Williams' title run: 3-for-3
Shane Mettlen, Special to NCAA.com
FREDERCKSBURG, Va. - For Williams College coach Alison Swain the third time, just like the first and second, was a charm.
The third-year coach guided the Ephs to their third consecutive NCAA Division III women's tennis title on the campus of the University of Mary Washington, taking down Emory in Thursday's finals, 5-0. The depth that helped guide Williams to the championship round also made the difference against the Eagles.
"Coming into this year I think we were the only team that finished in the top four last year that graduated two very significant lineup players," Swain said. "Yeah, we had a lot of experience, but you can never bet on everything coming together perfectly at the right time to win this tournament. The fact that this happened is inspiring."
Just as she had in the semifinals, Williams' No. 6 singles player Caroline Capute dominated with a straight-sets win. She defeated Emory's Sara Vrabec 6-0-, 6-0 to give Williams (23-3) its fourth win of the day, putting it one away from clinching.
A few minutes later on Court No. 3, it was junior Nicole Reich who wrapped it up for the Ephs, beating Jordan Wylie, 6-4, 6-2. Moments later her teammates realized it was over, dropped their rackets and rushed to celebrate with Reich.
"It was unbelievable," Reich said. "Everyone was fighting so hard and everyone was going to do it on every court. Having the support of everyone was incredible. We're a true family."
Williams, which had won 14 matches in a row coming in, was taking care of business from the start.
A day after taking care of Chicago in the semifinals, the Ephs got off to a fast start during Thursday's finals, sweeping the three doubles matches to build a nice lead over the Eagles, who finished with a 22-6 record.
"The doubles was super disappointing for us," Emory coach Amy Bryant said. "I don't think we even performed. We expected them to make unforced errors and they didn't. They came out fired up and were ready to go in a national championship match and we clearly were not. But I got to look back and realize this is the best this group has done. Second place isn't a bad place to be."
The Williams No. 1 doubles team of Grace Baljon and Taylor French set the pace with an 8-3 win over Emory's Zahra Dawson and Lorne McManigle. Alotta and Reich took care of business at No. 2 with an 8-2 win. Lucy Marchese and Nancy Worley then dominated No. 3 doubles with an 8-0 triumph.
Even with a big lead heading into singles play, Williams knew the it still had work to do.
"It takes some pressure off to sweep the doubles," Swain said. "Though in the men's quarterfinals, Emory swept the doubles against Amherst and Amherst came back and we knew that and sort of talked about that in our huddle."
Swain said that even though the Ephs have now won three straight titles, she's not in a position to take any success for granted.
"No, this does not ever get old for me," she said. "I will take this any time it comes around. I definitely realize this is a very special experience and a very special opportunity. It's not an opportunity I expect to have every single year of my coaching career. One of these days I'll be able to put into words what's working well for us, but it's a lot of things coming together. I can't even believe that I've done this three years in a row."