Catherine Allen Earns ITA National Senior Player of the Year Award, Justine Leong Captures Rookie of the Year

Justine Leong (left) and Catherine Allen (right) swept the ITA Rookie and Senior of the Year Awards
Justine Leong (left) and Catherine Allen (right) swept the ITA Rookie and Senior of the Year Awards

CLAREMONT, Calif. – Senior Catherine Allen was named the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Division III Women's Tennis Senior of the Year, and first-year Justine Leong captured the ITA Division III Women's Tennis Rookie of the Year Award, the organization announced this morning during its virtual awards show, presented by Oracle.

The awards show, which is typically held at the NCAA Division III National Championships, moved online this year due to the cancellation of spring sports back in March. That denied Allen and Leong a chance to lead the Athenas to a national title, after they ended the season ranked No. 1 in the nation with a 14-0 dual match record. Leong also ended the season ranked No. 1 in singles, with Allen right behind her at No. 2, while Allen (along with doubles partner Caroline Cox) was ranked No. 1 in doubles and Leong (with Crystal Juan) was No. 12.

The Senior of the Year Award caps off a remarkable career for Allen, who graduates with a combined singles/doubles record of 190-27, which put her well ahead of pace to break the program record of 210, held by Caroline Ward. Allen also helped CMS to a spectacular 99-5 record in dual matches over her four seasons, along with final national rankings of No. 4, No. 1, No. 2 and No. 1, which mark the four highest finishes in program history.

The No. 1 finish in 2018 came after Allen led CMS to the program's first national championship, picking up big singles wins in a 5-3 victory over Williams in the semifinals and a 5-4 win over Emory in the championship match. A year ago, she was equally clutch at nationals, winning singles matches in the quarterfinals against Carnegie Mellon (6-4, 6-3), the semifinals against Middlebury (6-1, 6-0) and the national championship against Wesleyan (6-3, 7-5) as the Athenas finished as the runner-up.

Allen was a seven-time ITA All-American in her career, earning the distinction all four years in singles, as well as three times in doubles. She also won the last three national tournaments in doubles, winning the ITA Cup in the fall of 2018 with Cox, taking the NCAA Division III title last spring with Cox (over fellow Athenas Nicole Tan and Sarah Bahsoun in the finals) and then winning the ITA Cup again this fall with Leong while Cox was studying abroad.

Allen tallied a 16-1 record in singles this year, with the only loss coming to Leong in the ITA West Regionals, when she retired with an injury after Leong won the first set. One of her dual wins was a three-setter to break a 4-4 tie with Emory and give the Athenas a win in the finals of the ITA Indoor Championships.

Leong had a rookie season for the ages, as she finished with a 20-1 singles record and a No. 1 national ranking in singles. She captured the fall ITA Cup national titles in both singles and doubles (with Allen), advancing to the ITA Fall Nationals after her singles title, where she defeated Janice Shin of Stanford in her opening match. Her only singles defeat of the year came to Jada Hart of UCLA in the ITA Fall Nationals Round of 32.

Leong held a perfect 9-0 record in dual competition, all while playing at No. 1 singles. One of those wins came in a 5-4 victory over Emory at the ITA Indoor Championships, where she defeated Ysabel Gonzalez-Rico, the defending Division III national champion, in straight sets (6-3, 6-3) to help CMS take over the top spot in the national rankings.

Other than the defeat to Hart of UCLA, Leong only lost one other set in singles the entire year, which came against Ghazal Pakbaten of Division II Concordia Irvine at her first collegiate event in September, a fall scramble co-hosted by CMS and Pomona-Pitzer. Leong dropped the first set in that match 6-2, but bounced back for a 2-6, 6-1, 12-10 win. In fact, there was only one other set all year that took her beyond the regulation six games, which came in the second set of a 6-4, 7-5 victory against Hawaii Pacific, ranked No. 8 in Division II.

When the year ended, Leong also had a No. 12 national ranking in doubles (with Juan) after the two held down the No. 2 position on the CMS ladder at the ITA Indoor Championships. Leong's overall doubles record was 21-2 with seven different partners, with a defeat to Division II Azusa Pacific in September and one to Division I Army in March her only blemishes.  

Allen is part of a five-player class that graduates with a national title under its belt, but the Athenas will be strong again in 2020-21, led by Leong and seniors Cox and Rebecca Berger, who were both starters on the national title team as first-years.