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2006-07 Elizabethtown College
Elizabethtown College’s women’s tennis team enters the fall 2006 season with no particular expectations other than that of carving out a new path for itself. The two-time defending Commonwealth Conference champions return four of their top five players from last year, and, according to head coach Matt Helsel, “Winning the conference title is not one of our goals this year.” He continued, “If it happens, great.”
This wait-and-see approach to the new season owes somewhat to the fact that, “for the first year in a long time, we’ve had more new players on the team than returning players,” Helsel said. In addition to four upperclassmen, the Blue Jays are bringing in five first-year students.
The returning players include two seniors, Stacy Shapiro (Audubon, PA/Methacton) and Heather Lander (Accident, MD/Northern Garrett). In their time at Elizabethtown, the Blue Jays have posted an overall record of 37-8.
Shapiro, who has spent the bulk of her career playing number one singles and doubles for Etown, has posted a 37-19 career mark in singles, a 36-20 career record in doubles, and a 73-39 combined career record. She currently ranks sixth all-time at Elizabethtown for most career wins in singles, doubles and overall. She has earned All-Commonwealth Conference First Team honors every year of her collegiate career, and she was the conference’s Rookie of the Year in 2003. She also, along with Kristy Trimbey ’06, captured the Middle Atlantic States Collegiate Athletic Corporation (MASCAC) championship at number one doubles in 2004.
Lander, who has mostly played number five singles and number three doubles in her career, holds the program records for most singles, doubles and overall wins in a year, and she has a shot at breaking the program career records in all of those categories in 2006-07. She set all of her single year records in 2005-06 as she went 21-3 in singles, 20-2 in doubles and 41-5 overall. Her career singles record is 49-5, eight wins behind the program record of 57 set by Jodi Weidman ’91. Her career doubles record of 43-11 is 14 wins behind the program record of 57 set by Trimbey. Her combined career record of 92-16 currently ranks her third in Etown history, three wins behind Weidman for second place and 20 wins behind the record, held by Trimbey. In her career, Lander captured MASCAC individual championships at number five singles in 2004 and in 2005, and she, along with Trimbey, won the 2005 MASCAC number three doubles title.
In addition to Shapiro and Lander, also back from last year’s top five are junior Emma Smith (Moorestown, NJ/Moorestown) and well as sophomore Alice Yu (Athens, GA/Clarke Central).
Smith has won 20 singles matches, 27 doubles matches, and 47 total matches in her two years at Elizabethtown. Last year, she played everywhere from number one through number three in singles, and she played primarily number two doubles. She earned All-Commonwealth Conference Second Team honors in both 2004 and 2005.
Yu had a standout rookie season for the Blue Jays in 2005-06. Playing primarily number four singles and splitting time between number two and number three doubles, she went 17-7 in singles, 15-6 in doubles and 32-13 overall.
Added to the four returning players are five first-year students, several of whom could make significant contributions early in their careers. The first-years are Steph Dougherty (Cinnaminson, NJ/Holy Cross), Natalie Jamieson (Ellicott, MD/Howard), Cathie Martinez (Jamison, PA/Central Bucks South), Jessica Russell (Kennett Square, PA/Unionville) and Emily Swarr (Manheim, PA/Manheim Central).
Of them, Helsel said, “Emily Swarr and Cathie Martinez will definitely play somewhere” in the top six. “Where, we don’t know,” he continued, alluding to the fact that Elizabethtown’s lineup has yet to be solidified. “Steph Dougherty, Natalie Jamieson and Jessica Russell are all definitely talented and will definitely play;” Helsel continued, “it’s just a question of when. We’re glad to have them.” The five first-year students “have fit really well,” he said, “and it’s hard to believe they’ve only been here for a week and a half.”
The Blue Jays will be playing a tough schedule again this year, with non-conference opponents like Franklin & Marshall, Johns Hopkins, Dickinson and Goucher on tap during the fall season. Additionally, the Commonwealth Conference as a whole has improved dramatically, according to Helsel. “Each team has improved since last year, and there won’t be an easy day on the schedule.”
The improvement could not come at a better time for the conference as a whole. Unlike previous years, this time the stakes in the conference playoffs include an NCAA tournament berth. The winner of each conference team championship will, for the first time, receive an automatic berth in the NCAA Division III tournament. The situation is even more interesting for teams in the Commonwealth Conference, because the conference plays its season and has its playoffs in the fall, while the NCAA tournament is held in May. Whatever team takes the conference title in the middle of October will know that it will be playing again at the very end of the school year.On the whole, the Blue Jays are eager to begin blazing their new trail, and they are anxious to see where that road goes.