When you have a two-year record of 34-9, a Centennial Conference Player of the Year award, two Player of the Week awards and the third highest winning percentage in your college's history, chances are you've made a substantial impact on your team's success.
Such was the case for New Canaan's Caitlin Gallagher, who impressed Haverford coach Ann Koger so much as a freshman, both by her quality of play and by her demeanor, that she was named a captain going into her sophomore season.
"She carries herself with an air of confidence, but she is humble enough to be very well-liked by her teammates and other folks on campus," Koger said. "I watched her toward the end of her freshman year and I said to myself, `She is leadership material.' When the opportunity was presented to her to become a captain, she immediately agreed and said she was looking forward to the job. She has been a strong leader on and off the court ever since."
The top singles player at her school, Gallagher indicated that she was proud to be a captain alongside her doubles partner.
"Though I was a sophomore captain, I believe that I was already very close with my team. They respected me for my love of tennis and overall dedication," Gallagher said. "In addition, my co-captain and doubles partner, Alex Ferrara, already had a year's experience in the position and helped me a lot over the course of the year."
The former New Canaan High School tennis standout rewarded her coach's confidence by going 19-4 at singles (14 of those wins came in straight sets), 15-9 at doubles and leading the Fords to a 12-7 (7-3 conference) mark in 2013.
"I believe what made Alex Ferrara and I such a good team is that we are very good friends, on and off the court. We know how to keep each other positive in difficult situations and play to each other's strengths," Gallagher said. "In high school I only played singles, so it's fun to be playing doubles. I truly believe it is a toss-up between which I prefer to play, and I would be disappointed not to be playing both."
Gallagher's dominance while playing for a Division-III college team even came as a bit of a surprise to Gail Overbeck, New Canaan High's former girls tennis coach who had Gallagher for four years.
"I'm absolutely thrilled for her. I'm just a little bit shocked because she's making such strides so quickly," Overbeck said. "She's a worker. She's always working in the offseason, she's really dedicated to the sport and it's showing, so it's great for her."
In addition to her former player's strong work ethic, Overbeck was quick to point to Gallagher's poise as a reason for her success.
"She's very, very steady and patient. She had great stamina and she never let opponents see her sweat," Overbeck said. "She's quick to the ball, she has good footwork skills and she wore them down with steadiness and patience."
Gallagher, who was named to the all-conference first team and was Haverford's first women's tennis player to bring home the conference Player of the Year accolades, was joined on the all-conference team by Ferrara. Together, the duo posted a 15-9 mark and earned second team all-conference honors.
Gallagher and Ferrara accomplished the feat despite Gallagher having never played a varsity doubles match at New Canaan High School, though she would occasionally play doubles during practice.
Playing at the top singles varsity spot was nothing new for Gallagher, who also took the court as the No. 1 singles player at the end of her run at New Canaan High. Along with sister Courtney Gallagher and several other standout players, the Rams captured a pair of FCIAC titles and four state championships during her four-year tenure.
"The New Canaan High School teams that I played on had some exceptionally talented players, some nationally ranked. By and large, we handled most of the teams and our greatest competition was with Greenwich High School," Gallagher said. "Despite that rivalry, it seemed as if we won the states every year and several FCIACs as well. My college team competes against a number of very good teams, some of which are much larger colleges than Haverford. This makes the competition especially difficult. Despite the significant competition, Haverford has done very well."
Haverford finished with the fourth best record of the 11 teams in the conference, but Gallagher and company sound like they have even bigger aspirations for next season.
"I hope that myself and the team only go up from here," Gallagher said. "I played a lot of great players this year and I have learned a lot from them. As long as my team and I keep our training up over the offseason, I believe that we will continue to excel in the conference."
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