By Michael O’Brien
After finishing their college tennis careers the same way they started—together—Gabby Devlin ’14 and Jordan Brewer ’14 took the red eye to graduation.
[Tennis] While other seniors were packing up their dorm rooms and preparing for tent parties, Jordan Brewer ’14 and Gabby Devlin ’14 were 3,000 miles away from campus, hugging on a tennis court in Claremont, Calif.
They’d just won an unprecedented third NCAA title together in doubles. The victory made Devlin only the second Division III women’s player in history to claim four straight doubles championships. Brewer—Devlin’s partner for three of those four wins—also finished the season as national runner-up in singles play.
Brewer and Devlin did not linger on the West Coast, because they had another achievement to celebrate. They flew to Harford and caught a van back to campus, where they arrived with only half an hour to spare before the commencement march began.
In 2010 Coach Jackie Bagwell paired up her top recruits—Brewer and Devlin—despite Brewer’s inexperience in doubles play. “When putting together doubles combinations, I’m always looking for personalities that mesh,” the coach says. She also looks for complementary skill sets. Brewer’s proficiency in setting up her partner, combined with doubles specialist Devlin’s expertise at the net, proved a winning combination. “I did not plan on sticking Gabby and Jordan at No. 1 doubles in their first year,” Bagwell says. “They decided that themselves, when they rolled through the Northeast ITA Tournament with impressive ease.”
“Doubles isn’t as much about tennis as it is about learning what your partner likes and doesn’t like,” says Devlin (at left in both photos). Brewer prefers the baseline; Devlin likes to be at net. Brewer is serious on the court; Devlin is playful. After a difficult practice, the two would go for frozen yogurt together, but during winters on campus, they were usually apart. “When you’re involved in a sport as intense as tennis, you need some personal space,” Brewer says. “We made sure to do that in the offseason.”
The women’s tennis team landed in California for the NCAA championship at 2 a.m. on May 17—but their luggage did not. With their bags in Philadelphia and a practice on the schedule, Bagwell picked up 11 sports bras and 11 pairs of Nike shorts at a nearby Sports Authority. The luggage arrived in time for the start of the team championship, during which the women placed second in the nation.
A ball to the face
In the first set of the individual doubles championship on May 24, Brewer took a ball to the face. “I think it went straight to my nose,” she says. “My whole face went numb. I was having a hard time seeing.” Devlin felt responsible. As Devlin explains, one of their opponents from Emory “started to poach across the court, so I hit a lob to the open spot behind her, but she made a great play and lunged backwards for the ball. Unfortunately, Jordan was unable to get out of the way or get her racket up in time. I was concerned Jordan would resent me for it.”
Resentment was not on Brewer’s mind. “I had to refocus,” she says. She told herself, “This is our last match. Do I want to remember having a pity party, or will I look back and think, I persevered.”
The red eye
After the doubles victory the two champions blasted music in their hotel room while they showered and packed. Then—only three hours after the end of the final match—Brewer, Devlin and Bagwell boarded the plane. A van was waiting in Hartford. The driver—one of Bagwell’s friends—dropped the seniors at Morrow Dormitory at 9:30 a.m. They threw on caps and gowns and dashed to Memorial Hill, where their classmates guided them to their spots in the line.
Brewer will soon begin a master’s program in social work at Columbia University. She plans to take at least a few months off from tennis, “to enjoy not having the intense training I’ve had most of my life.” Devlin has her eye on law school, but first she’ll take a year to travel. She also wants to get back to snowboarding—which, like tennis, relies on gut instincts, she says. Speaking of tennis, Devlin will probably join a women’s league: “It’s just way too much fun, and it’s been a part of my life forever.”
Brewer and Devlin weren’t the only Amherst tennis players to take home trophies this spring. The men’s tennis team won the NCAA championship for the second time in program history, and Joey Fritz ’14 (below) captured the men’s individual singles title. It was an NCAA-winning season for a track and field senior, too. Naomi Bates ’14 claimed her second national title when she defended her crown in the long jump at the outdoor meet.
Milan Reed photos