With a 6-0 record in the SCIAC, the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps women’s tennis team (20-2, 6-0 SCIAC) seems favored to repeat as conference champions this year and capture their 20th SCIAC title.
But the team has a bigger goal in mind than another conference championship. This year, the Athenas are looking for their first national title in program history.
CMS has been a contender on the national stage for most of the last 10 years, and came close to a championship last season. After being ranked No.1 for the better part of 2017, CMS finished in a close third in last year’s NCAA tournament, falling short of Williams College and Emory University who went one-two.
This year the Athenas boast a veteran team, and are confident about their chances. From last year’s team, CMS welcomes back five all-SCIAC players and three all-Americans.
“It’s not pressure, but we know that we have a chance, and everyone wants [a national title],” Madison Shea CM ’20 said.
They’ll have one main advantage over their opponents: the NCAA tournament, which will be played May 21 to 23, will be hosted by CMS.
“We are excited to have nationals on our courts this year and hopefully knock out the favorites,” Jessie Cruz CM ’19 said.
The favorites for the national title remain the same as last year, as Williams, Emory, and CMS will likely be duking it out again on the big stage. The Athenas had a chance to play both Williams and Emory earlier in the season, and emerged with two extremely close losses, falling 5-4 to both teams.
The only CMS losses of the season came to these top two rivals; with their current 20-2 record, the Athenas are prepared to put up a fight for a national title.
Cruz attributes much of the difference between winning and losing their close matches between those top teams to staying mentally strong for the entire match.
“You have to be there for every point and not let anything go by, because the little things can make a big difference,” Cruz said.
Facing some of the best teams in the country, the Athenas know they need to “play every point like it’s a big point,” Cruz added.
The team’s most recent victories came in SCIAC play. The Athenas easily defeated No. 25 University of Redlands (9-8, 3-1 SCIAC) 9-0 at home April 6 and the Whittier University Poets (2-11, 0-4 SCIAC) 9-0 away April 7.
“Even though the games this weekend weren’t super competitive, everyone played hard and it was an entire team effort,” Shea said after the pair of matchups.
The Athenas also took down the No. 7 Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens (9-6, 3-1 SCIAC) April 12, defeating their rivals in a marquee matchup at home 8-1.
They will face off next at Cal Lutheran University (4-9, 1-2 SCIAC) April 14.