After winning its first North Coast Athletic Conference women's tennis title since 2001 last spring, the Kenyon Ladies have been tabbed as the unanimous pick to win the 2018 league title based on preseason balloting by seven of the eight conference coaches.
The Ladies, who claimed the conference crown a year ago with a thrilling 5-4 victory over DePauw in the championship match, topped the preseason poll with 56 total points after earning all seven available first-place votes cast by the league coaches. Denison, which won the NCAC title in 2016, finished second in the poll with 46 points, followed by DePauw (41), Oberlin (37), Ohio Wesleyan (30), Wooster (17), Allegheny (16) and Wittenberg (9).
Kenyon, which enters the 2018 spring season ranked 30th in the ITA Div. III Poll, returns its top two singles players from a year ago in senior Diana Aboubakare (Orange, CA/Luther) and junior Maggie Sweeney (Grosse Pointe, MI/South), but the Ladies will also rely on an influx of talented freshman players throughout the spring season. Aboubakare, a 2017 All-American performer after going 1-1 in the NCAA Singles Championships, accumulated a 19-11 singles record last year playing primarily in the top position, while Sweeney had a breakout sophomore campaign in 2017 with a 24-7 record in the second singles slot. Seniors Alyssa Moreau (Granville, OH/Deerfield Acad., NH) and Grace Winslow (Sunrise, FL/South Plantation) are also expected to provide production in 2018, with Moreau ending last year with a 10-5 singles record and Winslow pairing with three different opponents for a 10-9 mark in doubles play. Leading the five-member freshman class for the Ladies this spring will be Ilana Blackwood (St. James, Barbados/Queens), Erika Oku (Hinsdale, IL/Central) and Ceylan Can (Weston, FL/Cypress Bay). Head coach Scott Thielke enters his 25th season at the helm of the KC women's tennis program with an overall record of 341-171, which includes three NCAA runner-up finishes in 1988, 1989 and 1998.
In 33 years of North Coast women's tennis competition, four schools have claimed league championships: Allegheny took the first title in 1985, while Kenyon went on a run to claim 15 of the next 16 titles, interrupted only by Denison's first title in 1994. The Big Red again broke the Ladies' streak in 2002, and reeled off 10-straight titles from 2002-11. DePauw earned four-straight titles from 2012-15, before Denison earned the top spot in 2016 and Kenyon reclaimed the title last spring. Kenyon leads the way with 16 North Coast titles, followed by Denison (12), DePauw (4) and Allegheny (1).
Founded in 1983, the North Coast Athletic Conference is made up of ten academically selective colleges and universities - Allegheny College, DePauw University, Denison University, Hiram College, Kenyon College, Oberlin College, Ohio Wesleyan University, Wabash College, Wittenberg University and the College of Wooster, along with affiliate member, Earlham College (field hockey). The NCAC sponsors 23 championship sports, 11 for men and 12 for women.
2018 North Coast Athletic Conference