KALAMAZOO, MI -- It was, as Eph head coach Alison Swain had predicted yesterday, a clash of Division III women's tennis titans on the indoor courts in the Markin Center on the campus of Kalamazoo [MI] College for the 2013 NCAA title. Despite trailing 2-1 after doubles Williams College (23-4) defeated Emory University (18-5) 5-2 to win a record sixth consecutive NCAA title.
Only Williams and Division I Stanford have ever won six NCAA women's tennis titles in a row.
As sure as night follows day, Alison Swain's Williams women's tennis team will peak in May.
Many in the women's Division III tennis world thought that maybe this would not be Williams' year when the Ephs lost twice in five days on the west coast spring break trip.
What the hopeful ones overlooked was that in the six years under head coach Alison Swain the Ephs always get better as the season goes on. Under Swain the Ephs are a mind-boggling 40-3 in the month of May.
The win extends Swain's impressive NCAA Tournament record to 30-0. The four losses in a season are the most in a season in the Swain era, but those losses are what made this team a champion. "This is the most improved team I've ever coached," said Swain. "Each and every one of those losses propelled this team to get better and better."
In the last 13 years either Williams or Emory have won the NCAA title 12 times. Only a win by Washington & Lee in 2007 interrupts up the streak constructed by the Eagles and the Ephs.
Emory opened the match by capturing doubles wins at three and one to take a 2-1 lead into singles play. The Eagles recorded the first point of the match when their #3 team of Brenna Kelly
Head coach Alison Swain '01 gets a
|Maria Pylypiv (l.) & Kathleen
Elkins cheer on their teammates
after their doubles victory/
Jamie Schwaberow -
|Ephs converge on Rebecca Curran
after she clinches the match/
Jamie Schwaberow -
and Emma Taylor disposed of the Ephs' pairing of Nancy Worley and Monica Pastor 8-4.
Williams tied the match at one all when their #2 duo of Kathleen Elkins and Maria Pylypiv came back from a 3-0 deficit to tie the match at 5 and then won the final three games to post an 8-5 win.
At number one doubles the Eph tandem of Kara Shoemaker and Rebecca Curran were down 3-1 and then they proceeded to win five of the next six games to take a 6-4 lead. The Eagles' Gabrielle Clark and Annette Sullivan fought their way back to tie the match at six. The two teams traded games and at eight all they entered the tiebreak. Williams never led in the tiebreak, but did tie it at four and six, before Clark and Sullivan prevailed 8-6 putting the Eagles up 2-1.
When the Ephs claimed a 6-3 indoor win over Emory at home on April 7th it was the Ephs who came out of doubles with a 2-1 advantage.
Asked what she told her team after doubles Swain stated, "At this point in the season it is not about tactics. Doubles has been a problem for us this year so coming out with a point was a success and not a failure. I told the team to believe in themselves, their games and trust in their teammates."
Singles play began with players 1-4 taking the four courts in the Markin Center with singles players 5 and 6 waiting for the matches ahead of them to finish to see if they would need to take the court.
Eph senior captain Nancy Worley took her leadership responsibilities to heart in singles play, evening the match at two all with a straight set win at four singles 6-2, 6-0 over Marissa Levine. Worley won for the 31st time this year and closed her final Eph season with a singles ledger of 31-4.
Junior Kathleen Elkins gave the Ephs a 3-2 lead when she defeated the Eagles' Beatrice Rosen 6-1, 6-3. The win by Elkins was her 21st this season without a loss.
Following suit with the straight-set win recipe sophomore Maria Pylypiv notched a 6-0, 6-1 victory at five singles to make the score 4-2 in favor of Williams. Pylypiv finished the year with an impressive singles record of 27-2.
The fifth and final point of the match for Williams came from sophomore Rebecca Curran who bounced back from a first set tiebreak loss (7-6 (7-3) to win the second set 6-3 and the clinching third set 6-0. Curran trailed in the second set 3-0 before going on a tear and winning 12 straight games, finishing off the second set 6-3 and the third set 6-0 to give the Ephs a record sixth consecutive NCAA title.
"Rebecca was just awesome," noted Swain. "Being down 3-0 in the second set and going on to win 12 games in a row and win the match is amazing! She just kept believing in herself and her game. She won becuase of her tennis and her teammates. And I have to say everyone on our was unbelievable for us today. It was a true team win."
"This week this team brought a different level of strength and mental toughness to each match."
Overall the Eph women's tennis has won eight of the College's 28 NCAA titles.
EPHS & EAGLES TOURNAMENT NOTES: Williams is now 6-1 all-time vs. Emory in NCAA Tournament play. Williams is 3-0 in NCAA title matches vs. Emory (2002, 2010 & 2013).
In 2002 and 2010 the Ephs beat Emory. The Ephs' 6-3 win in 2002 at Emory enabled Williams to become the first NCAA Division III team to win back-to-back titles.
Williams has won the NCAA title in 2001, 2002, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 & 2013.
Emory won in 2003, 2004, 2005 & 2006, becoming the first team to win four in a row and the Eagles first NCAA title came in 1996.
The Williams streak from 2008-12 meant Williams was the first team to win 5 titles in a row. Now the Ephs are the first team to win six in a row.
Williams has competed in just 20 NCAA Tournaments, which equals every year since the NESCAC permitted NCAA Team Post-Season Play (1993-94).
Emory was competing in their 29th NCAA Tournament and their 58 wins trails only Williams' 63. The Ephs' 63 wins have come in 20 consecutive appearances in the tourney. All-time the Ephs are 63-13 in the tourney and sport a winning percentage of .829.
NCAA Division III Championship Match
Emory University vs Williams College
May 22, 2013 at Kalamazoo, Mich.
Markin Center - Kalamazoo College
Williams College 5, Emory University 2
1. Kara Shoemaker (WILW13) vs. Clark, Gabrielle (EUW) 4-6, 7-6 (7-4), unfinished
2. Kathleen Elkins (WILW13) def. Rosen, Beatrice (EUW) 6-1, 6-3
3. Rebecca Curran (WILW13) def. Wylie, Jordan (EUW) 6-7 (3-7), 6-3, 6-0
4. Nancy Worley (WILW13) def. Levine, Marissa (EUW) 6-2, 6-0
5. Maria Pylypiv (WILW13) def. Gordon, Madison (EUW) 6-0, 6-1
6. Monica Pastor (WILW13) vs. Kelly, Brenna (EUW) 4-3, unfinished
1. Sullivan, Annette/Clark, Gabrielle (EUW) def. Rebecca Curran/Kara Shoemaker (WILW13) 9-8 (8-6)
2. Kathleen Elkins/Maria Pylypiv (WILW13) def. Gordon, Madison/Wylie, Jordan (EUW) 8-5
3. Kelly, Brenna/Taylor, Emma (EUW) def. Monica Pastor/Nancy Worley (WILW13) 8-4
Emory University 18-5
Williams College 23-4
Order of finish: Doubles (3,2,1); Singles (4,2,5,3)
NCAA III Championship Match
Match moved indoors and delayed due to rain.
8-6 tiebreak at 1 doubles. 7-3 tiebreak at 3 singles. 7-4 tiebreak 1 singles