WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – A year ago in her first campaign as the head coach of the Williams women's tennis team head coach Anik Cepeda guided the Ephs to a 21-1 record and a third place finish in the NCAA Tournament.
The Ephs' lone loss of the year came at the hands of the eventual champions Claremont Mudd Scripps (CMS), 5-3, in the NCAA Tournament Semifinals played on CMS' home courts. Following the team tournament Juli Raventos, the all-time leader in combined singles and doubles wins at Williams (225 total), teamed up with Julia Cancio to claim the 2018 NCAA Doubles Tournament title.
With the graduation of four seniors, and the addition of two new first years, there will be changes in the team composition this season. Most noticeably, Williams women's tennis will be a smaller squad. Coach Cepeda views the changes as an opportunity to have every player moving in the same direction. "Smaller numbers means there's a greater sense of urgency for everyone to play a leadership role, not just the senior captains," stated Cepeda. "Tiny can be mighty, and that's our aim."
The tradition of Williams women's tennis is one of stepping up to and overcoming obstacles. "This season will be exciting to follow," Cepeda said. "We're going to have rough patches and we're going to need patience and grit. We have to work on our ability to zoom out and refocus our direction – the passion that drives us to give what we can to the team at practice every day. I can't wait to give to that journey."
All returning players were in the lineup last spring, including three of the top four singles players in senior Leah Bush, junior Chloe Henderson and sophomore Rachel Cross as well as senior Kori Neveux and junior Emily Zheng. The two first years joining the team are Maxine Ng (Singapore) and Julia Pham (Los Altos, Calif.).
Doubles pairings will be a toss-up this year, as is often the case with college tennis with seniors graduating it means new combinations are inevitable. Cepeda is curious about how the doubles pairings will unfold and has no real inkling of what that lineup or chemistry will look like. "I hope the first years embrace a team-first attitude and the opportunity to battle for something greater than themselves," she said.
"Regardless of where players end up in the lineup, there is one element that will stay the same, and that's our commitment to playing for one another," Cepeda emphasized.
The Ephs will have their first opportunity to play for one another in a match setting on Friday September 14 when they host Skidmore and Middlebury during their annual Lindsay Morehouse Tournament.
The Morehouse Tournament honors the former Williams tennis player who died in the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
The Ephs will also host the New England ITA Regional Tournament September 28-30, before traveling to take on archrival Amherst on October 6 in their lone dual match of the fall season.
The fall campaign will conclude at the Middlebury Invitational October 12-14.