Holt hopes to lead Lord Jeffs on another Nationals trip

Holt has spent her time as a member of the women’s tennis team playing in the top two singles spots, with the exception of last spring, when she played number three.

Her rotation in the top few spots is a tribute to the depth of the Jeffs’ lineup. “At any point over the last couple of years, Tristan [Hedrick ’05], Kristen [Raverta ’06] and I could all have played in any of the spots,” Holt said. “It’s great having such a deep lineup and how much the three of us can rotate is certainly a testament to how strong we are. It’s also helped my tennis to have two other closely-matched players.”

Holt’s success extends beyond her rank in the singles lineup. Holt and Hedrick are in their fifth season together as doubles partners, where they have seen a great deal of success. The International Tennis Association (ITA) has named the pair Div. III All-Americas each year they have played together.

“I’ve been Rachel’s doubles partner for three years going now, and it’s gotten so we can predict what kind of shots the other is going to hit; we know what the other is capable of getting to and what each other’s weaknesses are,” said Hedrick. “We know just what kind of encouragement or reprimand the other needs to get motivated and how to get each other pumped up for the next point.”

Added Holt, “Both of our tennis games and personalities complement each other well on the court, and also the two of us have tons of fun out there.”

Holt hopes the duo will succeed again with their serve-and-volley game and ultimately land on the All-America list this year for the last time in their collegiate careers.

Holt paired with first-year sensation Alicia Menezes last season while Hedrick was forced to sit out the fall because of an injury. Holt and Menezes dominated New England, winning the Wilson/ITA New England Women’s Tennis Championship.

In addition to winning a place on the Div. III All-America team as a junior alongside teammates Hedrick and Raverta, Holt has been on the All-America team before. As a sophomore, she landed an All-America award for both her singles and doubles play.

As a first-year, Holt was named an All-America for her singles performance. She also added the ITA Northeast Region and National Rookie of the Year and NESCAC Rookie of the Year to her impressive list of awards.

However, Holt’s tennis career began long before she arrived at Amherst. She has been playing tennis for most of her life. “I began playing tennis at the age of eight or nine. I played mostly for fun and at local club tournaments,” she said. “It didn’t become a major part of my life until the age of 14 when I started playing USTA tournaments competitively.”

Holt started her competitive tournament play with sectional tournaments. “I played sectional tournaments and began making national tournaments at the end of the 16s [age group] and into the 18s,” she explained.

On the competitive circuit, success did not come so easily to Holt. “I was actually pretty bad at the beginning,” she said. “I had always played at least two sports in high school, and it wasn’t until I began focusing on tennis during my sophomore year that I made a big improvement.”

Her newfound focus on tennis helped her raise her level of play. Over the course of two years, Holt’s ranking increased by 63 spots. “I was ranked number 75 in my section in my first year of the 16s, and number 12 in the section in my first year of the 18s, so I definitely improved,” she said.

Holt also played tennis on her high school team at the Brearley School in New York, but said that the team was “a joke.” Her team experience improved, however, as soon as she got to Amherst. “Playing at Amherst has been wonderful,” she said. “I am so glad I did it, and I am definitely going to miss my teammates a lot, as well as being able to play in a competitive atmosphere.”

Amherst’s team has provided Holt with a strong support system on the courts. “Playing on [this] team has made tennis so much more enjoyable for me. As much as it is still tough to go out on the court and know that it’s only you out there, looking around you and seeing all your teammates out there makes a huge difference,” she said. “I think we have very healthy relationships as teammates. We step on the court against each other in challenge matches and probably have some of the most competitive showdowns of the year. Then 15 minutes after the match is over, we go to Valentine together and it’s as though we never played.”

Holt’s teammates returned her praise. “Rachel is an incredibly involved teammate,” said Hadley Miller ’06. “The team is definitely one of her highest priorities, and she takes every practice and match seriously. Rachel gets the job done with a high level of sportsmanship and camraderie, and we’re lucky to have her.”

“There’s a running joke that Rachel is the person to go to if you need to remember a random fact or telephone number,” said Erin Murphy ’05. “When I got to Amherst in the fall of our freshman year, Rachel told me she remembered the score of a match we played when we were 13 or 14 in junior tennis. While this is a running joke, it’s also a big part of Rachel’s personality. Her ability to analyze opponents’ games and break them down is part of what makes her tough at number one. Rachel is also a stubborn player; she hates to lose and will make every effort to turn a close match to her favor.”

Holt explained that with the Jeffs’ recent success, they have a good chance of victory at Nationals. “Right now I think we are a top national contender so our regional matches will work towards securing a high seeding at Nationals. I am hoping to be able to contribute with wins in both singles and doubles,” she said.

However, Holt still noted the Jeff victories are more essential than Holt victories. “With such a great chance to compete for Nationals, individual success will certainly take a back seat to team victories,” she said.

Although she is already thinking ahead to the matches that will end her collegiate career, Holt is sure that tennis, and her teammates past and present, will continue to play an influential role in her life. In addition to her future employment at Bain and Company, a strategy-consulting firm, Holt said she intends to continue to play tennis with her Amherst teammates. “Alicia … lives near me at home, and [when her injury heals] we have talked about entering some doubles tournaments,” she said. “And many of my former teammates will be in New York, so [maybe] we’ll even get a USTA team together!”

Regardless of where Holt plays tennis next year, she will certainly be missed at Amherst.