Williams & Alabama Teaming Up Again, But Not on National TV This Time

The NCAA DIII Defending Women's Tennis Champions in the University of Alabama Football Building
The NCAA DIII Defending Women's Tennis Champions in the University of Alabama Football Building

TUSCALOOSA, AL – Monday through Friday mornings on MSNBC Williams and Alabama alums team up on MSNBC to co-host the show Morning Joe.

Eph alum and former three-sport athlete Mika Brzezinski '89 and Alabama alum Joe Scarborough '85 have been working together on Morning Joe since April 9, 2006.

Now the tennis teams from both Williams and Alabama have established a relationship that spans NCAA Division I and NCAA Division III.

Eph head coach Alison Swain met Alabama head coach Jenny Mainz in 2013 when they were both named ITA Coaches of the Year and honored at the ITA Convention that December.

Mainz took the reigns of a struggling Crimson Tide program 19 years ago and her first team was 0-21, but since that time Mainz has taken the Crimson Tide to heights it had not previously seen including an SEC Championship in 2014 and back-to-back doubles National Championships in 2014 & 2015. Swain, in her ninth year, has won seven NCAA DIII titles, including a record-setting streak of six in a row. Her NCAA Tournament record stands at 39-1.

Nov. 2, 2010: Joe Scarborough (l.),
Williams President Adam
Falk, and
Mika Brzezinski at Williams

"I went to Jenny's presentation on doubles drills in December 2013 and loved it," said Swain. "Fast forward to fall 2014 and I asked her if she would let me come down to Tuscaloosa to observe her program for a week. She said yes, very generously, and in January 2015, I spent a week with the team including practices, individual sessions, fitness, and a home match. Jenny let me be a part of everything, and I learned a lot from her. We now follow each other's teams, and she invited us to train during our spring break trip. It's been an incredible opportunity for our team to see another top program in action."

Swain's Ephs, the NCAA Division III defending champions, opened their 2016 spring break with a trip to Virginia on the campus of Mary Washington University where they defeated both Johns Hopkins and Washington & Lee 6-3 extending their dual match win streak to 31 before heading to Tuscaloosa.

The Ephs and the Crimson Tide cannot do combined practices as it would count as a playing date for Alabama, but the Williams players have been practicing at the Alabama facilities since Tuesday.

Alison Swain (l.) & Jenny Mainz

"Members of the Alabama athletic department have treated us to an amazing tour of the tennis facilities and the Bryant-Denny football stadium including the locker rooms, player tunnel, and walking out onto the field," noted Swain. "We also got to attend an Alabama softball game at the end of our first full day of training here."

On Wednesday evening the Ephs are attending the Alabama vs. Ole Miss tennis match, and Swain's team will be supporting the Crimson Tide by wearing their Alabama women's tennis t-shirts. The teams had exchanged team t-shirts upon first meeting.

"We are staying at a cabin on Lake Tuscaloosa," added Swain. "Yesterday, it was warm enough (at least for those of us from the North) to go out in the boat and do some inner-tubing."

Working hard has been a hallmark of Swain's Williams teams, but she also manages to work in time for fun and team bonding, especially on spring break trips where she always makes sure to play the toughest possible competition.

Next up for the Ephs is a match against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in a match to be played at Emory University in Atlanta on Friday at 3pm.

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