Sister Act: Dartmouth sisters team up on the tennis court

by Lucy Pollard | 10/30/06 6:00am

The Williams sisters. The McEnroe brothers. Tennis fans everywhere know these two sibling duos for their Grand Slam tournament conquests and magnetic personalities. But Dartmouth students need not look beyond the Boss Tennis Center for two pairs of sisters that are earning some attention of their own.

A lot may distinguish Dartmouth's duos -- Mary Beth and Lindsay Winingham are three years and a world of varsity experience apart, while Jennifer and Danielle Murray are identical twins holding similar places on the team. Both pairs, however, have shared the unique and sometimes stress-inducing experience of competing with -- and at times against -- a member of their own immediate family. But none of the four teammates would have it any other way.

Raised in Indiana, Lindsay Winingham '07 started playing tennis at a young age because the sport was one of the many activities her mother used to entertain her daughters. Lindsay became interested in tennis largely as a result of a bribe from a pro at a country club her family belonged to.

"He told me that I would get a coke if I hit the backboard 500 times with a tennis ball. If I messed up, I would have to start over, so I spent hours on the tennis court. I never got into swim team or anything else," said Lindsay.

Mary Beth Winingham '10, younger by three years, began playing tennis because of her older sister's interest, but it remained only a side interest until high school. During an interview with The Dartmouth, Mary Beth admitted that she never quite had Lindsay's determination in practicing alone against a wall.

Both girls played tennis throughout high school. During Lindsay's senior year and Mary Beth's freshman year, the girls anchored their high school team by playing the number one and two spots, respectively. Growing up, they only played doubles together in one tournament, a statistic that seems to be changing after a phenomenal doubles performance by the two at the ITA Regional here in Hanover last weekend. The sisters decimated a team from Columbia 8-1 in their collegiate doubles debut.

"A lot of sisters have trouble playing doubles because if someone misses a shot, it's harder to not say exactly what you think [to her] because she is your sister. But we had a lot of fun," Lindsay said. "The strengths of each sister's game complemented the other's style of play well.

"Lindsay is really good at taking balls at the net and putting them away. I think I'm better at setting up points in general," said Mary Beth.

Much like the Williams sisters, the Wininghams also excel individually. Mary Beth is off to a phenomenal start leading a spunky group of new freshmen. In her past three tournaments, she has won the majority of her matches with losses coming almost only to highly-seeded opponents. Early in the season, she clearly found a groove with her serve while hitting the ball extremely hard.

"[Mary Beth]'s game is really good right now," said Lindsay.

Lindsay Winingham has also demonstrated her talents throughout the fall season. Playing singles in the top A flight level, she has repeatedly battled opponents from large Division I schools, including Indiana.

Off the court, Lindsay has also set the tone as a leader and captain along with fellow captain Kerry Snow '07.

"It is really nice to have Lindsay on the team as a leader. I feel like the whole team looks up to her," Mary Beth said.

Even though the two practice for three hours every day, the sisters claim that they really don't see each other enough at practice. Therefore, Mary Beth and Lindsay hang out together several times during the week. Like typical Dartmouth girls, Mary Beth goes over to Lindsay's place to watch Grey's Anatomy.

The members of the Big Green tennis team's other sibling duo are not only sisters, but identical twins. Like the Wininghams, Danielle Murray '09 and Jennifer Murray '09 both became hooked on tennis because their mother encouraged them to play.

"We competed in our first tournament in the Pacific Northwest when we were 10," said Jennifer. "After our first tournament we immediately signed up for another one. Danielle and I loved competing in that first tournament and we have been playing tournaments ever since."

The twins' high school did not field a tennis team, so the girls played in provincial and national tournaments at the junior tennis level. Unlike the Winingham sisters, the girls did play doubles together. In fact, the twins played doubles better than anyone their age in British Columbia, ranking first in the under-18 division.

The twins began their college search not knowing if they wanted to attend the same college. But "we visited Dartmouth together and both really liked it, so we decided to come," said Danielle.

Both girls have added to the Big Green play individually through determined singles play and on separate doubles teams. The two played doubles together this past weekend for the first time this year at the Big Green Invitational.

From their first tournament at the age of ten, when the sisters knowingly signed up to play each other, Jennifer and Danielle have loved competing against one another.

"Jen and I have had some epic matches against each other in the past. I think our head-to-head record is almost even," said Danielle.

In general, both duos enjoy having a sister on the team.

"Having a sister on the team is very nice. After matches she can give me some really good pointers because she knows me best," said Danielle.

However, watching one's sister play can be nerve-wracking, so much so that they aren't even always allowed to.

"My coach won't let me watch her before I go on," said Lindsay Winingham.

Lindsay also speculated that having two sets of sisters has contributed to the lowest levels of team drama in her career at Dartmouth. As a captain, she specifically appreciated having two Murrays instead of one because "the twins [both] have great positive attitudes."

So why does tennis seem to attract so many sibling duos compared to other sports?

"In general tennis players start really young [and] if one sibling gets into it, the other kind of gets into it," said Lindsay. Mary Beth added that having a sibling rivalry also contributes because tennis is such an individual sport.

Clearly, the Big Green's own powerhouse sister duos add to the cohesion and talent of the women's tennis team. Although the fall season is coming to a close, all Big Green fans should plan a hike down to the Boss Center in the spring to catch the Wininghams, the Murrays and the rest of a talented and young team in action.