Women's tennis starts familiar road toward championships

The Jeffs finished their 2004-2005 season with a 12-3 record, led by senior quad-captains Tristan Hedrick, Rachel Holt, Liz Libert and Erin Murphy. In the fall, Alicia Menezes ’08 won the singles competition at the ITA New England championships and teamed up with Holt to take the doubles crown as well. Holt later received the ITA New England Senior Player of the Year award while Menezes was named ITA New England Rookie of the Year.

Later in the fall, the team placed third at the New England Women’s Intercollegiate Tennis Tournament. Murphy won the fourth singles flight and Monica Snyder ’08 won fifth singles, while Laura Stein ’08 took second place at third singles.

Amherst continued its success in the spring, as the women won their first outright NESCAC title after tying with Williams College in 2004. Hedrick, Snyder and Stein won their respective singles flights, while Amherst swept doubles. Holt and Hedrick paired for a win, as did Kristen Raverta ’06 along with Snyder, and Murphy and Stein. At the end of the season, Holt was named NESCAC Player of the Year and earned NESCAC All-Conference honors along with Hedrick, Raverta, Snyder, Murphy and Stein.

Amherst has qualified for the NCAA tournament for 11 consecutive years, last season earning a spot in the quarterfinals by defeating Tufts University, 5-1, in the Northeast Regionals. Amherst then defeated Trinity University, 5-2, to reach the Final Four for the seventh time in eight years. In the semifinals, two-time defending national champion Emory University upended Amherst, 5-3, before winning its third straight national title.

In the consolation match, the Jeffs played the Middlebury College Panthers, whom they had defeated 7-2 earlier in the season. The regular-season win over their rival “gave the team a lot of confidence for the rest of the spring season including NESCACs and Nationals,” noted Raverta. Their rematch at Nationals was difficult for Amherst, especially since the match fell only one day after the disappointing loss to Emory.

“We were all physically and emotionally drained from the loss the day before, and yet we faced a very important match in which all of the pressure was on us. Middlebury wanted to beat us more than anything and had nothing to lose,” explained Stein. “However, we managed to compose ourselves and fight back after the previous day’s loss. The match showed our strength as a team and our ability to fight and compete no matter how difficult the situation.”

“I think that Kristen [Raverta] especially showed a lot of backbone against Middlebury. She was in a three-setter, and was the last match on court,” said tri-captain Hadley Miller ’06. Raverta won the deciding match to aid Amherst in its 5-4 victory, and then had three straight-set wins in the NCAA Singles Tournament before falling to Liz Bondi of DePauw University in the semifinals.

The Jeffs’ performance last spring has given the returning players confidence that their team can achieve even more this year. “Last season was a real turning point for the team,” said Miller. “The fact that we all really got to know and rely on every single person as a valuable member of the team was my favorite part of last season.”

This season, the team will be led by senior tri-captains Raverta, Miller and Miranda Kim. Also returning are juniors Katie Hudson and Caitlin Rhodes, and sophomores Menezes, Snyder, Stein and Jenny Murphy. The upperclassmen will be joined by rookies Tara Shabahang, Anuja Ankola, Laurel LaMontagne and Melissa Moulton.

The fall season opens at Wesleyan University on Sept. 14. The Jeffs will play crosstown rival Univeristy of Massachusetts at home on Sept. 20 and compete in the Wilson/ITA tournament Sept. 23-25, hosted by Williams. Following that busy 10-day span, the women will compete in a dual- and tri-match before hosting New Englands Oct. 14-16. All eyes are on the spring when the women will look to defend their NESCAC title and compete for the NCAA championship.

The captains are optimistic about the upcoming year. “I am looking forward to a great season,” said Kim. “Although we graduated four outstanding seniors last year, our team has a lot of depth and we should be able to make up for the loss by having everyone step it up a notch. We are also getting several first-year players who will be great additions to the team.”

Nevertheless, the Jeffs are aware of the dangers of becoming overconfident heading into this season. “Other teams continue to get stronger and the competition will be very tough,” said Raverta.

Despite the challenges they will undoubtedly face this season, the Jeffs remain focused on their goal of winning a national championship. “Even though we’ve lost four of the greatest seniors and teammates we could’ve asked for, I know that the team we’ve got is well-prepared to take over where we left off last season and aim for an NCAA championship,” said Miller.