The History of Women's Collegiate Tennis

Explore the Past

The ITA Women’s Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame was created to celebrate the milestones in women’s collegiate tennis, from the early struggles for recognition to the achievement of full-fledged intercollegiate competition. Established by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, the Hall of Fame is operated by the College of William and Mary and is housed in the McCormack-Nagelsen Tennis Center on the William & Mary campus.

The Hall of Fame aspires to preserve the history and further the development of women’s inter- collegiate tennis through the collection of printed materials, trophies, photographs, equipment and other significant items.

Each year, the Hall of Fame enshrines exceptional players, coaches and contributors in women’s intercollegiate tennis. The ITA Hall of Fame Committee selects inductees from the following categories:

  • Outstanding collegiate players

  • Players who attended college and had a significant impact on women’s tennis

  • Outstanding collegiate coaches

  • Individuals or corporations playing a major role in the development of women’s inter-collegiate tennis

Milestone Timeline

1874

Lawn tennis is introduced in the United States by a woman, Mary Ewing Outerbridge of Staten Island, New York.

1892

The first intercollegiate tennis invitational for women is held at Bryn Mawr College. Radcliffe College’s Sarah Whittelsey wins the tournament. Wassar, Wellesley, and Smith Colleges turn down the invitation; many faculty members fear women cannot handle the competitive nature of sports.

1923

Lawn tennis is introduced in the United States by a woman, Mary Ewing Outerbridge of Staten Island, New York.

1889

The United States National Lawn Tennis Association (later the USLTA and now the USTA) opens its membership to women.

1917

The first meeting of the Women’s Division of the National Amateur Athletic Foundation (NAAF). The group states its belief in “the spirit of play for its own sake” and continues to discourage intercollegiate competition among women.

1925-1950

“Sports Days” are the most widespread form of women’s collegiate competition.

Women from different institutions play on the same team; scores are not recorded.

1958

The first national intercollegiate tennis championship for women is held at Washington University, sponsored by the USLTA. Players enter as individuals rather than as a team; Darlene Hard of Pomona College wins the singles title.

1967

The DGWS forms the Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (CIAW) and begins offering national championships in many sports, including tennis.

1950-1957

Intercollegiate competition grows through grassroots efforts. Helen Lewis begins conducting invitational tennis tournaments for college women at Washington University in St. Louis.

1960-1972

The Division for Girls’ and Women’s Sports (DGWS), formerly the Women’s Division of the NAAF, sets standards for intercollegiate competition but does not allow women’s athletic scholarships.

1968

The USLTA sponsors the first national team championship in women’s intercollegiate tennis. Trinity University wins the team title.

1971

The CIAW becomes the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW), the first autonomous governing body exclusively for women’s collegiate athletics.

1972

On June 23, President Nixon signs into law Title IX of the Higher Education Act, banning gender bias in athletics at all educational institutions receiving federal assistance.

1973

The USLTA sponsors the first national team championship in women’s intercollegiate tennis. Trinity University wins the team title.

1978

The AIAW takes over sponsorship of the national women’s intercollegiate championships from the USTA and introduces head-to-head competition, replacing the point system.

1982

Women’s share of university athletic budgets rises to nearly twenty percent, up from one percent in 1971. From 1971 to 1982 women’s participation in college athletics increases by nearly 150 percent.

1982

The Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) votes unanimously to expand its membership to women’s collegiate tennis coaches. Women players subsequently become participants in the ITA’s numerous tournaments, including the ITA Collegiate Grand Slam, its ranking system and awards programs.

1985

The NCAA takes over governance of women’s collegiate athletics, bringing an end to the AIAW.

1985

The NCAA takes over governance of women’s collegiate athletics, bringing an end to the AIAW.

1988

The ITA selects The College of William and Mary as the site for its Women’s Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame.

1991

The NCAA elects Judy Sweet as its first female president.

1995

The ITA Women’s Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame opens at the McCormack- Nagelsen Tennis Center on the campus of the College of William & Mary.