Women’s tennis captures Midwest Conference title

The Grinnell Women’s Tennis Team ended league play in smashing fashion, regaining the Midwest Conference tennis title for the sixth time in seven years. The women netters also claimed their eighth South title in a row and extended their winning streak in divisional play to 34 matches dating back to 2002.

“We had an extremely strong team, a lot of dedication. It was nice to get [the Midwest Conference title] back,” said Liza Spears ’11.

After whipping defending champion St. Norbert and sailing past Lake Forest College, the Pioneers returned from Midwest Conference Women’s Tennis Championships stacked with crowns. The team captured five of six Midwest Conference singles titles. Constanza Alarcon ’13 overcame a determined opponent to take the first seed. Clothilde Thirouin ’14 followed with third seed, Morgan Counts ’14 took fourth, Hanna Feldman ’14 took fifth and Catherine Fitch ’13 took sixth. The Pioneers also showed their strength in the doubles—Alarcon and Fitch won their second Midwest Conference women’s tennis doubles crown while Counts and Thirouin joined for their first.

The women ended the season with a record of 13-1, falling only to nationally-ranked Coe College.

“Playing against Coe was a highlight for most of the team members,” Spears said. “Coe is a really good school. We had a very close match with them this year. I think that definitely showcased our talent.”

Hanna Feldman echoed Spears’ sentiment. “It was a great wake-up call for us and we realized we were so much better than we played during that match,” Feldman said. A lot of us played great, and some of us that didn’t play so well learned a lot from our mistakes and didn’t let them happen again.”

The Pioneers, who traditionally have been led by underclassmen, saw strong performances again this season from a young lineup. Four players on the lineup were first-years.

“For most seasons, nearly everyone in our lineup was an underclassman. They all learned a lot,” said Toby Cain ’12. “We are moving towards a positive change for the team. At the beginning we were a little nervous, but towards the end we knew we could depend on all of them in their respective spots.”

“We are a very young team, which is complicated, but also good because we have more longevity now,” Alarcon said. “They contribute in giving us more depth in our lineup.”

While underclassmen make up the bulk of the team, it’s the veterans that anchor the squad. Acknowledging the strength of the veterans, Head Coach Andy Hamilton said, “It really took some steadiness out of the three returning players who were in the lineups on a regular basis. Toby Cain, Constanza Alarcon and Catherine Fitch. They were rock solid in their positions.”

Looking to the spring season and next year, the team has its eyes on nationals.

“Our goals for next year definitely include beating Coe and performing better at ITAs [Intercollegiate Tennis Association competition] and perhaps getting a doubles team or a singles player seeded into that tournament,” Cain said. “The girls are going to do great at nationals.”

Alarcon echoed those sentiments.

“I’m really hoping to train and prepare for nationals and have a good role in representing the Midwest,” Alarcon said. “It is an honor and also a challenge, but I think by training and meshing more as a team we are going to be successful to having a good match up in nationals.”