While students were catching up on their sleep or volunteering during Spring Break, the women’s tennis team was taking care of business. The women swept all five of their matches while enjoying the warm Orlando weather before falling to nationally ranked Carleton team in Minnesota.

The Pioneers were 18-0 after the Florida trip, dating back to the fall season. Considering the athletes were not allowed to come in contact with their coach until two days prior to their first match in Florida, Head Coach Andy Hamilton ’85 finds the feat even more impressive.

Catherine Fitch ’13 winds up for a serve during practice. Last weekend the women fell 5-4 at home to the Coe College Kohawks, bringing them to 18-2 overall and a 13th ranking in the Central Region of NCAA Division III tennis. Taking a week off, the squad will take on Luther College at home on Sunday, April 22. Photograph by Joey Brown

“Because Midwest Conference rules disallow having contact with the coach, the women had to prepare for the spring season on their own,” Hamilton said. “We took the attitude that we would just see how things would go in Florida since it was the first competition for the spring,”

They won the first two games with ease, beating Oglethorpe College and Calvin College, 6-3 and 9-0, respectively.

The next two games against SUNY New Paltz and Carthage College, however, were not so easy.

“The SUNY New Paltz match was memorable because we were down after singles and then we came back and won it by sweeping doubles,” Sadhana Athreya ’14 said. “The Carthage match was also fantastic. We won 5-4 with a win from our captain Toby.”

Against SUNY New Paltz, the squad was down 2-4, and needed to win the three doubles match to clinch a victory. Teams of Toby Cain ’12 and Emma Macdonald ’14 and Shirlene Luk ‘15 and Clothilde Thirouin ’14, prevailed in their respective doubles matches. The duo of Athreya and Laura Krull ’14 won a thrilling competition, rallying back from 3-6 to win the match 8-6, putting the finish touch in their 5-4 victory.

The group beat Carthage 5-4 the next day, with the final victory coming from Cain-Macdonald duo in the doubles match. Grinnell then capped off its Florida trip with a win over Pacific College, improving to 18-0 record.

Cain credits the deep and talented depth of the team for the team’s accomplishment.

“Our success in the fall was a result of our strong doubles play and our depth in singles,” Cain said. “One of the biggest strengths of this team is that since we have such a large group of accomplished players, we are improving every time we step on the court to practice. Our talent level and overall level of respect for one another have been our greatest strengths throughout this successful year.”

While playing five matches in six games took a toll on the players under the hot Florida sun, they enjoyed their time in the sunshine state. The squad travelled to Miami to watch the Sony Ericsson Open, where they tennis stars such as Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and Novak Djokovic among others.

The Pioneers faced a tough opponent in their first game back from the Florida trip, falling 9-0 to Carlton College, the 29th team in the nation.

“Carleton was a lot tougher,” Luk said. “I felt that we could have done better though if we were given more time to practice since we have been in season for about two weeks now. I felt that we lost because we were unprepared. We just started the season and we are still trying to get the hang of playing matches again.”

Unlike Grinnell, Carleton is a spring program, meaning they consider the spring season as their main one. Although the team was unable to win a game against the Knights, the coach liked what he saw in the team’s competition.

“Despite losing 9-0, I was pleased with some parts of our Carleton match,” Hamilton said. “We were much more competitive with them this year compared to last year.”

Cain believes Carleton will be a great preparation for the rest of the season.

“The difference between the talent of Carleton and the other teams we’ve faced this spring is very significant,” she said. “I think the Carleton match was a great way for us to prepare for our upcoming matches against Coe and Luther in April.”

The Florida trip was a great opportunity for the Pioneers to both prepare for the rest of the spring season and to become an even more close-knitted team.

“I’ve never been on a more supportive tennis team,” Cain said. “We’ve had other championship teams, but nothing can compare to the positive atmosphere we’ve created for one another this year. I’m very proud and grateful to be a part of such a remarkable team.”