Williams knocks off Emory to tie NCAA record with sixth national title in a row
KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- Improvement best describes Williams' sixth NCAA championship season in a row.
The Ephs claimed their sixth consecutive title Wednesday afternoon, defeating Emory 5-2 at the Markin Center, Kalamazoo's indoor tennis facility.
Asked what separates this championship team from the five before it, Williams coach Alison Swain and senior co-captains Nancy Worley and Veranika Li said the same thing.
“This was really unlikely this season,” Swain said. “We were really, really deep last year and really talented and this year of our 10 players, six are underclassmen and we only have one senior in the lineup.
“Two months ago, this was not a possibility for us,” Swain said. “These women improved their game and they improved their mental toughness. This is the most improved team I have ever coached. The amount of pride I feel for these girls is difficult to describe. To do the unbelievable is hard to explain. I am in disbelief.”
Williams trailed Emory 1-2 following doubles action as Eagles Annette Sullivan and Gabrielle Cark defeated Rebecca Curran and Kara Shoemaker 9-8 (8-6) at No. 1. Williams' Kathleen Elkins and Maria Pylypiv defeated Emory's Madison Gordon and Jordan Wylie 8-5 at No. 2, while the Eagles' Brenna Kelly and Emma Taylor beat Worley and Monica Pastor 8-4 at No. 3.
“Each one is just as exciting as the others, but in a different way,” Worley said of the four national championship teams she played on. “We have never had more improvement that this year, though. A lot of things needed to get done in the last two months and we got better and better every week. We always emphasize playing for each other and playing with heart and everyone played their best tennis under the most pressure. Being behind after doubles was nothing new to us and we know Emory is a tough team, but we usually come out strong in singles.”
Williams' Elkins won at No. 2 singles, Curran won at No. 3, Worley won at No. 4 and Pylypiv won at No. 5 singles.
“This year we came into the tournament with a few more losses than we're used to,” said Li, who serves as an assistant coach to Swain. “We had losses to Middlebury, [Claremont-Mudd-Scripps] and Amherst, but this year we have a very young team, with three sophomores in the lineup.
“After every tough loss though, we came back and improved,” Li said. “We made our biggest improvements the weeks after tough losses, which demonstrates this team's hunger and competitive spirit. We learned from those losses and used them as fuel for the fire.”
Williams' sixth consecutive national championship ties an NCAA women's tennis record as Stanford won six Division I titles in a row from 1986-91.
Amherst defeated CMS 5-0 on Wednesday in the match for third place.