Season Preview: Perennial Power Women's Tennis Seeks Fourth Consecutive Trip to NCAA Final Four

September 12, 2005 

The Amherst women's tennis team posted yet another unbelievable season in 2004-05, finishing third at the NCAA Championships last spring with a final record of 12-3. With incoming first-years adding their talent to that of the seasoned veterans, the Jeffs are prepared for another winning season.

Tristan Hedrick, Rachel Holt, Liz Libert and Erin Murphy were all lost to graduation after leading the way last season. All four boasted extensive playing experience and will be sorely missed this year. 

In the fall, sophomore Alicia Menezes took home 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.

An injury-plagued Amherst squad also placed third at the New England Women's Intercollegiate Tennis Tournament. Murphy won the No. 4 singles flight and sophomore Monica Snyder won No. 5 singles, while classmate Laura Stein nabbed second at No. 3 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 senior Kristen Raverta 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, 5-1, in the Northeast Regionals. Amherst then defeated Trinity University (TX), 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. The Jeffs rebounded in the consolation match, toppling NESCAC rival Middlebury, 5-4, as Raverta won the deciding match to break a 4-4 tie, and went on to three straight-set wins in the NCAA Singles Tournament before falling to Liz Bondi of DePauw University in the semifinals. 

Amherst also received ITA All-Academic Team honors for the second consecutive year in 2005, and eight Jeffs earned ITA Scholar Athlete plaudits, including Holt, Hedrick, senior Miranda Kim, juniors Caitlin Rhodes and Katie Hudson, and sophomores Jennifer Murphy, Monica Snyder and Laura Stein. 

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 Kim. Also returning are juniors Hudson and Rhodes and sophomores Menezes, Snyder, Stein and 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." 

"Other teams continue to get stronger and the competition will be very tough," added 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.