Being a Co-Captain is Only the Beginning
Tennis' Kathy Mulvehal
Harvard women's tennis Co-Captain Kathy Mulvehal immediately ran onto the court to console one of her teammates after Yale had clinched its match against the Crimson.
It was Harvard's first Ivy loss since 1983 and as the co-captain of the team, Mulvehal had the responsibility of telling her teammates, "It's just one match, the season isn't over."
She was a friend, a consoler and a captain--all three in one person.
Mulvehal, a senior from San Diego, started playing tennis when she was six years old--playing with her older sister, Karen, who later played tennis at BYU.
On the junior circuit, Mulvehal had been ranked 21st in the country in 12-and-unders, but a big change in her life occurred when her parents divorced.
"It put a huge financial strain on my parents," Mulvehal says. "I had to stop taking lessons. We were more financially conscientious."
Instead, Mulvehal began practicing on her own during the next three years. She played other junior players in the area but practically dropped out of the national scene.
Mulvehal dropped to 110th in the 13-and-unders and a big reason for her lower ranking was because she couldn't afford to participate in national tournaments. Mulvehal eventually moved up to 77th, but not competing in enough national tournaments hurt her ranking.
Mulvehal's high school, La Jolla, was always the best in the San Diego area. In her senior year, she lost to Trinity's (Tex.) Katrina Crawford in the finals of the California Interscholastic Federation championships.
Several players from her competitive California region, such as Stephanie Rehe and Melissa Gurney, turned pro, but Mulvehal opted to apply to several top colleges such as Stanford, UCLA and Harvard.
"I knew I wasn't good enough to play at Stanford or UCLA," Mulvehal says. "But I really wanted to play tennis at a college with strong academics."
The choice to matriculate at Harvard meant tennis would not be the top priority in Mulvehal's life, which helps her to dispel any deleterious pressure to succeed on the court.
The economics concentrator knew that Harvard had six other recruits coming in with her class, four of whom were ranked in the top 50 in the 18-and-unders. Harvard's top three players were already ranked in the top 50 of the collegiate rankings.
But Mulvehal would leave her mark at Harvard. The Kirkland House resident has been one of the most successful players in Harvard tennis history.
During her four years on the Crimson, Mulvehal never lost an Ivy singles match, posting a 26-0 record. Overall, she has an 82-31 singles record and a 71-23 doubles mark.
The Crimson has won four Ivy titles, two ITCA Eastern Tournaments and made three appearances in the NCAA since Mulvehal joined the squad.
"I give so much credit to my teammates," says Mulvehal, referring to her unbeaten Ivy streak. "They gave me so much self-confidence when I was on the court. I never entered a match saying I have to win because of the streak. I've always wanted to be able to add a win for the team. It's something that I'm proud of now."
Mulvehal is always loquacious and animated about her teammates or the tennis program.
"It's been one of my highlights at Harvard," Mulvehal says. "Being on the tennis team means so much more than just playing tennis everyday. It's the relationships that I formed with the coaches and players. It's the people I've met and experiences I've shared."
After playing number-one for the JV team in the fall of her freshman year, she began rotating into the varsity lineup at number-six singles during the spring season. During her junior year, she won the Harvard Invitational third-flight singles and doubles tournament and reached the finals of the Syracuse Invitational at the number-five position.
Mulvehal posted her best singles and doubles records in the junior year, finishing with a 27-7 singles mark and a 27-3 doubles mark with Cyndy Austrian. The Crimson finished that season 20-8, accumulating the most wins ever in a single season.
Mulvehal credits Harvard Coach Ed Krass for improving her game.
"Ed helped me so much with coming at the net, hitting approach shots and volleys," Mulvehal says. "He added more dimensions to my game."
This year, the Crimson finished with a 6-1 Ivy record (15-11 overall) good enough for its seventh straight Ivy title. Mulvehal was 23-12 in singles.
"You couldn't ask more of a person," teammate Jennifer Minkus says. "She is one of my dearest friends and a great leader. She is so thorough, hard working and dedicated."
On the way out, Mulvehal has few regrets."
"It was a little disappointing not making NCAAs," Mulvehal says. "But this was my favorite year. There was so much unity among the team. More than anything, I'm going to miss the players on the team."
And Harvard will miss one of its stars.