Spring 2001, Volume 37, No. 2


Lives of a Saint

Altruism 101
Reach Out!
Venture Catalysts
Sagehens in Paradise

-Pomona Forum-
Altruism 101
-News Print-
Professor's Philosophy of Life Unshaken

-Pomona Today-
Professor of the Year
Inside the Power Crunch
Rite of Passage
Top Five
Frats with a Difference
Bridge Over the Pacific

-New Knowledge-
The Secrets of the Hydra
-Sports Report-
Dynamic Duos

Getting On
George Moore
-Campaign Update-
American Dreams

-Parlor Talk-
-Family Tree-
-Alumni Profile-
Casey Trupin '95
-Alumni Puzzler-
-Back Cover-
Pilgrims' Progress


Think of extraordinary duos, and Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers might come to mind. So might Laurel and Hardy. And Rodgers and Hammerstein. How about Bonnie and Clyde, for that matter?
   Through the years, Pomona's joint athletic program with Pitzer College has boasted some phenomenal pairs, as well--especially on the tennis court.
   In fact much of the history of NCAA Division III women's doubles tennis has been written by such Pomona-Pitzer pairs as Lindberg and Nilsen, Keeler and Cranston, Keeler and Hendricks, and Schwartz and Gould.
   Since the NCAA began Nationals competition in Division III women's tennis in 1982, 19 doubles titles have been awarded. Of those, Pomona-Pitzer owns five--the most of any institution. Principia has four and Williams and UC San Diego each possess two, while six others have one title each.
   Meghan Gould '01 and Sheree Schwartz '02 surprised everyone, including themselves, when they nabbed title number five for Pomona-Pitzer last May at the NCAA III tennis championships in Minnesota. As one of the last of the 16 pairs invited to compete, Schwartz and Gould weren't expected to make a huge splash. Instead, the on-fire duo didn't lose a set throughout the entire tournament, and neither their semifinal nor their final match extended past one hour.
   For Coach Ann Lebedeff, it was a moment of enormous pride. "I'll never forget the ease with which Meghan and Sheree won the 2000 doubles title. Their games complemented each other perfectly, with Meghan aggressive at net and Sheree playing smartly on the baseline with aggressive and angled returns and timely lobs."
   For Gould, the experience was simply too perfect to be real. "It felt like a dream," she recalls. "Sheree and I couldn't do anything wrong. Just about every play, every shot, every anticipation was executed perfectly. It was an amazing experience."
   So how has Pomona-Pitzer become the pacesetter in Division III women's doubles? The answer, according to the players, is coaching. The answer, according to the coaches, is teamwork.

NCAA III Women's Tennis
Doubles Titles
Won by Pomona-Pitzer
Julie Lindberg / Karen Nilsen
Shelley Keeler / Caryn Cranston
Shelley Keeler / Erin Hendricks
Shelley Keeler / Erin Hendricks
Sheree Schwartz / Meghan Gould

  Pomona-Pitzer first won a Division III doubles title in 1988, when Julie Lindberg '88 and Karen Nilsen (Pitzer '89) teamed up to take the title. Two years later Shelley Keeler '92 won the first of her three straight doubles titles with two different partners--one with Caryn Cranston (Pitzer '92) in 1990, and two with Erin Hendricks (Pitzer '92) in 1991 and 1992. Keeler also won the singles title in 1992 and helped lead the women's squad to the National team title that year.

