Season Preview: Jeffs Picked as Preseason Favorite by Sports Illustrated for Women

March 27, 2001

AMHEREST - The March issue of Sports Illustrated for Women picked the Amherst College women's tennis team to win the Division III NCAA National Championship this spring--and that was before the Jeffs blasted defending national champs Trinity (TX) University, 8-1, in California on March 23. 

Apparently, the writers at Sports Illustrated saw something that the Intercollegiate Women's Tennis Association hasn't. The Jeffs are currently ranked No.2 in the nation according to the latest ITA/ poll (released Dec. 5, 2000), while Trinity, who never had a chance against Amherst, is ranked No. 1. 

"It was kind of shocking to beat Trinity by such a lopsided score," said Amherst head coach Jackie Bagwell, who led the Jeffs to the College's first and only national team championship in any sport in 1999. "One thing that this team always has is confidence. We just seem to step up at the right time." 

Sports Illustrated specifically mentions senior co-captain Jamie Cohen (Rye, NY) as a good bet to lead Amherst to its second national title, and with good reason. Cohen, who won the NCAA singles championship last year while leading the Jeffs to the national semifinals, is the top-rated singles player in the East and part of the region's third ranked doubles team. Meanwhile, her doubles partner, sophomore Susanna Burke (St. Louis, MO), is the 22nd ranked singles player in the region and a solid contributor as Amherst's No. 3. 

The Jeffs are already 3-1 this season with wins over Hardin-Simmons and Wisconsin-Eau Claire-along with their dominating win over Trinity-to their credit. Ironically, Amherst's lone loss may have been its most impressive outing thus far-a narrow 3-4 defeat at Division I power Cal St.-Fullerton on March 21. 

Bagwell's experience and dedication remains the X-factor for Amherst. Entering her 10th season as head coach, Bagwell has led the Jeffs to three consecutive NCAA Final Four appearances and produced back-to-back national singles champions in Cohen and recent graduate Neely Steinberg '99. She's also attracted national and regional attention of late, earning Boston Area Coach of the Year honors at the annual Boston Sports Awards in Sept., 2000. Bagwell competed against Boston Red Sox manager Jimmy Williams and Boston Bruins head coach Pat Burns, among others, for the honor. 

Training indoors and waiting patiently for a tardy winter thaw, Bagwell's Jeffs return to action Saturday, April 7, at the College of New Jersey at 10 a.m. Amherst will also take on the Princeton University junior varsity team later that afternoon in a rare tennis double-header.