By Mark Carpenter
A new age has dawned for Lynchburg’s women’s tennis program.
After posting losing records for 10 of the previous 11 seasons, the Hornets broke out of their doldrums in the first two seasons under head coach Chris Johnson. They tied the program’s record for wins in a season (13) in 2018 and shattered that mark in 2019, when they cruised to an 18-3 record and the program’s first-ever trip to the Old Dominion Athletic Conference championship match.
Christina Harris ’20 has been right in the middle of it.
Already one of the best women’s tennis players in Lynchburg lore, Harris cemented her place in those ranks in the 2018-19 season. She became the program’s all-time wins leader at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s regional championships in the fall. She leapt into 32nd in the ITA’s national Division III singles rankings.
She backed up the honor in the spring, rolling to a 15-1 record in dual matches — all at the No. 1 flight — and becoming Lynchburg’s first-ever ODAC Player of the Year in women’s tennis. She finished the year at 64 career wins, 15 more than any other Lynchburg player. With one more season to go, she’s sure to leave an enduring legacy on the court.
She wins with a mix of attitude and work ethic. “She expects to win when she walks on the court,” Johnson said. “She has a true passion for competing, and part of the reason she competes at such a high level is her commitment to a 12-month [training] schedule.”
Harris wasn’t the only player to improve over the offseason. Seven Hornet players carried better winning percentages in 2019 than they did in 2018, and three other players — Reagan Coon ’19, Ellen Druebbisch ’21,and Alissa Anderson ’22 — joined Harris on the all-conference team.
Johnson said the team stands out for being mentally tough. An example was Lynchburg’s ODAC semifinal triumph over Randolph-Macon College. Early in doubles play, Lynchburg was getting drubbed on all three courts. But the Hornets rallied to force tiebreaker games in two of the three flights and then won those tiebreakers for a trip to the final round.
“I think that totally set the tone for the rest of the match,” Harris said. “It was really intense. I don’t think I’ve ever been more nervous in my life playing tennis.”
Although they lost to national powerhouse Washington and Lee in the ODAC championship, the season was more than a success.
“It meant everything to us,” Harris, a marketing major, said of the record-setting year. “We have been working so hard ever since the end of last year. Our goal was to create a new culture for women’s tennis and prove ourselves to everyone.”
They certainly did, and despite having three seniors graduate this year, Johnson said his program is looking at reloading rather than rebuilding. And with the winningest player in program history back on the squad and looking to make the most of her senior year — plus two more All-ODAC performers back on the court — they should have plenty of ammunition.