Skip Navigation

MIAC Profile of Excellence: Carleton's Lombardi leads tennis renaissance

May 21, 2014 at 2:32 pm
By Rich Mies, special to the MIAC
Anne Lombardi
Senior Anne Lombardi was an All-MIAC performer in singles and doubles play all four years at Carleton

NORTHFIELD, Minn. -- Carleton got off to a strong start when women's tennis was first established in the MIAC. The Knights won three of the first six conference championships. Then rival Gustavus established a dynasty, winning 22 championships in the 24 years after Carleton’s last title. The Knights remained competitive, but like the rest of the MIAC, they trailed in the wake of the Gustie juggernaut.

Then the class of 2014 arrived in Northfield, and the past four years have been a renaissance for the Carleton women's tennis program.

Women's Tennis, 2014 MIAC Playoff ChampsLed by Anne Lombardi, the class turned the tide. They snapped Gustavus’ 20-year string of titles and elevated Carleton to two MIAC regular-season crowns and three-consecutive MIAC Playoff titles, as well as three appearances in the NCAA Division III Women's Tennis Tournament.

Lombardi has been the group’s leader since their first season in Northfield.  “She’s not the most vocal leader, but leads by example,” said Carleton Head Women's Tennis Coach Luciano Battaglini. “She is such a dedicated player. She often requests extra practice, and has worked hard to improve her game. Her teammates see that, and want to be like her.”

In Lombardi’s first year at Carleton, she was the only Knight first-year player - and one of just two in the whole conference - to earn All-MIAC honors in both singles and doubles. Playing primarily at No. 3 singles, Lombardi posted a 15-8 record, including the fall season. She was 21-5 in doubles, mostly playing at the No. 2 slot.

That season, Gustavus won its 20th-consecutive MIAC championship, but the Knights were breathing down the Gusties' collective neck. The Knights finished 9-1 in MIAC play, just a mach off Gustavus' pace. As the second seed in the MIAC Playoffs, Carleton squared off with cross-town rival St Olaf in the semifinals and emerged victorious, 5-3. They fell 5-2 to the Gusties in the final, to close the year 16-6.

In her sophomore season, Lombardi helped Carleton win its first conference title since 1987. They ran the table in MIAC play, going 10-0. They downed St. Thomas 5-0 and Gustavus 5-3 to win their first-ever MIAC Playoff championship. With the title, the Knights advanced to the NCAA Division III tourney. They shut out Grinnell 5-0 in the opening round before falling 5-0 to the University of Chicago. Carleton ended the season 19-6. Lombardi repeated as All-MIAC in single and doubles, posting a composite 21-5 record in single and going 19-5 in doubles.

In 2013, the Knights posted a 9-1 conference record, but were edged out by 10-0 St. Catherine for the MIAC regular-season crown. However, the Knights claimed the MIAC Playoff title, defeating Gustavus (5-1) and St. Thomas (5-0). They again defeated Grinnell in the opening round of the NCAA playoffs, but lost to UW-Whitewater 5-3 in the second round to close the year 16-8. Once again, Lombardi was named All-MIAC in singles and in doubles. She was 12-8 in singles and 15-7 in doubles. She and her doubles partner, Bridget Doyle, were selected for the NCAA Division III Doubles Championships, but lost in the opening round.

The reason Lombardi played in fewer matches her junior year is that she spent the fall trimester studying in Spain. “I spent three months in Seville, participating in a Spanish Immersion program at the University of Seville,” she said. “I took all of my ‘regular’ classes there in Spanish, mostly with other exchange students like myself.”

The reason Lombardi played in fewer matches her junior year is that she spent the fall trimester studying in Spain. “I spent three months in Seville, participating in a Spanish Immersion program at the University of Seville,” she said. “I took all of my ‘regular’ classes there in Spanish, mostly with other exchange students like myself.”

There was ample time for sightseeing, with numerous weekend trips. “We traveled to other part of Spain, including Barcelona, San Sebastian and Grenada, as well as to Portugal,” she added. “We also got to Italy, Bologna and Rome.”

Her coach was supportive of her spending the time overseas. “Our primary objective is for the student-athlete to get the maximum out of their college experience,” Battaglini said.Anne Lombardi, women's tennis action

This year, the Knights bounced back to post an undefeated MIAC season, and they recaptured the league's regular-season title. They won the MIAC Playoff championship for the third year in a row, taking a pair of hotly-contested matches. In the semis, they beat St. Catherine 5-2 and then nipped Gustavus 5-3 for the title. They made their third-consecutive trip to the NCAAs, downing Westminster 5-0 in the opening round before losing to Chicago 5-0. Carleton finished 2013-14 with a stellar 19-3 record. After posting a 15-6 record in singles and 17-7 in doubles, Lombardi was honored as All-MIAC in doubles.

“Anne has taken the challenge to improve her game over the past four years,” said Battaglini. “She put in the intense training necessary to make that improvement. She understands the need to prepare and to work hard to improve and has done that while here.”

A native of Hinsdale, Ill., Lombardi came to Carleton from a very strong prep tennis program, which has seen several alums receive Division I scholarships. “I knew I wanted to go to a Liberal Arts school with strong academics and a good reputation,” she recalled. “I also wanted to be able to play tennis.”

She considered following her older sister Emily to Bowdoin and also looked at Tufts, Kenyon and Vassar before deciding on Carleton. “I visited in the summer before my senior year of high school,” she said. “I came back in the fall. I enjoyed the campus, and liked the people I met [at Carleton]. I felt I’d fit in.”

Lombardi is a Spanish major and will graduate next month. Her career plans are undecided, but she is considering going into the public health field, possibly working for the government or a non-profit.

“I can’t imagine having been at any other place, ” she said, looking back. “The combination of the success of the tennis program and the academics and student life has been great.

“Carleton has given me a foundation to grow on.”