Women’s Tennis Welcomes New Faces to Successful Program
Issue   |   Thu, 09/03/2015 - 22:40
Amherst Athletics
Captain Sue Ghosh ’16 received All-NESCAC accolades for both her singles and doubles play last spring.

After securing a third-place finish at the spring national championships, the Amherst women’s tennis team returns this fall as a forced to reckoned with.

With a depth of strong players in every class contributing last year in the Jeffs’ top spots, the team seems to be in a good position to continue their momentum and perhaps even take down their archrival Williams, last year’s national champion.

The strength for the Jeffs starts at the very top, with coach Jackie Bagwell returning for her 25th season as head coach of the squad. She comes into the season just three victories shy of the 400-win milestone, a mark that could fall as early as the end of this month. Bagwell has guided the team to at least the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament in twenty of the last 21 seasons and at least a share of the NESCAC title in nine of the last 12 seasons.

A new assistant, Morven McCullough, will join Bagwell on the coaching staff this year. McCullough, a 2015 graduate of the University of Iowa, boasts an impressive resume from her tennis career.

The three-time Academic All-Big Ten nominee achieved a national doubles ranking of 28, played No. 1 doubles all four years and was the No. 1 singles player during her senior year. She even comes with some international experience, having competed for Great Britain at the European Youth Olympics in 2009 and for Scotland in various international competitions. McCullough begins this coaching position after serving as a volunteer assistant pro and working with high performance athletes at a tennis club in Iowa City.

The Jeffs lost Safi Aly ’15 to graduation last year, and will certainly miss her leadership as captain and her consistent performances in the No. 3 doubles spot partnered with Sarah Monteagudo ’16. But Monteagudo and Sue Ghosh ’16 return as captains this year, joined by Maddy Sung ’16 and Megan Adamo ’17, forming an experienced crew of captains to lead the Jeffs.

“I can barely contain my excitement for the upcoming season,” Adamo said. “With seven incoming first-years, we will be a very large team again.”

Last fall, the team cruised at the Connecticut College tournament, a tournament of single elimination draws with no finals play.

The team piled up 24 wins to just one loss across singles and doubles play, some important early season results against NESCAC competition. After a winter of training in the cage, the Jeffs began their spring season in Southern California. The warm temperatures may have helped the team get off to a fiery start, because after going 4-0 in California they didn’t lose a single match until their semifinals matchup with Williams in the NCAA tournament.

But it wasn’t an easy ride the whole season. In their dual-match opener in the fall, the Jeffs fell to Williams in a close 5-4 match, and they wouldn’t be able to break the Ephs throughout the spring season. In the NCAA tournament at the Linder Family Tennis Center in Mason, Ohio, the team lasted through tough battles with Johns Hopkins in the regional final and MIT in the quarterfinals.

Though Amherst reached the semifinals for the seventh consecutive time at the national tournament, they met their match against Williams, the team that went on to win the national championship. But the Jeffs rallied in the third-place game and return to winning ways.

Ranked seventh nationally and facing a solid third-ranked Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, Amherst upset their opponents to grab third place and earn a No. 3 ranking in the final June 9 Division III Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings.

“Our third-place finish at NCAA’s is an amazing motivation for this year,” Adamo said. “We finished much higher than we would have guessed at the beginning of the season.”

Adamo said the team hopes to continue its success next season. “You know what they say: If you’re not green and growing, you’re ripe and rotting,” she said.

The Jeffs will surely face stiff NESCAC and national competition. The perennially strong Williams squad will be one of the Jeffs’ biggest tests this year, but “due to the high number of times that we played them last season, we are very familiar with every member of their team,” Adamo said. “The fact that their lineup this year will most likely be very similar is very helpful for our preparation.”

But just as the Williams team remains very similar, so too does Amherst’s. The Jeffs return both members of their No. 1 doubles pair, Vickie Ip ’18 and Sue Gosh ’16. Both were named ITA All-Americans in both singles and doubles action last spring, in addition to earning First Team All-NESCAC honors in doubles. Ip, playing in the No. 1 singles spot for most of the season despite just being a first-year, was also named to the First Team All-NESCAC in singles as well. The team also returns their No. 2 doubles pair Sung and Jackie Calla ’17, who went 3-1 in national championship tournament play with their lone loss coming in a narrow 8-6 defeat against Johns Hopkins in the regional final.

In singles action, the Jeffs return Calla, Monteagudo, Adamo and Claire Carpenter ’17 in the No. 3 through 6 spots, respectively.

Look for the Jeffs to build off of their successful third-place finish last spring and put together a strong fall campaign.