After 37 years, the final Seven Sisters Women’s Tennis Championships took place last weekend, Feb. 23 and 24, in Vassar’s Walker Field House. This year, for the 18th year in a row, Vassar and Wellesley earned the top two spots and, although the Brewers entered the event its four-time reigning champions, the Blue ultimately triumphed 4-1 in Sunday’s final. Despite this loss, Vassar remains atop the historic Seven Sisters leaderboard, with 15 wins to Wellesley’s 14 and Smith’s 8.
However, for all of the participants, the Seven Sisters Championships developed into more than just another tournament. The special format and friendly atmosphere of the event led to a weekend that, while still competitive, was not all about who takes home the trophy. The Championship—which included a banquet on Saturday night—served as an opportunity for attendees from all of the competing schools to bond and interact.
Vassar Head Coach Kathy Campbell reflected on the significance of the event, explaining:“This is the last Seven Sisters, so it’s kind of a hallmark event … It is something that our team has always really cherished, we have a banquet [and] you get the sense of camaraderie among the Seven Sister colleges, off the court and on the court.”
The Seven Sisters Championship also used a unique tournament format. Instead of the normal structure of three doubles matches followed by six singles, teams competed in two doubles matches and three singles all during the same time slot, which meant players could each compete only once per matchup. This unorthodox format granted coaches an opportunity to rotate rosters throughout the weekend, allowing players to compete in positions or with teammates they may otherwise not have.
Explained junior Tara Edwards, a captain:
“For me, this has been one of the highlights of my career thus far because it has given me the opportunity to play doubles with someone I don’t normally get the chance to. This is a fun change of pace that I think is fun for not just me, but for the entire team.”
Because of the novel format Edwards partnered with her fellow captain, senior Morgane Flournoy. The duo was named to the All-Tournament Team after claiming victory at the No. 1 doubles slot for the third year in a row. For her part, Flournoy agreed that the Seven Sisters were special in how they allowed for interaction and bonding with opposing players.
“I am really going to miss the Seven Sister Tournament because it is truly unique in tennis,” Flournoy affirmed. “Compared with other tournaments we play as a team, Seven Sisters is just as competitive, but there is also a sense of camaraderie with your opponent that is very rare to find in a tennis match.”
In the process of helping build new relationships between players of opposing teams, the Seven Sisters encourages teams to build community within themselves. During the banquet, each program’s seniors present the rest of their team to all of the other attendees, choosing a theme and then describing each individual’s character—both as a teammate and as a person. This year, Flournoy (Vassar’s only senior) gave each other member of the team a stuffed animal that represented them in some way.
For Edwards, the process of giving and receiving gifts and introductions is a big part of what makes the Seven Sisters so special. “For my team especially, the seniors giving gifts to each player on the team is one of the highlights of the weekend,” she explained. “Not only is it fun to receive a gift about your personality from your senior, but overall it demonstrates the strong team and friendship bonds that have formed through tennis [and] also allows you to get to know your opponents as people rather than just a player on the opposite side of the net.”
In the midst of all the camaraderie and bonding unique to the Seven Sisters Championship, the Vassar team also put forth an impressive tennis display. In their matchups against Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke and Smith, the Brewers only dropped a single match. Even in the final matchup against Wellesley, Vassar fought hard, taking two of the four lost matches to a third-set tiebreaker.
Flournoy attributed the team’s performance to the conditioning and character of the team, saying “I think…our fitness has been really great. And I thought it really showed today, just like being faster on the court, being able to handle longer points…I thought just our attitude on the court [was great]…the determination all the way until the end. It can sometimes be easy to give up, even just like within the last couple points, but no one on the team did that today.”
Campbell also praised the team’s character, along with their support for one another even when they were not actively playing. The long-serving coach added that, with such a young roster, she took full advantage of the opportunity to give experience to different players and was happy with how it turned out.
Campbell noted that there is always room to improve, but she still focused on the positive, adding, “As the season goes forward…I think we have things for each of the young women on the team [to work on], whether it be serve percentage [or] footwork on returns…but as a team I think we just have to use the positives out of this weekend to keep getting better because…our goal is to keep getting better and keep improving and stay positive with ourselves and with each other.”
Beyond what it contributed to the teams as tennis players, the Seven Sisters Championship will be remembered for the special sense of community it built between all who attended through the years.
“I along with most of the players are sad that this tournament is ending,” Edwards reflected. “The tradition of the tournament, its different format and the banquet with the other Seven Sister players is unique and is one of the benefits of going to a Seven Sister school and playing a sport in college. I think this is what people will miss the most: Getting to know people who have more in common with us…because of the unifying characteristic of us all attending Seven Sister schools.”