The Vanderbilt women’s tennis team is making its fourth consecutive trip to the NCAA Final Four. This is the definition of sustained excellence. No Vanderbilt team in history has appeared in four straight national semi-finals of any sport.
Vanderbilt is the overall number 1 seed and Duke and Georgia Tech were the highest seeds in their respective brackets. UNC lost to Stanford as the only top bracket seed to lose. Does this mean we are a cinch to win it all? Of course, not we first have to beat a very good, highly seeded Georgia Tech (#4) team on Monday and then we have to play the winner of Duke (#3) and Stanford (#18.) This is going to be one tall order, but don’t bet against the Commodores.
This performance is no fluke. To win like this in the SEC and nationally requires great recruiting, continuous player development, and superb coaching. Geoff Macdonald has taken the tennis team to every single one of their NCAA appearances during his 24 seasons as head coach. This year was the Commodores’ 18th Sweet 16 appearance and fifth straight. Is our coach, special? Just think about that: We have been to the Sweet 16 in women’s tennis 18 times in our coaches 24 seasons!
The team has only one first-team senior, Astra Sharma, who plays number 1 and is from Australia. She is the best player on the team, but the younger women are good including two starting freshmen. By the way, we do have one other senior who does not start, and that is Payton Robinette, sister to our former quarterback, Patton.
To play at a consistently high level takes many qualities, but undoubtedly there is a team chemistry that has been maintained through the years. Macdonald left Duke for Vanderbilt in 1994, and he has really built something remarkable during these 24 years. The coach has a very low-key approach to coaching, just encourages each girl to improve, stay strong and have fun.
VandyMania.com gives the team a great salute and hopes for a second national championship this year on Tuesday after beating Georgia Tech tomorrow.
AUTHOR NOTE: Jerry Reves is a Vanderbilt graduate and played tennis at Vanderbilt.