Annie Sullivan ’14 is one of the main reasons that Yale has won three straight Ivy League women’s tennis titles. Entering her final season on the squad, Sullivan, who is now the team’s captain, stands in a unique position as the Elis’ only senior — and the team’s most vocal leader both on and off the courts.
Sullivan said that she is more committed than ever this year.
“I want to bring energy to this team and win another title,” Sullivan said. “I want us to make a splash in the NCAA tournament and make it to the Sweet 16. This is the most talented team I’ve ever been on and there is absolutely no limit to what we can do.”
Yale was ranked 34th in the nation at the end of last season, but fell in the first round of the NCAA tournament. No. 23 Georgia Tech just barely slipped past the Bulldogs 4–3, leaving Sullivan and her teammates on the outside looking in.
After last year’s elimination, Sullivan said that she is dead-set on driving the Bulldogs to the top. She added that her goals for the upcoming season were not personal, but team-oriented.
“I want to leave a legacy,” she said. “But I want that legacy to be about the team. I’d like to be remembered as one of the girls who gave her all for Yale tennis.”
Sullivan also said that she believed that her individual actions, both as a player and as a leader, impact the entire squad.
“I don’t consider captaining this team as pressure,” Sullivan said. “It’s an honor and I get to lead by example on every day of practice and in every match.”
Head coach Danielle McNamara raved about her senior captain, characterizing Sullivan as a tough, gritty player who leads the team by example and pushes everyone around her to be better.
“Annie is the strongest leader I’ve ever worked with,” McNamara said. “She raises the energy of the entire team and demands the best from everyone.”
To McNamara, Sullivan is the quintessential Yale captain, holding the team accountable and forcing the entire squad to rise to each new challenge it encounters. McNamara stated that Sullivan has matured into a brilliant player and person. She added that she thought Sullivan’s strongest attribute was her competitive drive.
Despite her present unselfish style and team-geared approach, Sullivan shared that her freshman year had been a struggle as she was forced to learn to play for an entire team of girls rather than just herself.
“When I came in, I was a different person,” Sullivan said. “I was more invested in personal goals than I am now. I learned that the best teams are groups of people working together not just self-interested individuals. My father always told me, ‘Annie, you’re a leader’, and now I’m finally beginning to step into that role.”
The Bulldogs have certainly taken her team-oriented philosophy to heart, achieving enormous success during Sullivan’s tenure with the team and now aiming even higher.
Sullivan stated that she wants to win now more than ever and that the entire team understands her urgency and feeds off of it. According to Sullivan, the women of Yale tennis are right on the same page as her as she pushes her teammates to strive for success in each and every match.
“My mindset is to [have Yale] work harder than every other team,” Sullivan said. “Great players work five times more than everyone around them and great teams aren’t content to work as hard as their competition. We want to go the extra mile.”
To Sullivan, the Bulldogs are exactly what their mascot implies: a resolute, plucky group of players willing themselves to greatness. She added that she is aware that she is entering the final chapter of her career at Yale and that her drive to win has never been stronger.
“I fight for this team,” Sullivan said. “ I believe we can compete with anyone and do anything. When I leave Yale, I want to have no regrets.”
The next step in Sullivan’s senior journey comes on Oct. 18 when the Bulldogs compete in the ITA Northeast Regionals in Cambridge, Mass.