Curt Speerschneider, the women’s tennis coach at Skidmore College, took one look at his new doubles tandem last fall and remarked to his assistants, “I think we really have something here.’’
Speerschneider was spot-on.
Newton native Lee Ford, a freshman transfer from Santa Clara University, and Nataly Mendoza won the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Northeast Regional doubles title, becoming the first players from Skidmore’s program to earn All-America honors in more than decade.
The pair went on to finish fourth among eight teams at the ITA National Small College Championships, upsetting the second-seeded tandem from Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in the quarterfinals.
“Being All-Americans meant a lot to us. It was something I had thought about even before the season started,’’ said Ford, who played varsity tennis for two years at Newton North, earning Globe All-Scholastics honors as a freshman.
“Nataly and I hadn’t been together for very long, and there wasn’t a lot of pressure on us because we weren’t expected to win. So we just went out and had fun together at regionals, trying to play each point better than the last.
“It’s going to be harder this season because now we’re not the unknowns, but our goal is to qualify in doubles for the NCAA tournament.’’
Ford and her family are members at Longwood Cricket Club in Chestnut Hill, where Lee worked as an assistant instructor last summer. Ford and her mother, Mary Mayotte, sister of former pro star Tim Mayotte, teamed up to win second- and third-place honors in two national mother/daughter tournaments last year at Longwood.
Her father, Tom Ford, hopes to play with Lee when he turns 70 in three years in the National Father-Daughter Super Senior bracket.
Ford did not play tennis at Newton North during her sophomore and senior years, opting to train at the IMG Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton, Fla., and compete on the New England junior circuit.
“I was really determined to play Division 1 college tennis,’’ said Ford, a quarterfinalist at the USTA/New England U-16 championships. “I only played in three tournaments at Santa Clara and stayed one trimester. It wasn’t the atmosphere I had hoped for. I was at the bottom of the lineup and missing home.’’
Ford came home to regroup and “put myself on a more positive track, but leaving Santa Clara was one of the hardest decisions I ever made. I wasn’t sure how other college coaches would react to my leaving, but I did have good grades there.’’
Ford worked as an intern at the New Art Center in Newton and as a waitress, and visited prospective colleges. She decided she liked the academic and tennis opportunities at Skidmore, a Division 3 school in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., where she is majoring in studio arts.
“It’s kind of amazing that Lee became an All-American two months after coming here,’’ said Speerschneider, whose team opens its spring season Saturday against visiting William Smith.
“Lee fit right into what we look for with her court sense, and how she made full use of her skills. She has an anticipation you can’t teach. When she gets into her competitive mode, her game is a thing of beauty.’’
Ford, who is also slotted to play singles for Skidmore, will be taking part in an invitational tournament April 6-8 at Wellesley College.
Morrissey girls carry on tradition
A four-year hockey player at Bentley from 1986-1990, Mike Morrissey enrolled his four daughters at the Sharper Edge Skating School in West Concord with the thought they might play youth hockey someday.
“I remember skating with them when they were little,’’ recalled the Bedford resident. “And they said that I skated like a hockey player, and they skated like figure skaters.’’
It was a glimpse into the future.
At the Bay State Winter Games last weekend, the Morrissey siblings added to their already impressive medal collection in the freestyle competition.
Olivia, 13, and Madelyn, 12, captured gold medals, while 8-year-old twins Sophia and Abigail - the youngest skaters in the competition, held at the Williams College rink, - won gold and silver, respectively.
“We started taking Olivia and Madelyn to skating classes when they were 2 years old, and they were in their first competition a year later,’’ said Kim Morrissey, who met her husband when both attended Bentley.
At the recent International Skating Institute competition in Lake Placid, N.Y., Madelyn, Sophia, and Abigail recorded first-place finishes while Olivia placed third.
The Sharper Edge Skating School was first overall in the team standings.
Last summer in San Diego, Madelyn won gold at the State Games of America, where the girls also performed a family spotlight skate. Along with their dad, the sisters have given back to the sport as instructors for beginner and special-needs skaters at Sharper Edge.
Lampson scoring for Salem State
Salem State University junior hockey forward Nick Lampson of Groton was named the Massachusetts State College Athletic Conference Player of the Week after scoring three goals and adding three assists in a pair of games for the Vikings.
Lampson, who was leading the conference in scoring as of Tuesday, has a career-high 19 goals and 34 points in 25 games, including 5 on the power play, 4 short-handed, and 3 game-winners. The second-seeded Vikings (14-8-3, 11-4-3 MASCAC) will host a conference tournament semifinal Tuesday.
“Nick’s a threat every time he’s on the ice,’’ said Salem State coach Bill O’Neill. “His speed and athleticism make him a game-changing player. He had four goals in our win over UMass Dartmouth, one short-handed and two on the power play. This has been a career year for him.’’