Gould, a senior who also plays guard on the basketball team, began her collegiate career under former women's coach Lisa Beckett, who oversaw the women's program for 11 seasons from 1987 until 1998, when she stepped down from coaching to spend more time with her family. Beckett is an associate professor of physical education and is now the department's senior woman administrator and physical education coordinator. Lebedeff, the current women's tennis coach, came to Pomona-Pitzer three years ago, after years of phenomenal success at Division II Cal Poly Pomona.
   "Probably the most important reason why our teams have done so well," says Gould, "is that we've had such wonderful coaches. Lisa and Ann have taught me so much and played a major role in my success as a tennis player at Pomona."
   She adds that Lebedeff fostered the exceptionally strong teamwork between the partners. "Ann always emphasizes communication between points," continues Gould, an R.A. this year who plans on going to medical school. "Sheree and I were constantly high-fiving and talking during matches. In close matches, we were able to come up with strategies to win."
   Lebedeff attributes much of the success both she and Beckett have had in producing winning teams to the fact that they both really love doubles tennis and the teamwork and tactics it requires. "In collegiate play, doubles begins the team match, and players learn the significance of winning the doubles points so as to put your team in an advantageous position for singles play," she explains. "Doubles requires unselfish play and by its nature promotes teamwork."
   Nilsen, who partnered with Lindberg for the first of the five Sagehen doubles titles, is now in her 11th year as the men's and women's tennis coach at Caltech, also serving as senior woman administrator. Like Gould, she remembers being anxious before the 1988 title match, but seeing her nerves vanish once play began. "To this day I still remember striking the first return of serve, and the amazing sense of calmness, excitement and intensity."
   Nilsen also recalls the levity that her partner Lindberg brought to the court throughout the season. "Julie definitely knew how to lighten the moment, even at critical times in a match. She had a great sense of humor, both on and off the court. You couldn't help but smile and laugh when you were with her."
   She also gives much of the credit to Beckett, whom she termed a "role model." In fact, when Beckett took a maternity leave in 1990, she asked Nilsen to serve as interim coach, and Nilsen coached Keeler and Cranston to their doubles win at nationals.
   That title was Keeler's first, but she also recalls a match the year prior when she played with Nilsen as doubles partners. Keeler says she learned a valuable lesson at the national tournament about mental toughness and dealing with the pressure of being a favorite. During her time at Pomona, Keeler had three partners: Nilsen, Cranston and Hendricks, and she remembers each of them fondly. "The playing styles of each partner were very different," says Keeler, now living in Portland, Oregon, and working as a product marketing manager for Intel. "And they all brought incredible skills to the table. Karen was calm, cool and collected all the time, and she never let the opponents rattle her. Caryn was an energetic, powerful player who used her emotions as a tool. Erin was a great volleyer with incredible touch, and a very good friend."
   Keeler also rattles off a list of reasons why the Sagehens excel: Both Pomona and Pitzer are strong schools able to attract a lot of tennis talent. Sunny weather allows the team to practice outdoors regularly. Strong local competition means the team can play challenging Division I and II without much travel. But she too comes back to the coaching.
   "Lisa was a master at teaching us to be competitive within our team--especially during the first few weeks of practice when the lineup is determined--but supportive and respectful for the successes of our teammates," she recalls. "She helped us understand how to deal with the pressure and competitiveness so that it would never damage or affect our relationships."
   Hendricks, Keeler's partner for two championships, also cites the way Beckett fostered teamwork. "Lisa was a master of this," says Hendricks, who lives in Newport Beach and just started her own e-commerce distribution company. "We used to start every practice, get-together, or match with a team litany. This helped focus us."
   She adds that part of their teamwork was simple gratitude. "Because Shelley had such a strong serve, I was able to hit many volley winners against a defensive return. That always kept me ready, alert, and wanting to set my partner up to hit winners. She made my job easy, and I wanted to return the favor."
   For Beckett, doubles play was important not only because of the points it contributed to the team's score. She also found it to be an important and therapeutic part of practice.
   "ÔSingles is often a grind-it-out, lonely battle," she says. "We would have entire practices that were focused on doubles skills, and the students would love it. It would put them in good moods and get them laughing and enjoying each other and the game--this proved very important in the long 16- or 17-week season."
   Today, the championships are in the history books, but the memories are still fresh, many of the friendships are still solid, and the lessons learned are still meaningful.
   As Hendricks says: "I recognize my tennis training with Lisa Beckett in all areas of my life: the need for focus in my work, practicing on weaknesses, perfecting my strengths, being sensitive to those around me, learning to respect others' diversity and learning to trust those around me."--Kirk Reynolds