W&M notches another CAA women's tennis title; Tribe picks up women's basketball transfer

djohnson@vagazette.com

William and Mary has dominated CAA women's tennis for the past three decades. Nobody appreciates that more than Tribe coach Tyler Thomson, who knows what it's like to be on the other side.

From 2002-12, Thomson was the head coach at Minnesota, a solid program that couldn't get past Northwestern. Nobody in the Big Ten could. The Wildcats won nine conference championships in those 11 years Thomson coached the Golden Gophers.

So on Sunday, as the Tribe won its 25th Colonial title in 32 years, Thomson savored the moment. Having been on the other side of things at Minnesota made him appreciate it even more.

"Northwestern was dominant every single year, and every other team just felt like they were there to survive as long as they could," Thomson said. "So I have a deeper sense of gratitude for being in our position.

"There are some challenges that come along with it, but I'd much rather be in this position than the other. We feel a heaviness of wanting to continue the tradition, and it's getting heavier every year."

Sunday's championship match against UNC Wilmington was the heaviest. For the second day in a row, the Tribe lost two out of three doubles matches to fall behind 1-0. That meant W&M needed to take four of the six singles matches to win.

Ekaterina Stepanova, the Tribe's No. 1, lost to Wilmington's Madara Straume 6-3, 7-5. But No. 3 Natalia Perry, No. 4 Rosie Cheng and No. 5 Lauren Goodman each won in straight sets to put W&M ahead 3-2. One more for the title.

At No. 2, the Tribe's Marie Faure and UNCW's Annika Sillanpaa had gone to a third set. After taking a 4-0 lead, Faure held on to win 6-3 to clinch the Tribe's fourth CAA championship in five years — and its 25th overall.

"It was an amazing team effort," Thomson said. "We have 10 women on the team — seven of them played, but all 10 of them were really instrumental. The team is incredibly tight-knit, more than any team I've ever coached. They were really passionate about achieving this.

"We have values that we keep as a bedrock of everything we do. One of them is Tribe tennis history — that's something that's on our minds at all times. We're honoring the teams that have done well before us and trying to continue the tradition."

One tradition W&M would like to improve will come in the NCAA tournament, which begins May 13. In its last three trips, the Tribe lost in the first round. The last time W&M made it to the round of 16 was in 2007.

The Tribe will learn its first-round opponent on May 2.

"I think the team discovered this weekend different levels that they're capable of when they're all dialed in," Thomson said. "They tapped into something they can resource again in the tournament. I think we'll have a really good shot at least to get past the first round.

"I don't think whoever we play will be out of our reach. We've got to work on our doubles, (which) weren't very good this past weekend. But I know the team is motivated, and we'll be ready."

Johnson can be reached by phone at 757-247-4649.

Football

Members of the William and Mary football team helped raise more than $2,500 for Literacy for Life with the squad's car wash fundraiser on Sunday.

Tribe players gathered at Shorty's Diner, American Pride Automotive and The Cozy Patio Bistro for the annual wash.

All proceeds from the event go directly to Literacy for Life, which has been working for nearly 40 years to provide literacy services to help community members function more effectively.

Women's basketball

William and Mary announced the addition of George Washington transfer Harper Birdsong for the 2017-18 season. Due to NCAA transfer rules, Birdsong will be eligible for the Tribe during the 2018-19 season.

Birdsong, a former Nansemond Suffolk Academy standout, played one season at George Washington where she appeared in nine games. She averaged 1.2 points, 0.2 rebounds in 4.6 minutes per game. She finished her rookie season shooting 30.8-percent (4-of-13) and 25-percent (2-of-8) from 3-point range.

Baseball

Senior Ryder Miconi was named CAA Player of the Week for the week of April 24 after batting .409 (9-for-22) with three doubles, six runs scored and nine RBIs in the Tribe's 4-1 week that included a sweep of league rival James Madison.

William and Mary (22-20, 7-5) will head to George Mason Wednesday before returning to conference series action Friday at Towson.

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