May 2, 2014

Women's tennis looks to add another chapter to historic season

HAVERFORD, Pa. - The Haverford College women's tennis team looks to add another chapter to its historic season when it competes this weekend in the Centennial Conference tournament.

The third-seeded Fords, who registered their highest regular-season finish in program history this spring, will face No. 2 seed Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., on Saturday at 11 a.m. The Diplomats managed to pull out a 5-4 victory in this year's prior meeting between the two squads on April 5.

A win by Haverford, ranked 14th in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Atlantic South Region, gives the Fords a berth in the conference championship for the first time in program history. Haverford would take on the winner of the other semifinal between top seed Johns Hopkins University and fourth-seeded Swarthmore College. Johns Hopkins enters the weekend ranked fourth nationally.

Caitlin Gallagher, the reigning conference player of the year, occupies the top of the singles ladder for Haverford. Gallagher, who went 10-5 overall in singles this season including a 10-5 record in conference action, boasts a career winning percentage of .759 (44-14). The junior was also ranked 25th in the latest ITA regional rankings of singles players.

Gallagher is not the Fords' only weapon, however, as seniors Alex Ferrara and Kate Donches each enter the conference tournament riding impressive winning streaks. Ferrara, at No. 2, has recorded victories in 11 consecutive singles matches including a team-high 13 singles wins and a perfect 10-0 record in conference play. The standout campaign has moved Ferrara into a tie for fifth in program history in career victories with 55.

Playing at the No. 4 spot, Donches has also been dominant with an 11-5 singles record and 9-1 mark in conference matches. Having won her last eight singles matches, Donches has been a model of consistency as she has reached double figures in wins in three of the four years of her career.

Robyn Himelstein, at No. 3, followed up on a special freshman season with another memorable year in 2014. The sophomore went 12-6 overall including eight wins in straight sets.

The Diplomats, currently ranked eighth in the Atlantic South, earned two wins at doubles in the previous meeting between the two clubs so Haverford will look to get off to a better start in Saturday's match. Gallagher and Ferrara give the Fords a formidable duo at No. 1 while freshmen Abby Payson and Jessica Liu join forces at No. 3. The No. 2 team of Donches and Himelstein aims to continue to shine as the pair has gone 9-1 in their last 10 outings.

Haverford's roster earned the highest regional ranking ever for the program in early April when the Fords were ranked 10th but the group eyes a higher goal.

"I have seen the squad mature and become more competitive with each match," said coach Ann Koger. "The team is very excited and motivated to experience a strong finish to the 2013-14 season."