Once a team gets momentum, it i’s difficult to stop them. On Saturday, March 25, the No. 5 nationally ranked Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Athenas tennis team (13-0, 3-0 SCIAC) won 6-3 against the No. 2 ranked Williams College Ephs (6-3, 1-0 NESCAC), a crucial win against one of their perennial rivals in the national tennis scene. The Athenas last beat the Ephs as a team on March 23, 2013. Since then, Williams won two national championships in 2013 and 2015, and matches have been intense throughout the years.
“In my last two years as an Athena, our team had never beaten Williams and I remember when they won the national championship my freshman year,” Lindsay Brown CM ’18 wrote in an email to TSL. “I've always had a lot of respect for the way they compete and their level of talent, so it felt easy to be intimidated by them. However, our team knew that if we fought really hard and maintained a good level, we could win the match.”
CMS won two out of three doubles matches, which was a key for them to win the whole match. All three doubles teams came out strong and took early leads in their respective matches.
“Having that lead so decisively in 1 and 2 doubles was huge for us and really made us believe we could win [the whole match] so I think the momentum stayed at a high level,” Catherine Allen SC ’20 wrote in an email to TSL. Allen and her partner Katie Kuosman CM '17 won their No. 2 doubles match 8-1, and Brown and Nicole Tan CM ’20 won their No. 1 doubles match 8-2.
“While I knew it would be a tough match, Nicole and I have had a lot of successful matches this year and felt like if we fought hard and brought a lot of positive energy, it didn't matter who was across the net,” Brown said regarding her match.
Madison Shea CM ’20 and Kyla Scott HM ’18 had the most even doubles match at No. 3. They were tied 5-5 with Emily Zheng and Julia Cancio, who then pulled away to win 8-5. All the points consisted of long rallies, deep cross-court shots, and strong net play from both sides. Cancio made some clutch volley shots late in the set to seal the deal for the Ephs.
CMS also had strong singles play, winning four out of six matches. Allen, Tan, and Brown easily won their No. 3, No. 2, and No. 6 singles matches after taking early leads in the first set. Jessie Cruz CM ’19 had a tougher match at No. 4 but won 7-6 (10-8) 6-4 after the team win had already been clinched. Kuosman lost her match at No. 5 and Scott lost at No. 1.
Scott’s match was the only match to go into three sets. She split the first two sets with Leah Bush 6-4 4-6 with each player giving up a break, and then in the match tiebreak set, Scott lost 15-13. Scott’s mental toughness showed as she kept pace with Bush after losing the first set, winning the second, and almost winning the tiebreak. Scott played well at the net and exhibited a lot of shot variety in an attempt to stump Bush. The Athenas proved they were national championship contenders in their performance against Williams.
“The team this year has a lot of depth in terms of skill level,” Allen said in regards to the team’s strengths. “Our lineup is extremely strong 1-6 as well as throughout the whole team. Every match we start to play better than the previous one.”
Different players have played No. 1 singles and doubles in multiple matches, demonstrating that the Athenas have the flexibility and depth to outlast their opponents. Before beating Williams, CMS also beat No. 3 ranked Bowdoin earlier this season.
The Athenas’ road to the national team championship must go through their Sixth Street rivals, the No. 4 ranked Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens. In the ITA Regional Tournament in the fall, Allen bested Caroline Casper PO ’19, the Sagehens’ No. 1 singles player and 2016 NCAA Championship singles semifinalist. Both teams are playing well and anticipating their match on April 20.
The Athenas next matched up against the Massachusetts Institue of Technology Engineers on Wednesday, March 29 where they won 6-3, and then face the Middlebury College Panthers on Friday, March 31.