MEDFORD, Mass. – Success constantly follows the No. 9 Tufts University women's tennis team and it appears that the 2017 spring season will be more of the same.
|Alexa Meltzer will serve as a captain this spring for the Jumbos.|
The 2015-16 Jumbos qualified for the NCAA Division III Tournament for the 15th time in the last 16 seasons, en route to receiving a first-round bye and defeating Colby-Sawyer, 5-0, in the second round. The squad fell short, 5-1, to Bowdoin in third-round action. The Jumbos finished 12-8 during 2016 spring matches, including an 11-6 mark during the regular season.
The 2016-17 Jumbos will be able to rely on a deep and talented 14-person roster, which is the largest group that head coach Kate Bayard has ever been able to work with. The Jumbos return all 11 players from last year's roster, while adding three first-year collegiate players to the mix.
"The team worked extremely hard in the offseason, and I think the increased fitness level with pay off this spring," Bayard said. "The larger team this year means that people get to practice against more varying styles of play, and I think this is going to help us once we start to compete. It also means that there is more healthy competition among team members. In addition, we have many more options in both singles and doubles than we have ever had before."
One of the most important reasons the Jumbos continued their winning traditions last season was because of the remarkable performances administered by junior Lauren Louks and sophomore Mina Karamercan.
Louks was the No. 1 competitor in singles for the Jumbos, constantly suiting up against top-level competition on the opposing team, but she still managed to compile a 13-7 mark in singles action last spring.
Louks and Karamercan also competed together in the No. 1 slot on the doubles side, as the dynamic duo finished with a 17-5 record last spring. The pair opened the season with seven consecutive victories in doubles action, while being victorious in 13 of the first 14 matches.
The two stars took their talents to the NCAA Division III Singles & Doubles Championships, as they were the first Jumbos to qualify for the event since the 2011 season. Louks was victorious in opening-round singles action, and then fell in the Round of 16. Louks and Karamercan were successful in first-round action during doubles action and then were defeated by the top-ranked pair in the country during the quarterfinals, but the well-rounded Jumbos duo finished the season ranked No. 6 nationally in doubles.
Louks and Karamercan hoisted All-American honors (top-eight overall) at the conclusion of the Singles & Doubles Championships, and both were named to the All-NESCAC Team and garnered Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) All-American honors. Karamercan was named NESCAC Rookie of the Year, posting a stellar 15-3 record in singles action during the spring, operating out of the No. 2 slot.
"All these accomplishments last season from Lauren and I really do draw a track for the tennis program," Karamercan said. "We have bigger goals because we saw that we are very close to reaching them. It is great for everyone on the team because actually seeing substantial results creates even bigger motivation. We have a great support system from parents, fans, coaching staff and obviously each other, and that gives us a big advantage because not a lot of teams are as close as we are."
The Jumbos' accomplishments from their two leaders were substantial, but the squad also exhibited a great deal of depth last spring and the good news is that the Jumbos did not lose any player from last year's squad. Junior Zoe Miller compiled a 12-6 record in singles and a 10-6 mark in doubles action, while sophomore Tomo Iwasaki went 14-5 and in singles and 14-6 in doubles during the spring season.
Other noteworthy performers from the last spring include senior Conner Calabro (14-6 singles, 14-6 doubles), sophomore Otilia Popa (11-7 doubles), senior Chelsea Hayashi (7-4 singles, 2-0 doubles) and senior Jacqueline Baum (5-1 singles, 2-1 doubles).
Sophomore Julia Keller, and seniors Alexa Meltzer and Hannah Conroy, will also be focal members of the 2017 spring team. Calabro and Meltzer will serve as co-captains this spring under Bayard and assistant coaches Samantha Gann and Alex Howard.
The Jumbos additionally will be expecting some contributions from a trio of first-year collegiate tennis players in Eliza Brown, Afua Ofori-Darko and Katherine Wiley, as all three individuals gained valuable experience during the 2016 fall season. Brown went 3-1 in doubles and 1-1 in singles action during the Bowdoin Invitational on Oct. 14-15.
What will the keys be for the Jumbos to keep their winning ways going this spring?
"We continue to spend time working on our doubles skills since doubles is often the deciding factor against the toughest teams," Bayard said. "I am happy with the doubles combinations that we have come up with. I am planning on starting Lauren and Mina as a team. We have a new combo at No. 2, and we have a pair who played a good amount together last year at No. 3. While I am hoping these combos will work out well, it is nice to have the flexibility of being able to easily put some other doubles teams together."
The Jumbos will open their spring season on Sunday with a 10:30 a.m. matchup against Oberlin at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. The Jumbos will play in front of their home fans for the first time on March 29, as they will host No. 21 Brandeis at 3 p.m. The squad will open up NESCAC Conference action on April 1 at Bates (10 a.m.) and Colby (3:30 p.m.).
The NESCAC Championship will be hosted by Williams in Williamstown, Massachusetts, on May 5-7, and then the NCAA Division III Regional Tournament will take place on May 12-14.
The Jumbos have been itching to get back on the court, as the team is excited to build on their accomplishments last spring and their strong performances during their 2016 fall schedule.
"We are very much looking forward to getting outdoors for matches this season, especially after our taste of warmth during spring-break matches in Southern California," Miller said. "We have been spoiled with a lovely new surface for our indoor courts, but nothing beats the lovely sun and breeze of outdoor tennis."
Written by Trevor Wenners, Athletic Communications Intern