard of building an incredibly close-knit and supportive team."