Kate Winingham ’14 has led a women’s tennis team that is on a tear as of late, winning seven matches in a row and opening undefeated in conference play. With five first years on a team of ten women, Winingham has been challenged this year acclimating the new players to the culture of the team.

“How we behave on the court, how we act before matches, after matches—it’s about keeping those standards,” she said, “We’re known as a respectful team.”

Leading by example seems to be her style. Winingham currently holds the No. 1 singles spot and the number No. 2 doubles spot with Samantha Stalder ’17. She has split the No. 1 singles billing with Tiffany Cheng ’16 at points this season. During the spring season, Winingham is 11-4 in singles play and 10-2 in doubles play. She has paired well with Stalder so far this season.

 “I’m more of a baseliner,” said Winingham. “I try to set up a shot so she can poach. She has good instincts about when to poach and when to fake.”

Winingham’s capable net play differentiates her from most women’s tennis players and her propensity for approaches has shaped her doubles play, where the points are shorter.

“She tries to get to the net as fast as possible,” Stalder said, “If she sees that they’re on their back foot, she’ll creep in. She puts a lot of points away.”

Emma Chow ’15 also notes that Winingham is a quick starter, which benefits her in doubles because those matches are a race to eight games.

Head Coach Paul “Hobie” Holbach and Winingham now joke that she lacked a definitive game when she first arrived on campus. Holbach noted that Winingham was the last recruit he chose that year, choosing her over another player because of her competitive drive and experience with team sports. Winingham said she dedicated more time to playing soccer than tennis before Bowdoin, although she did win All-State honors for tennis in Indiana during high school. Additionally, her brother, Kent Winingham ’12 was a member of the men’s tennis team at the time.

“She was a good athlete—that was about it,” Holbach recalled. “She didn’t have the tennis background, but I figured I could help her with the tennis part.”

Chow noted that even though Holbach likes to keep the team small, he always adds a few “project players” that he works on developing. More often than not, those players go on to contribute meaningfully to the team.

But even now, Holbach goes out of his way to praise Winingham’s intangibles.

“For the first three years, she was stubborn—not always in the best graces of the coach,” Holback said with a laugh. “But stubbornness is a good thing; it’s just about using it in a positive way. Every year she’s grown.”

“She’s been a terrific captain,” he continued, “better than I could have hoped. I don’t just make seniors captain. I only pick them if I think they can do the job.”

Winingham has become a more aggressive player as her career has progressed. As an all-court player, she can take advantage of her uncommon net game to counter against players with better groundstrokes. A balanced repertoire and above-average athleticism have given her an advantage in many of her singles matches.

She said that she feels more pressure as her career has progressed because now—playing at No. 1 singles and representing the team as captain—she has higher expectations for herself.
Holbach said he believes she likes the pressure.

“If she’s not playing well, she can still compete and fight through it,” he said. “I can put her down in a match and I don’t have to worry about whether or not she can be there that day. A lot of girls have the strokes. Big deal. Are you a player who wants the ball?”

“I’m proud that she’s become a very good leader,” Holbach said, “I try to teach all my girls to become good leaders. I’m proud of her journey.”

Winingham will graduate with a degree in sociology. She is a member of Peer Health and  will go to nursing school after Bowdoin.

The sports editor of the Orient chooses the Athlete of the Week based on exemplary performance.