first entire team to be inducted into the Pomona-Pitzer Athletic Hall
of Fame recalls the power of intention and clarity.
a crisp, sunny January day in 1992, the Pomona-Pitzer womens tennis
team gathered on Pauley Courts for the opening practice of the year. In
a circle, the team falteringly read in unison a team litany written by
Coach Lisa Beckett.
I love to play tennis
After disappointing NCAA III National finishes in 1989, 1990 and 1991,
the athletes looked around at their senior-laden team and knew experience
was on their side. By April, the squad had gone through dozens of recitations
of the litany as they completed their regular season 193. They entered
the 1992 NCAA III Championships as the top-ranked team.
After a first-round bye, the Sagehens defeated Swarthmore in the second
round and Gustavus Adolphus in the semi-finals. On May 15, 1992, Pomona-Pitzer
and second-ranked Kenyon stepped onto the courts to determine the national
The two squads split the singles, 33, then headed into doubles,
where the Sagehens won two out of three matches to claim the first national
team title in any sport in school history.
This past November, in a warm, nostalgic ceremony on campus during Homecoming,
the squad received the first-ever team induction into the Athletic Hall
Heady stuff. But as you listened at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony,
no one talked about sets or points. Everyones speeches and remembrances
focused on growth, closeness and the team litany.
I always think, talk and act positively
I think the litany reflected the things wed learned along
the way, recalls Coach Beckett, now the Senior Woman Administrator
in the Physical Education Department. It was never just words.
Arriving on campus in the fall of 88, Shelley Keeler 92, Brenda
Peirce Barnett 92 and Erin Hendricks (Pitzer 92) enrolled
in an advanced tennis class taught by Beckett, who was impressed by their
quality and amount of play. During that first spring together, Pomona-Pitzer
twice beat powerful UC San Diego in the regular season, only to fall in
the second round at Nationals to Kenyon. UCSD then advanced on to win
the national crown.
As a team they were young, says Beckett. The first year
was more a lack of experience. We were talented enough, but we hadnt
been to the championships. For the most part they got along well, but
they had to learn to get along better. That was the real learning process,
I think, to get along well enough to stay together at the end.
I always work as hard as I can...
The second year, when Beckett took a temporary leave to have her first
child, Karen Nilsen (Pitzer 88) took over the reins. She had
her hands full, says Beckett about Nilsens charges. It
was hard and there were all kinds of things happening. The second year
the team dynamics werent what they needed to be.
In 1991, Pomona-Pitzer entered the national tournament seeded #1. Emory
hosted the event in Atlanta. They had a huge hometown crowd, and
they were everywhere, recalls Beckett. I was pretty sure where
wed win and where we were going to struggle. I was coaching a singles
match and the doubles started. Erin and Shelley hadnt lost a match
all year. The crowd was really into it. We lost the first set and I went
down there. Shelley had fallen and the crowd had cheered the fall, and
both Shelley and Erin had gotten upset. So I tried to calm them down but
it was too far gone. We lost that point and eventually lost the match.
We went to Subway at about 11 that night and just cried, cried, cried.
It was a lesson about maintaining your composure through everything. We
lost control, and thats a really good lesson.
I am confident, relaxed and focused...
After three years of heartbreak, Coach Beckett wrote the litany and presented
it to the 1992 team to recite before every practice and match. In addition,
she scheduled tough teams, such as Cal State LA, Loyola Marymount and
Cal State Fullerton.
We lost some, but it was good, says Beckett. It made
us tougher. We talked about it that way. By the end wed gone through
everything. We were experienced, we got along, we knew how to handle pressure
and crowds. We werent going to let anything get to us. And then
we committed to it.
The squad breezed to a conference tournament title without losing a set,
then played the annual Ojai Tournament. Through it all, the team kept
repeating the litany. We were saying it before, during, and after,
continues Beckett. It just became more intense.
..I like myself; I like and support my teammates and coaches;
my teammates and coaches like and support me
The 1992 Nationals were held in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Coach Beckett
remembers silently pleading, Let us play anybody but Kenyon.
Wed lost to them in 1988. And then wed lost to them the year
wed beaten UC San Diego twice. They had spotters on every court.
I heard them talking by the pool, and they knew exactly where they were
going to beat us. They were so professional and so confident.
Pomona-Pitzer beat Gustavus Adolphus, 72, to advance to the final.
Meanwhile, Kenyon downed UC San Diego, 90, to set up a showdown.
That day we said our litany when we woke up, says Beckett.
We were standing at our cars at the Residence Inn and Shelley came
up and said, We have to do the litany before we leave the parking
lot! So she brought everybody over. They were laughing and upbeat
and really excited. I thought that was so good because they were going
to have fun. They were a little nervous, of course, but they were confident
I believe we can win the national tournament...
At the match, Beckett remembers the day going in slow motion. I
had a mental check-list: OK, Shelleys won hers; OK, Erins
having a tough time; Tricia [Corran Musick 92] and Brenda [Peirce
Barnett 92] are battling in close matches. And, oh, Debbie [Boger
93] just won the first set! And every ball Debbie hit landed about
three feet from the baseline. I didnt even want to look. And Cranny
[Caryn Cranston (Pitzer 92)] had split sets and was in a tight third
set. Andoh!Debbie just won hers!
The #1 doubles team of Keeler and Hendricks won to give Pomona-Pitzer
the lead, 43, with two doubles matches left. Boger and Amy Burton
92 were playing at #3 doubles, while Peirce and Cranston were leading
53 in the second set at #2 doubles.
Theyd had a great season, says Beckett about Cranston
and Peirce. They knew that we had to win there, and thats
partly why they were together. It was only fitting that they won it. What
two people would you rather have out there when everythings on the
line than the two people who are the most selfless?
It was like a moment in time that you just want everything to stand
still. You never, never forget what it felt likeeverybodyparents,
family, the kids. A lot of the other teams and coaches felt it, too. We
were this little Pomona-Pitzer: hard schools to get into, limited out-of-season
work, we were a restricted Division III school, we didnt have coaches
everywhere. I think that made it even more meaningful.
I just remember the feeling when they won the very last point. I
watched Crannys head, and watched the ball go wide. Everybody was
jumping up and down, and I just put my head down and went, Aaaaaaaaah.
I want to win the national tournament.
At the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony 10 years later, players take the
stage to cheers and tears from the crowd of 140. Peirce speaks on the
invaluable merits of athletics at Pomona-Pitzer, Cranston calls Beckett
her life coach, and Keeler credits Beckett with pulling the
team together: Lisa really understood what it took. She knew how
to work with each of our personalities to make us successful.
Hendricks echoes her teammate in her comments onstage: Lisa incorporated
something our senior year that changed my entire life and who I am, and
how I show up in this world. Every day we spoke this litany, and the last
two lines were, I believe we can win and I want to win.
I find myself telling that story over and over againabout the power
of having intention and clarity, and speaking of what it is you really
want to go after and how.
Beckett sums up the atmosphere of the season, and of the decade that has
led to the induction evening. You hate to make it bigger than it
was, but it was big for us. In the big scheme of things its not
that important, but it was important to us. We made it big. In the end,
our dream came true.