CLAREMONT, Calif. -- Claremont-M-S sophomore Caroline Ward has already received a medal from the NCAA during her collegiate career.Ward, who hails from Edina, Minnesota, was a Division III doubles finalist at last year's championship at Kalamazoo, Michigan. She teamed with former Athena Kristin Lim and advanced to the doubles title match. Jordan Brewer and Gabby Devlin of Amherst went on to win the championship. More on the Lord Jeffs duo later.
In Friday's doubles quarterfinals at the home of C-M-S -- the Biszantz Family Tennis Center -- Ward and freshman partner Katie Kuosman of Superior, Colorado, defeated Rebecca Curran and Kara Shoemaker of Williams 6-3, 6-3. The third-seeded duo will take on Pomona-Pitzer's Samantha Chao and Lea Lynn Yen in Saturday's semifinals. The Sagehens team upset top seeds Shelby Harris and Lindsay Raulston of Mary Washington in a three-setter.
C-M-S and Pomona-Pitzer are rivals in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. To add to the rivalry, the schools are located within walking distance of each other.
The doubles final will follow the semifinals, with the fourth-seeded Emory team of Gabrielle Clark and Michelle Satterfield taking on the No. 2 duo of Brewer and Devlin in the other semis matchup.
This is definitely serious business, but Ward has a theory as to why she and her teammate have been successful to date.
"We just have fun together, and make each other laugh," said Ward, who was named the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Player to Watch. "We are relaxed on the court, but we are pretty aggressive. Katie's got a nice, big serve. I'm a lefty, and my ball kind of spins the other way. We also have quick hands."
Their coach is Gretchen Rush, a four-time All-American who won the NCAA Division I doubles championship in 1983, while playing for Trinity (Texas), during the school's athletic scholarship days. Rush, who will become Trinity's women's coach on June 1, reached a top-20 pro ranking in both singles and doubles.
Back to Amherst's Brewer and Devlin, the defending NCAA DIII champions. Devlin can claim three consecutive doubles crowns, the first which came with Brewer in 2011, and the second the following year with Laura Danzig.
One doubles team, from Skidmore, had to endure the inconvenience of a canceled late-night flight at the Denver International Airport. They made the journey all the way from Albany, New York, but had to sleep on the airport floor in the Mile High City.
With only a couple of hours of fitful and interrupted sleep, the Thoroughbred team of Lee Ford and Madeline Benn, along with coach Curt Speerschneider, finally made it to the elusive L.A. County. They arrived the day before the doubles tournament began -- all tuckered out -- but took it in stride.
As a matter of fact. the Skidmore duo defeated DePauw's Caroline Emhardt and Maggie MacPhail in a long first-round three-setter. But, on Friday, they were eliminated in the quarterfinals by Clark and Satterfield.
"They showed a lot of character of being able to focus," Speerschneider said. "It was kind of eerie, but they did an awesome job with the situation. We had a job to do."
One extra note, Ford is the niece of tennis legend Tim Mayotte. Ford said her famous uncle has helped her out with her serve, and has "taught her to stay calm," a trait sometimes required when dealing with airlines.
The singles final will pit the top-seeded Clark against No. 3 Brewer. Clark, the 2012 NCAA champion, beat the No. 4 Shoemaker 6-2, 7-5 in the semifinals. Brewer was a 6-2, 6-3 winner against Kathleen Elkins of Williams.
The singles final is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. ET, with the doubles semifinals starting at approximately 2:30 p.m. The championship match will get under way at 5 p.m.