MEDFORD, Mass. – It has been a season full of accomplishments for the Tufts University women's tennis team.
After posting a 15-win season and advancing to the semifinals of the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Championship for the first time since 2011, the No. 6-ranked Jumbos were the recipients of a trio of regional awards from the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) on Thursday.
|Alex Howard has added a great deal of coaching depth for the Jumbos.|
Head coach Kate Bayard garnered 2017 Division III Northeast Region Wilson/ITA Coach of the Year honors for the second time during her 12-year stint at the helm of the program, as she also collected the honor in 2009. Fourth-year assistant coach Alex Howard was tabbed as ITA Assistant Coach of the Year for the Northeast region.
The Jumbos were also honored with the Northeast Region ITA Community Service Award. The ITA will unveil its national award winners next week.
The desire to give back runs deep through the women's tennis program, as the squad hosted Special Olympics tennis for the last six years. The players and coaches sparked a phenomenal turnout this year for the Special Olympics tournament, recruiting 40 volunteers, as the unit set up matches based on skill level, gender and age.
During the last four years, the group donated an ample amount of its time to volunteer with ACEing Autism, which tries to positively impact children, who suffer from autism, with unique tennis programs. The Jumbos provided a helping hand for multiple age groups, complementing the primary coaches.
"The current seniors (Jacqueline Baum, captain Conner Calabro, Hannah Conroy, Chelsea Hayashi and captain Alexa Meltzer) have been involved with ACEing Autism throughout their time here," Bayard said. "The team has become passionate about this organization over the past few years."
Giving back to the community has always been a defining quality of the women's tennis program under the guidance of Bayard, as the squad was also recognized with the ITA National Team Sportsmanship Award in 2010. Current assistant coach Samantha Gann (2014) and Julia Browne (2010) were recognized as national ITA Arthur Ashe Leadership & Sportsmanship award winners.
"The team chooses each year how we are going to give back," Bayard said. "The team has enjoyed this continuous relationship with both organizations, which has played a big part in its decision at the start of every year to continue working with each organization. No matter how busy the team is with school work, jobs, senior thesis and tennis, it always finds time to give back."
Bayard, who always encourages a collaborative mindset on the team, established a winning culture, starting the first day she walked onto campus, as she has led the Jumbos to the NCAA Division III Tournament in 11 of the last 12 seasons.
She earned United States Tennis Association (USTA) New England Coach of the Year honors in 2009, while being recognized as a two-time NESCAC Coach of the Year (2009, 2011). Bayard's top-caliber tutelage resulted in four Jumbos being named NESCAC Senior Sportswoman of the Year – Meltzer (2017), Gann (2014), Browne (2011) and Becky Bram (2006).
The former standout Division I tennis player at Harvard University, has bolstered a 139-96 record as a Jumbo, while going 61-39 in the star-filled NESCAC. The Jumbos have gone 13-11 on the national stage during her watch, including advancing to the Elite Eight for the first time in program history during 2011.
The well-deserved honors come in the midst of a highly-successful 2016-17 season for the Jumbos. The squad defeated visiting Amherst, 5-4, on April 19, snapping a 32-match losing streak to the Mammoths. The win was the first time the Jumbos defeated Amherst since the 1991 season, and then Tufts ran away with a 5-1 victory against Amherst in the first round of the conference tournament on May 5, en route to advancing to the semifinals for the first time since the 2010-11 campaign.
As a reward for the Jumbos' outstanding season, Tufts was selected as a host for a six-team NCAA Regional Tournament on May 12-14. The Jumbos went 1-1 in the event, falling in a 5-4 heartbreaker to No. 14-ranked Johns Hopkins in the final of the event on May 14 at the Bass River Tennis Club in Beverly, Massachusetts.
The Jumbos' season is not over by any stretch of the imagination, as the squad will be well represented at the NCAA Division III Singles and Doubles Championships on May 25-27 at The Champions Tennis Club in Chattanooga, Tennessee, with sophomore star Mina Karamercan competing on the 32-player singles side. Karamercan and junior standout Lauren Louks will serve as the first alternate in the 16-team doubles competition, meaning if any pair scratches, then the two women will fill the position.
Bayard's strong coaching helped Browne win the NCAA Division III title in singles during the 2010 season and powered Browne and Meghan McCooey to back-to-back ITA Small College National Championships on the doubles side in 2008 and 2009.
Bayard has also done a great job establishing a highly-talented staff, which includes Howard. The four-year Division I tennis player at the University of Richmond has been instrumental to the Jumbos' recent success, as the team has gone 46-33 during his four years as an assistant, including reaching the third round of the NCAA Tournament three times.
He has brought a ton of experience to the program, as he was a two-time All-Conference First Team selection, while competing at No. 1 singles and serving as a captain during his senior year as a Spider. He also played on the professional tennis circuit in 2000-01, earning an ATP World Singles ranking.
His success as a player translated into his coaching career, as he has provided coaching for junior players, who are highly ranked in the national spotlight. He also served as the head coach at Manchester Athletic Club from 2009-13 and an assistant at Brown University from 2001-02. His partnership with Bayard and Gann has worked wonders for the program, as the team's 15 wins this season were the most since the 2010-11 season.
Written by Trevor Wenners, Athletic Communications Intern
Link: ITA Release