Covenant’s transition to Division III athletics was almost jeopardized last week when the women’s tennis team realized they did not have enough tennis players for their match against Salem College on Wednesday, April 11.
In 2009, Covenant College was accepted as a provisional member by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III. This year Covenant is making the exciting official transition to Division III. As a part of this transition, each sport must continue to meet certain requirements. The women’s tennis team is required to play 10 matches with six players who play the whole match.
Last week, as the women’s tennis team prepared for their match, they realized they were in danger of failing the 10-game requirement. “Prior to last Wednesday, we had played six matches,” said freshman Gretchen Rowe. Knowing they would only be playing three more games (this past Saturday and Tuesday), the team knew they couldn’t forfeit to Salem. More than a matter of pride, the team realized this game might mean the difference between entering the NCAA Division III and having to postpone the move for a year.
The issue came to a head when the girls on the tennis team realized how many of their players wouldn’t be able to make it to the game. “Only three of the current players could go to the Salem match,” said junior tennis player Anne Marie Rowe. “The rest of the team couldn’t come because of injuries or because of school commitments.” That left the three players who could come to the match with a choice: forfeit, or find people willing to become tennis players for a day.
Not willing to give up without a fight, the girls searched endlessly for qualified women to join the team for the match. “The night before, we went through nearly every single girl on Great Scots to find out if they have ever played tennis,” said Gretchen. Miraculously, the Rowe sisters gathered three women willing to play for the team. LuLu Johnson agreed to play, having never played a game of tennis in her life. Aften Whitmore joined the team in spite of limited tennis experience, and the final substitute player Tatum Daniel agreed to play just an hour and a half before the team left for the match. “We just needed bodies on the court,” Anne Marie said.
In the midst of the hustle and bustle, senior tennis player Stephanie Sizemore had agreed to play with an ankle injury. “I couldn’t let the team down,” Sizemore said. Before even beginning rehab, Sizemore left for the match with her ankle wrapped, ready to take on Salem College.
A 15-passenger van took a whopping carload of six women to Salem College for the match, only adding to the humor of the sporting adventure. Sophomore Aften Whitmore was excited and nervous about the match. “I got there and saw a huge tennis player and thought, ‘that’s who I’m gonna have to play,’ and sure enough — I was matched up in singles with this girl who looked like the third Williams sister.” Whitmore went on to win her doubles match as Sizemore’s partner, but lost to “the third Williams sister” in singles.
“We weren’t expecting to win at all,” said Gretchen, but in true underdog-Remember-the-Titans-feel-good-sports-movie fashion, the Lady Scots pulled ahead, sweeping Salem in doubles and winning all but two singles matches. The score was 7-2 overall.
What could have been devastating for the Lady Scots tennis team and Covenant athletics, turned into a display of the Lady Scots’ ingenuity, perseverance, and victory in the face of adversity. “I don’t want to say we saved the entire athletic program, but we kind of saved the entire athletic program,” Whitmore joked. The Lady Scots completed their 10-game requirement this past Tuesday in a match against LaGrange College.