June 4, 2004
AMHERST, MA — The Amherst College women's tennis team was ranked 11th in the nation, and not a likely candidate to be hanging around the net come NCAA Division III tournament time, but anything's possible when you've got your "Ravertarator" running.
Ravertarator is the nickname that Amherst College coach head coach Jackie Bagwell gave sophomore standout Kristen Raverta of West Springfield. The idea is that when she's got her Ravertarator running, she's moving the ball around and, "she really breaks the other player down."
"You know like your refrigerator running," Bagwell said with a laugh of the Jeffs' No.2 singles standout.
Amherst made quite a run at the national title, bowing to dominant Emory University last month at Memphis, Tenn., after a huge semifinal win over arch-rival Williams College in the semifinals. The triumph over the Ephs avenged the national semifinal defeat to Williams the previous year, and gave the Jeffs their best finish since winning the national championship in 1999. Raverta did her part, besting Williams senior Julie Mallory 7-5, 7-5 at No.2 singles after losing to her during the regular season. But it wasn't the singles win that Raverta wanted to talk about, it was the team's doubles performance.
"We knew it was going to be a close match, and the doubles were first," Raverta said. "It had rained all the time we were there, so the matches were moved indoors. We knew we had to do well in the doubles."
The Amherst team won in first doubles, but lost at No.3. Those matches were over with both teams cheering their players on as the Jeffs No.2 combo of Wallis Molchen and Raverta edged out their competition to give the Jeffs a 2-1 lead. Tristan Hedrick won at No.1 singles followed by Raverta at No.2 and Rachel Holt at No.3 to clinch the win.
Emory, a school with nearly 5,000 more students than Amherst, won the final 5-0, but it does lose its No.1 and No.2 players via graduation. Amherst will have four seniors, and Raverta will be only a junior, so another national title run isn't out of the question.
But Bagwell manages to keep all of that in perspective as the Amherst College culture is one of balance, and not win at all costs. Raverta lights up when talking about her academic interests of psychology and economics, hoping someday to weave them into a business management career. And she loves discussing national politics more than her serve. Tennis has become a team thing where individual play is played down.
"We were really struggling with our doubles, and we had relied on our singles play during the regular season," Raverta said.
So Bagwell did some double talk, and that's what the team practiced without complaint.
"A lot of it has to do with strategy, doubles isn't taught that much," Raverta said.
Bagwell said her team doesn't wear the super-serious tennis face.
"At the nationals, CBS was following us around, taking pictures of the Emory team jogging and working out. Meanwhile, (Amherst junior) Liz Libert, who is an artist, is eating chocolate pancakes and hoping to go to Graceland."
Bagwell said it's that sense of being well rounded that has made a difference in Raverta, her first ever Western Massachusetts product.
"When Raverta first came to Amherst, she came as a good tennis player, and I think she was a little burnt out on it," Bagwell said. "Now with maturity, she's starting to enjoy her academics. She's learned that tennis is two hours a day of fun, it isn't her whole life."
"I'm getting into photography," Raverta said of still another new interest.
Bagwell realized that coaching women's tennis on the college level didn't require the hard-nosed technique from her experience as a first-time coach at Hamilton. She was so inexperienced that she forgot to put out the water bottles at practice, and the players thought she was just trying to show them how tough they should be.
"Finally, they said, 'we're beautiful, we're rich, and we got other things going for us besides tennis, ' " said Bagwell, who got the message.
"Raverta doesn't need me to rub tennis into her nose, " she said.
For Raverta, the win over Williams was poetic justice due from an unfortunate setback in the state high school finals. After winning the states as a junior, she was breezing though the first two sets against Katrina Elder-Bush of Brookline at the Longwood Cricket Club when the rains came, and the match was moved inside to a slick kitchen-like surface that the reporter who covered the match called "a room with a net." Raverta lost her edge and the finals. But being preoccupied with winning indoors wasn't the motivation against Williams, she dismissed the high school thing as a fluke.
"Raverta's a bright girl," Bagwell said. "If she has trouble finishing off an opponent, you can talk to her through it between games."
— Dick Baker
Raverta Finishes Strong for Women's Tennis
June 4, 2004