W&L women’s tennis takes on rigorous spring season

Faced with tough competition earlier in the season, the Generals hope to be well-prepared for a better run at nationals this year


A solid crop of returning players bring experience and mentorship to the Generals women’s tennis team. Photo courtesy of Generals Sports

Christian Basnight, Staff Writer

The Washington and Lee University’s women’s tennis team is back in action and primed to continue their strong fall form into the spring.
The Generals, ranked 21st nationally, maintained a perfect 4-0 team record in the fall, with all four wins resulting in 9-0 routs over conference competition.
The women’s team also took part in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Southeast Region Championships where the doubles pair of Lauren Long, ’26, and Margaret Carlton, ’24, finished runner-up. Long and Carlton qualified for the national Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s Cup tournament and are currently the 12th-ranked doubles duo in the nation.
Six-time Old Dominion Athletic Conference Coach of the Year Erin Ness said she’s pleased with her team’s start in the 2022-23 season.
“I’m very happy with how we did in the fall. We had our best showing at regionals in a long time,” she said. “I’m really excited about the results and I think that gave us good momentum going into our offseason.”
After ITA tournaments ended in October, the Blue and White continued to train hard throughout the entire offseason to prepare for the upcoming spring slate.
“They were very organized and hit six days a week, lifting on top of that,” Ness said. “They’re just a very motivated group and that’s built momentum coming into our spring season now.”
Washington and Lee opened their spring campaign with a scrimmage against Division I Bucknell on Saturday, falling 6-3. The women’s team will compete in their first two official matches of the year on Feb. 17 when they host 12th-ranked Case Western Reserve at the Washington and Lee Invitational. The Generals will then square off against 10th-ranked Sewanee on Feb. 18.
The Blue and White will then go on the road to face No. 18 Washington on Feb. 25, followed by No. 28 Skidmore and No. 16 Trinity on Mach 18 and 19.
Ness believes facing higher-ranked teams earlier in the schedule will better prepare her team for the rigors of the season.
“Just to be able to play this top competition is a good barometer for us to see where we are to start with,” Ness said. “I want us to feel the pressure and I want us to feel the nerves early on, so we know how to counteract them as the season goes.”
The Generals return three out of four 2022 All-ODAC players, including Izzy Koziol, ’24, ranked 46th nationally in singles. 2022 ODAC Player of the Year Gabi Moss, ’24, also adds extra experience to the women’s team.
The women’s team has more fresh faces out on court, with six first-years joining the roster. Moss said she enjoys the dynamic of having a team with varying experience levels.
“It is strange to have like half the team be freshmen. I feel like it’s one upperclassman for one freshman,” she said. “It’s like a mentor-mentee type of vibe, but I like it a lot.”
While Ness said the tight bond among her first-years made for a “seamless transition” into Washington and Lee, she acknowledges the obstacles that accompany her younger players.
“I think some of the biggest challenges is just lack of experience playing college tennis, because it’s so different than juniors,” Ness said. “Being a part of something that’s bigger than yourself, can also put a lot of pressure on these players because they don’t want to mess up for their teammates.”
The Blue and White are heavy favorites to claim their 19th consecutive and 31st overall ODAC championship. The Generals hope an enhanced focus on doubles play can help them go deeper at the NCAA Division III Championships.
“Our top goal is just to get back to the quarterfinals, and beyond at the NCAA tournament,” Ness said. “A big focus for us as doubles this year, and really trying to take the doubles point because that just takes a lot more pressure off of singles.”
Ness relies on every player to step up on match day and help the team reach its goals.
“I just trust everyone to get the job done,” Ness said. “The way we do our program is if you’re representing us on court, then the coaches are trusting you to take care of business out there.”