WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – What Williams Tennis does best is fight, according to Head Coach Anik Cepeda. "They had illnesses, injuries, and unexpected setbacks" on their way to the National Division III Championship title last spring, said Cepeda, "And I believe they fight so ferociously because of camaraderie. Every point is for something greater than themselves and they trust that sentiment across the board and the stands." The Ephs hope to bring this fight to the Fall Season beginning on the 17th.
Looking for their 11th National Title, the Ephs enter the 2017-2018 season under the new leadership of Coach Anik Cepeda. "I've just started engaging with the team this semester," she said, "They're a remarkable group." Cepeda worked with previous Head Coach Alison Swain during the 2013-2014 season and is coming off a 14-11 year with Division I Marshall University as an assistant coach. Cepeda graduated from the College of William & Mary in May of 2013.
After 10 years coaching at her alma mater, Swain has assumed the role of Head Coach at the University of Southern California. The most successful women's tennis coach in all NCAA divisions over the last 10 years, Swain led Williams to 8 NCAA titles and compiled an NCAA Tournament record of 48-2. Swain's string of 6 consecutive titles from 2008-2013 is a Division III record. "At Williams she cultivated a team-first attitude and challenged her players to embrace the elements of sport and life that were within their control," Cepeda said of her predecessor.
Also moving on from Williams are '17 graduates Hannah Atkinson and Linda Shin, who had both been key pieces of the roster during their time at Williams. However, a 4-player senior class is ready to step up and take their place with captains Julia Cancio '18, Mia Gancayco '18, Giulia McDonnel Nieto del Rio '18, and Juli Raventos '18. The seniors will have the task of guiding first-years Sasha Cayward '21, Rachel Cross '21, and Ksoosha Ramras '21 through their first season.
Chloe Henderson '20 and Emily Zheng '20 round out the sophomore class while Leah Bush '19, Korina Neveux '19, and Carmen Saab '19 bring a veteran presence as juniors. "The challenge is that all twelve could play in most lineups across the country," Cepeda said of her roster. "This is a helpful 'challenge,' naturally" she admitted, pointing to the opportunity to practice every day against some of the toughest competition in DIII.
The Fall Season is set to begin on Friday, September 15 and run through Sunday with the Lindsey Morehouse Invite hosted by Williams College. The tournament is named in honor of former Eph tennis captain and standout Lindsay Morehouse '00, one of three Williams alumni/ae who died in New York City in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The tournament is based on individual match play and encourages participation to kick off the start of a new season. In order to highlight every player on a team's roster, a tournament champion is not crowned at the end of the weekend. This game action will serve as good preparation for the Ephs before their first match of the year against rival Amherst on Saturday, September 23rd at 1:00 PM. The three-day ITA's, taking place in Williamstown, will begin on September 29th and the Middlebury Invite beginning October 22nd rounds out the Fall Season.
The Fall Season provides the opportunity for the team to see match action under Cepeda's new leadership before the Spring Season and NCAA Tournament. "At this stage adjustments happen every day!" Cepeda said, "We're learning about each other, understanding what works on an individual and team basis." The tournament format of the Fall Season also provides the opportunity for individual goals. "The individual successes at the Fall tournaments are big for our team to continue to believe in one another and realize how high we can aim as a group this year," said Coach Cepeda.
The season, beginning with the Morehouse Invite, will also be the first collegiate action for the three first-years Cayward, Cross, and Ramras. "I want to see them bring it!" said Cepeda, "Green light!" She also noted the important role the first-years will play off the court. "First-years have an opportunity to inspire other classes to strengthen their commitment to the team. I hope Rachel, Ksoosha, and Sasha realize they can start leading on Day 1."