June 9, 2003

Eagles sweep Div. III tennis team titles

By Eric Rangus

Coming into the 2002–2003 year Emory, while generally fielding solid teams in nearly every sport, had won just one Division III national title— by the 1996 women’s tennis team.

Time to make some more room in the trophy case.

Both the men’s and women’s tennis teams won Div. III national titles at their respective championships last month. The Eagles’ women’s team was particularly proficient, sweeping the doubles and singles championships as well.

This is the third straight year one school has won the both the men’s and women’s Div. III team tennis championships. In 2001 and 2002, Williams (Mass.) pulled the trick.

Junior Mary Ellen Gordon not only led the women’s team to the championship, 4-1 over Washington & Lee (Va.) on May 16, but she won the Div. III singles title, defeating freshman teammate Jolyn Taylor 6-4, 6-1, and teamed with Taylor to claim the national doubles title, beating Haley Heathman and Liz Bondi from DePauw (Ind.). It was Gordon’s first national title in singles and third consecutive win in doubles.

The Brookwood High School graduate (and daughter of Emory Athletic Director Chuck Gordon) is only the second person in Div. III women’s tennis history to claim that trifecta. She finished the season with a singles record of 34-1 and holds Emory’s all-time record for singles wins (89) and winning percentage (.873). Her 76 doubles wins ranks third all-time.

As she was after both her freshman and sophomore years, Gordon was named All-America in both singles and doubles. Her six All-America honors are the most ever by an Emory women’s tennis player.

Taylor joined Gordon as an All-American in singles and doubles, and the Eagles’ No. 2 doubles team of Margaret Moscato and Emily Warburg claimed All-America honors as well. Taylor was named national Rookie of the Year, and head coach Amy Smith was named national Coach of the Year. Smith was the Eagles’ No. 1 singles player during their first national championship season. She is just the fifth woman in any division to win national tennis titles as a player and a coach

The Eagles finished the year 24-1, the only loss coming to Div. II Cal-Poly Pomona. Emory won all 19 matches against Div. III opponents and gave up more than one point just twice.

In 2002, Emory lost in the championship match to Williams, although Gordon paired with Anusha Natarajan to take the doubles title for the second consecutive year.

Emory is the only Div. III school to qualify for the national championships all 19 years they have been held, and just two schools—California-San Diego and Kenyon (Ohio)—have more national team titles.

On the men’s side, the Eagles swept the two-time defending national champion Williams Ephs 4-0 in the finals. On their way to the victory, Emory steamrolled past Trinity (Texas), 6-1 in the quarterfinals, and Middlebury (Vt.), 4-1 in the semis. In the championship match, singles players Mark Odgers (No. 1), Brad Jaffe (No. 3) and Jesse Ferlianto (No. 6) didn’t drop a set, and the Eagles swept all three doubles sets. Emory finished the season 16-4.

In singles, Odgers was eliminated in the quarterfinals, and in doubles Odgers and Alex Jacobs advanced to the semifinals before falling to the eventual national runners-up Rob Candiotty and Brian Murphy of Redlands (Calif.).

Odgers and Tyson Ramsey earned All-America honors in singles, and the No. 1 pairing of Odgers and Jacobs were named All-America in doubles.

This was the 14th straight year and 17th overall that Emory had advanced to the national championship. The Eagles had finished second twice, in 1996 and in 2002, when they lost to Williams in a heartbreaker, 4-3.

Like Smith, men’s tennis coach John Browning now has won national titles as a player and a coach. He was on the UC-Santa Cruz team that won the Div. III national title in 1989.