tennis-women-d3 flag

James Hill | | May 18, 2014

Hill: Williams poised for seventh title in a row

  A team title this year would give Williams the NCAA women's record for most consecutive title.

CLAREMONT, Calif. -- The NCAA Division III Women’s Tennis Championships begin Monday at the Biszantz Family Tennis Center at Claremont-M-S.

The eight-team tournament continues through Wednesday, when a national champion will be crowned. Included on the final day will be a match for third place. Individual singles and doubles action is scheduled Thursday through Saturday.

The third-ranked Williams Ephs (21-2) have won the past six championships, tying an NCAA women’s record. Stanford won six Division I titles in a row from 1986-1991. Williams defeated the Emory Eagles 5-2 in last year’s final at Kalamazoo, Michigan.

This year, Emory (25-2) is the top-ranked team in the nation. The Eagles take on the No. 9 Washington (Mo.) Bears (19-5) in the quarterfinals at 6 p.m. ET. The fourth-ranked Johns Hopkins Blue Jays (23-1) meet the host Claremont-M-S Athenas (21-7), ranked fifth, also at 6 p.m. ET.

Williams plays in the second part of the day’s action, starting at 9 p.m., against the No. 7 Bowdoin Polar Bears (16-6). The second-ranked Amherst Jeffs (20-3) are paired with the No. 8 Carnegie Mellon Tartans (19-4). Amherst took third place last year, with a 5-0 shutout of Claremont-M-S.

Williams coach Alison Swain is in her seventh season at the helm of the Ephs. Swain is an alumna of Williams who helped her team win a national title in 2001, the first of eight total.

“The success that this program has had at NCAAs is nothing I set my sights on when I took over the program in fall of 2007,” Swain said. “But it is a culmination of our team culture and our focus on the process, rather than results, each year. It seems like our team culture helps to bring out the best in each player on our team.”

Emory is the holder of five national championships, including four in a row from 2003-06. Eagles’ coach Amy Bryant is the first female in NCAA history, in any division, to win the national team championship as a coach and a player. Bryant guided Emory to the title during the four-year run, and as a player in 1996.

Bryant is impressed with the depth of the field at the 2014 championships.

“The quality of players we are attracting to Division III has gotten stronger every year,” Bryant said. “This year’s field is probably the strongest I’ve seen. It makes the championships incredibly exciting to know that every match in the quarterfinals is going to be competitive from the top to the bottom.”

Amherst is the only other team in the field to win a national championship, which the Jeffs accomplished in 1999.

Returning to defend their NCAA doubles title are Amherst’s Jordan Brewer and Gabby Devlin. An Amherst team has captured the top doubles position for three years in a row. Devlin claims three consecutive doubles crowns, the first which came with Brewer in 2011, and the second the following year with Laura Danzig. Doubles runner-up Caroline Ward of Claremont-M-S is back, this time with Katie Kuosman. Brewer, Devlin and Ward also were selected for the singles tournament.

Middlebury’s Loz-Sze Leung won the singles title, with a straight-sets victory against Claremont’s Kristin Lim.

Pairings for the 32-singles draw and 16-team doubles tournament will be announced Wednesday.