Selected to finish third in the NEWMAC preseason poll and devoid of a conference championship for 11 years, the Babson women’s tennis team surprised its doubters by not only capturing a league title but also qualifying for the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history.
The Beavers’ success began during the fall season, when the women shocked conference power MIT by beating them for just the sixth time in 46 meetings to claim only their second NEWMAC title and earn their first national ranking. “The senior leadership pushed our first-years to compete at a high level at the most important time of our fall season,” says head coach Jim Berrigan, MBA’15, who was named Northeast Region Women’s Coach of the Year by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association.
In another first, Babson boasted the Northeast’s top-ranked singles player, Yagmur Akgul ’18. “I had never played for a team before, and the idea of being a family made me more motivated to perform at 100 percent in every match,” says Akgul. “As I started beating very good players, I became even more motivated.”
However, the team’s prospects for the spring semester looked unfavorable when Akgul slipped on ice and broke her wrist, ending a stellar first-year campaign that included a 21-1 singles record and 19-3 doubles mark with partner Alex Freeman ’15. An injury also sidelined Jenny Quenard ’18, who had clinched the winning point during her team’s thrilling 5-4 comeback victory over MIT, for part of the spring. “After having an overwhelmingly successful fall, watching our team fall to injuries was mentally and emotionally draining,” says Freeman, “but we improvised, adapted, and overcame. The injuries made us a tougher team.”
Coach Berrigan says the Beavers initially struggled with their teammate losses, but about halfway through the spring season they began to play better and not think about the “what ifs” anymore. “When we arrived the day before the NCAAs,” he says, “we were excited to play and see how far we could go.” The team’s 5-0 victory over Colby-Sawyer gave the Beavers an NCAA Tournament win for the first time in program history. The win also tied this team with Babson’s 2003-2004 squad for the most single-season victories in program history.—Scott Dietz, associate director of athletics