The 2018 spring season will go down as the greatest in Wesleyan University Athletics history.
On May 26, Eudice Chong ’18 of the No. 5-ranked Wesleyan University women’s tennis team made history at the NCAA Division III Individual Championships in Claremont, Calif., as she became the first person to win four NCAA Singles Championships in any division of college tennis. She competed against her teammate, Victoria Yu ’19, in the finals while the duo also finished as runner-up in the doubles bracket. As a team, Wesleyan women’s tennis reached the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championships for the first-time ever. Read a Q&A with Chong and Coach Mike Fried here.
And on May 27, the men’s lacrosse team won the 2018 NCAA Division III Men’s Lacrosse Championship with an 8–6 victory over No. 3 Salisbury University at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. Senior Harry Stanton, the program’s all-time leader in goals, was named the Most Outstanding Player as he scored two more, including an assist on another. Read a Q&A with Coach John Raba here.
In order to win her record-breaking, fourth-straight title, Chong had to overcome her teammate, doubles partner, and friend Victoria Yu ’19, who was making her first appearance in the final at the Biszantz Family Tennis Center.
In the first set, Yu came out of the gate playing excellent tennis, taking it to Chong and putting herself in position to pull the upset win. With Yu up 5–3 in the first set, the momentum started to shift, with Chong finding another level to even the match at 5–5. From there, the two exchanged holds to reach a first-set tiebreaker. In the tiebreaker, experience prevailed, as Chong was too tough, taking it 7–3 to put herself within a set of the title.
In the second set, Chong began to loosen up, taking control of most points and dictating with her groundstrokes. The Sai Kung, Hong Kong, native raced out to an early lead and never looked back, quickly getting up 5–1. Yu continued to fight, breaking Chong at 5–1 to stay alive, but in the next game, Chong wrapped things up to take the match 7–6(3), 6–2.
With the win, Chong finishes her singles career at Wesleyan as the all-time leader in wins, amassing a 103–6 record, in addition to her four-time All-American and All-NESCAC honors. She was also named the ITA National Senior Player of the Year and a nominee for the 2018 Division III Honda Athlete of the Year.
The men’s lacrosse team, ranked No. 9 in the country, played in their first national championship game ever while the Sea Gulls were looking to capture their third-straight title and 13th overall. Additionally, with the win, head coach John Raba brings home the first-ever national team title in Wesleyan history.
“It’s an incredible moment for our program,” said Raba. “Our senior group has worked so hard for years now, so it’s not just, you know, today’s day. This is the culmination of what we’ve been doing and guys believing that we had the team to get to a national championship and win it.”
The Cardinals came out strong and jumped out to a 4–0 lead within the first 7:51 of play—with goals from four different players—and they never looked back. Salisbury got within one, twice, and scored the first goal of the second half to trail 5–4 with 10:12 to play in the third quarter. However, Wesleyan rallied nicely with a 3–0 run and despite getting shut out in the fourth, the Cardinals’ stifling defense made it difficult for Salisbury to find an open shot.
Wesleyan’s 2018 class, which brought home a national title the same day as the University’s Commencement, finished with an incredible overall record of 58–17 (.773) and a 30–10 (.750) NESCAC mark. The Cardinals are also 39–5 overall and 18–2 in league play the last two seasons.
“As a coach, you couldn’t be more proud of a group (senior class). We’ve asked them to do a lot,” Head Coach John Raba said. “We’ve dealt with a lot of adversity throughout the year. Today … we came out and we played Wesleyan lacrosse. That’s what we talked about. The intensity was there, the focus was there, and as a coach, you hope you get to this moment and you can handle it. I think our veteran group is really what led us to this moment.”
Also this year, women’s crew and women’s lacrosse also competed at their respective NCAA Tournaments. At the NCAA Division III Women’s Rowing Championships, the Cardinals finished fifth overall in the Varsity 8 and fourth overall in the Second Varsity 8. In women’s lacrosse, Wesleyan won their first two games to reach the third round. The 13-10 win over Messiah in the first round was its first NCAA Tournament victory in program history as the Cardinals finished the year ranked No. 11 in the national polls—their highest ranking ever.
Additional photos of the championship games in lacrosse and tennis are below: (Lacrosse photos courtesy of Steve McLaughlin and tennis photos courtesy of Claremont-Mudd-Scripps.)