A true winning program is one that can absorb heavy graduation losses and
still maintain a high level of success. Such is the case with Muhlenberg
womens tennis, which graduated five senior starters off its 2004
Centennial Conference championship team, then came back with possibly its
best season ever in 2005.
Relying with one exception on players who stepped into expanded roles, the
Mules tied a school record with 12 wins and earned their first bid to the
NCAA Division III Championships.
The exception was junior Amy Schmidt, who stayed at the top of the
lineup and on top of her
game. She put together the best season ever by a Muhlenberg tennis player,
going 20-2 in singles play and winning a match at the NCAA Championships.
Emily Oster, the lone senior on the team, set school
records for doubles wins (45) and combined wins (82) in spring dual
matches. She graduated as the winningest class in program
history, with a four-year record of 46-11 overall, 36-4 in the CC.
The Mules split their first six matches of the season, falling to three
teams that were in the NCAA Tournament last year (New Jersey, Mary
Washington and Swarthmore). The latter two matches were decided by 5-4
margins, and the loss to Swarthmore snapped Muhlenbergs 19-match CC
After falling to Swarthmore, the Mules reeled off nine straight wins
seven of them by 8-1 or 9-0 to close out the regular season with a
12-3 record. The biggest victory during the streak came at
home against regionally ranked Franklin & Marshall, when Muhlenberg
captured four of six singles matches to eke out a 5-4 triumph.
The ninth straight win, at Ursinus, should have marked the end of the
season. The Mules were ranked eighth in the Atlantic South Region for the
third year in a row, and the top seven teams are selected for the NCAAs.
But when Sewanee withdrew from the tournament, Muhlenberg was asked to
take its place.
The Mules received and accepted the invitation on Thursday, flew to
Atlanta on Friday and, after not practicing in almost two weeks, faced an
experienced Rhodes team in the first round on Saturday. The
result was a 5-0 loss that gave Muhlenberg a nice taste of national
Schmidt won seven of her matches 6-0, 6-0, and dropped
only 71 games while winning 247 in her 22 singles matches. She will enter
her senior season with a combined career record of 91-18.
Schmidt got a further taste two weeks later when she traveled to
Kalamazoo, Mich., for the NCAA
Individual Tournament. Schmidt, the sixth-ranked singles player in the
region, was one of 32 players invited to compete in the tournament. Given
a chance to redeem herself after suffering her first loss of the season in
the CC final, she defeated a returning All-American in the first round
before falling to the eventual national champion in the Round of 16.
Schmidt was named an All-American, the first in program history, and
finished as the 19th-ranked singles player in Division III.
The NCAA experience capped a year in which Schmidt was
named CC player of
the year, compiled a combined singles and doubles record of 36-5, became
the first player in team history to go through spring dual matches
undefeated (15-0) and broke the school record for career singles wins in
spring dual matches (40).
Schmidt and her doubles partner, freshman Ashley Reed, combined to
go 13-1 in dual matches and were ranked 10th in the region. Reed added a
10-3 singles mark at No. 4.
Among the players who thrived in greater roles were sophomores Pam
Kimmelman and Kelly Fraser. Kimmelman held down the No. 2
singles spot all year after playing no higher than fourth as a freshman
and went 12-3 overall, 9-1 in the CC. Fraser, who hardly played as a
freshman, was 12-3, 8-1 at No. 6.