The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Coast-to-Coast polls place UMW tennis teams on top

3 min read
A group of women's tennis players wearing gray long sleeve tops and navy blue skirts smile and pose professionally in a group photo together in front of a brick building.

The UMW women's tennis team poses together. | @umwathletics, X


Staff Writer

In a notable year for UMW Tennis, the Coast-to-Coast Conference posted their preseason polls on Feb. 2, ranking UMW’s men’s and women’s tennis teams first overall. The polls are based on the results of a survey that the coaches fill out, and while the rankings tend to reflect the confidence of coaches across the conference, they also serve as goal-setting markers for the teams. 

According to Alex Covington, the head coach of the women’s tennis team who was hired in May 2022, the formula for sustained success comes from leadership from coaches and seasoned players.

“The returners are able to prepare the younger players and set the tone for what the expectations are and give them teammate exposure and prepare them for what’s to come for the season,” she said. “As a coach, I prepare them, but having it come from the players carries a different weight.”

Covington spoke on what it meant to be ranked first.

“It’s a credit to what the team has done last year,” said Covington. “It’s very humbling to be chosen—not a lot of schools are, and we’re very lucky. We’ve got a talented group of people, and I really enjoy seeing their talent recognized.”

The women’s tennis team has a strong history of finishing on top of their standings, as the team has won 19 consecutive conference championships. During the 2019–2020 and 2022–2023 seasons, the team finished with a winning record, overcoming their seed that placed them lower than other teams within the conference that had stronger records. 

Men’s tennis at UMW has a similar story to the women’s team. In three of the past five seasons—with the exceptions being the 2019–2020 and 2022–2023 seasons—the men’s team was seeded at the top of the standings in the Coast-to-Coast Athletic Conference, and they have also won two consecutive conference championships. 

Andrew Cooper, a senior biomedical science major, attributed the men’s team’s success to the culture of hard work they’ve developed.

“We’re putting in work all the time,” said Cooper. “That kind of culture is what really contributes to the team that we have right now. I think the one thing that Mary Washington does really well is we work hard, keep developing your skills and develop yourself as a player while you’re also here at school.”

In addition to the effort they’ve invested in their athletic careers, being ranked first reinforced the close-knit culture between the athletes on both teams. 

“I definitely view us more as one team than it seems, because obviously we’re not playing together, but it feels like it,” said Riley Smith, one of the captains for the women’s team who is pursuing a Master’s in business administration. “We care a lot about the men’s team and vice versa. It’s expected that we go to each other’s matches and so it’s really exciting everything that we do; I want them to be just as successful and definitely be rooting for them.”

Cooper praised the men’s team for their support of the women’s team. 

“In the past, the guys always bring the team, show up to the matches, cheer them on. You know, we’re close to them,” he said. “[With] the teams being so small, it’s really easy to get to know the team really well and just work hard.”

Nationally, the women’s tennis team is ranked 27th and the men’s 37th across all 328 Division III NCAA tennis teams. Due to their standings, both teams are in the 90th percentile of teams in the U.S., according to NCSA College Recruiting.

“We feel like we’ve definitely done a lot to earn the kind of position that we’re in as a team,” said Cooper. “We’re really excited to battle it out against these players to these other teams that are ranked high as well.”

The men’s and women’s tennis teams at UMW hosted their opening regular season meet on Feb. 17 against Averett University and Washington College. Both UMW teams began their seasons undefeated, with the men’s team starting 2-0 and the women’s team starting 1-0. 

Mary Washington will host the Coast-to-Coast Championship May 3–5.