HANOVER, Ind. – The Hanover College women's tennis team, along with 48 other institutions, begin their quest for a national championship this weekend, as the NCAA Division III Tournament gets underway.
SETTING THE SCENE: The Panthers (13-4) open tournament play in Atlanta, Ga. at the Emory-hosted regional. Hanover will face North Carolina Wesleyan in the first round at 10 a.m., Friday, May 10. The indoor contingency plan would have the two sides square off earlier with an 8:30 a.m. start Friday.
The HC-NCW winner will then face nationally-ranked No. 1 Emory (Ga.) in the second round at either 10 or 11:30 a.m., Saturday, May 11. The third round will take place at noon, Sunday, May 12, with the winner of No. 23 Washington & Lee (Va.) and No. 30 Sewanee (Tenn.) joining the winner of the HC-NCW-EU side. The third round winner then advances to next weekend's quarter-, semi- and tournament final, hosted by Kalamazoo (Mich.).
BACK IN THE BIG DANCE: The Blue and Red are in the national tournament field for the second consecutive year and fifth time in the past six seasons. Hanover is coming off a history-setting performance last year, winning the program's first NCAA Division III National Tournament match, a 5-0 triumph over Webster (Mo.) in the opening round. The Panthers then lost to the tournament's top seed and eventual national runner-up, Emory, 5-0. Emory, Hanover and Sewanee are all in the same pod for the second straight season.
NATIONALLY-RANKED TEAMS HIGHLIGHT REGIONAL POD: Arguably one of the toughest opening weekend pods in the national tournament is at Emory. The No. 1 Eagles are one of three teams nationally ranked in the group, with Washington & Lee and Sewanee also among the top 30 teams in the country, according to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. All three schools, as well as NC Wesleyan, are ranked among the top 11 teams in the ITA Atlantic South region as well. Despite not being ranked, Hanover still enters having been to the national tournament several times in recent memory and had a school-record 12-match winning streak in the fall.
Overall, the five teams have combined for a 78-26 record this season, a .750 winning percentage. The quintet also went a combined 36-0 in their respective conferences. The other four schools in the pod have seen most of their losses come at the hands of scholarship schools, whether it is NCAA Division I or II, or the NAIA, and top-level nationally ranked DIII opponents.
PANTHERS TESTED IN NON-CONFERENCE: Hanover put together a rigorous non-conference schedule of its own for the 2018-19 campaign. Included in Hanover's four losses are nationally-ranked Sewanee, regionally-ranked Augustana (Ill.) and NCAA DII Davenport (Mich.), as well as a 14-7 Saint Mary's (Minn.) squad. Additionally, HC squared off with a top-level DII program in Bellarmine (Ky.), as well as DI Butler (Ind.) in exhibition matches this spring.
SINGLES NOTES: Hanover has produced a 70-25 (.737) record in singles competition this season and have been nearly unbeatable at Nos. 5 and 6, going a combined 27-5 (.844). 2018-19 HCAC Most Valuable Player, junior Cami Jones (Richmond, Ind.), is one of three players with 12 singles victories this season. The junior is 12-3 at No. 1 this season and is 39-19 in her collegiate career.
Senior Ruth Gaston (Indianapolis, Ind.) has taken full advantage of her opportunity in the lineup this campaign, going a team-best 12-2. For her career, Gaston is 22-7 in singles play. Sophomore Mia Katzenberger (Crawfordsville, Ind.) has matched Jones' record this season and is 19-3 over two years with the Blue and Red. Both players were HCAC honorable mention choices back in the fall. Sophomore Addison Laker (Indianapolis, Ind.) was a first team selection in the fall and is 8-3 this season and 20-7 for her career.
DOUBLES NOTES: The Panthers have found similar success in doubles play, allowing the team to jump out to early leads in matches. Hanover is 39-12 in doubles competition, a .765 winning percentage. A pair of HCAC first team choices, senior Susie Winternheimer (Indianapolis, Ind.) and junior Meghan Farrell (Indianapolis, Ind.) are 9-5 at No. 1. Gaston and junior Lizzy Katzenberger (Crawfordsville, Ind.) have also teamed up for nine wins this season. Gaston was paired with junior Caroline Millard (Cincinnati, Ohio) for three victories as well, giving her a team-best 12-2 record.
Jones and sophomore Haley Parker (Leo, Ind.) are 8-4 this season competing in the top two spots. Over the past two seasons, the duo is 24-10 in doubles competition.
Contact: Tyler Jester