March 6, 2014

Season Preview: Women's tennis looks for memorable spring campaign

HAVERFORD, Pa. - The Haverford College women's tennis team will look to make its presence known in the Centennial Conference once again this spring.

Picked to finish third in a preseason poll of the conference coaches, the Fords went 12-7 last season (7-3 CC) and eye the program's sixth straight conference tournament appearance.

Junior Caitlin Gallagher leads a talented, veteran-laden roster. Gallagher became the first Haverford women's tennis player to be named the conference player of the year in 2013 after a sparkling campaign that included a team-high 19 wins at top-flight singles. Joining forces with Alex Ferrara, the duo helped account for 15 doubles victories.

"I am very excited for this upcoming season," said Gallagher. "Between our hard work during preseason, along with the addition of our talented freshmen, the team is looking strong again this year."

Ferrara, named second-team all-conference in singles and doubles last season, looks to put the finishing touches on a  her career with another standout spring. Ranked in the top 15 in program history in career wins, Ferrara reached double figures in wins for the third straight year in 2013 with 18 singles victories.

Ferrara agrees with Gallagher that good things await the Fords in 2014. "The majority of our starting lineup has returned and we've gained some great freshman talent, so we are aiming to do better in the conference than ever before."

Robyn Himelstein should also be a factor as she aims to build off a strong freshman season that saw her reach double digits in wins in singles and doubles with 14 and 12, respectively.

Senior Kate Donches dominated her singles opponents in the final month of the season in 2013. Donches went 7-1 at the No. 6 spot with each of her wins coming in straight sets and the Fords will need another strong performance from her in her final season in a Haverford uniform.

Gallagher, Ferrara, Himelstein and Donches bring experience to a dedicated group that is ready to make some noise in the Centennial.

The squad will also receive a boost from an enthusiastic group of freshmen Jessica Liu, Abby Payson and Robin Stopa.

Interim head coach Christopher Booth has been impressed by Haverford's commitment and the leadership of co-captains Gallagher and Ferrara. Booth likes what he sees from the Fords and is eager to get started. "The team really embraces competition and I am excited to see what is to come," said Booth.

Haverford, ranked 16th in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Atlantic South Region, will face several non-conference challenges including the season opener on Friday, March 7 against regionally-ranked New York University.

The annual spring break trip to Florida brings matches against The College of New Jersey, St. Lawrence University and Stevens Institute of Technology.

The Fords will face host Wilkes University in non-conference action on March 20 before opening the conference slate two days later against defending Centennial champion Johns Hopkins University. The Blue Jays, ranked first in Division III, enter the season as the preseason favorite in the league but Haverford is ready for the challenge.

"This group is ready to battle," said Booth. The first test comes on Friday at the Gary Lutnick Tennis & Track Center inside Alumni Field House against the Violets.