When reminiscing about the history of Mocs athletics, even the more knowledgeable fans don't realize that UTC has seven team national championship trophies on its resume. Most will remember the 1977 NCAA Division II Men's Basketball title, but there were also six titles won by the women's tennis program.
Head Coach Tommy Bartlett guided the Lady Mocs to three-straight NCAA Division II crowns from 1983-85, but it all began under head coach Alice Tym. The Lady Mocs won three-straight AIAW titles from 1977-79, and 2012 UTC Athletics Hall of Fame inductee Susan Carson ('78) was an All-American member of two of those teams.
Carson, a native of Chattanooga and graduate of City High School, came to UTC as a volleyball player in 1974. There was not a tennis team at the time, so she focused on what would become a standout volleyball career.
"My dad and my sister went to school here, and I knew some people here, so it was a good fit for me," said Carson. "There wasn't a tennis team my freshman year so I played volleyball and was on the team for four years."
Carson would eventually become an all-state college player in 1975 and 1976 and earn team MVP honors in 1976, but it was her play on the tennis court that gained her the most recognition.
"I was excited when I heard we were going to start a tennis team," recalled Carson. "I had taken a few lessons from Alice, so when I heard she was going to be the coach, I knew I was going to try out. I was the only one who got to play for her for all four years."
It was that first season in 1975 when Carson had one of her more memorable moments. According to Carson, Tym motivated the team by letting them know if they lost to Tennessee, they would be walking the 112 miles back to Chattanooga. The threat of that long hike seemed to work since this group never lost to the Lady Vols.
"I remember the first time we were playing Tennessee, Alice said if we lost we had to walk home," said Carson. "I remember I was playing doubles with Chappell Guerry and we split sets, so we were the last match on. If we won, we won the match.
"They were saying how we should not have beaten them and how they were going to beat us in the third. That got us so fired up that we ended up beating them 6-0 in the third to win the match."
Her biggest memory would happen three years later when her team won the 1978 AIAW Division II National Title in Santa Barbara, Calif. Playing at UC-Santa Barbara, Carson finished third at No. 5 singles and won the No. 3 doubles with Julie Dunn, earning All-American status in both.
"We had a great time playing at Santa Barbara," said Carson. "Our theme song was 'We Are the Champions' by Queen, so we got to play that a lot. Alice always made it fun for us. We went to a lot of fun places - the University of Florida, Florida State, Rollins, Alabama, Georgia. It was a great time."
Carson will get to have another great time on Friday, Feb. 22, when she joins Tym and teammates Billie Abney, Phyllis Blackwell, Sue Turberville Bartlett, Elizabeth Sharp Henderson and Kathy Kolankiewicz in the UTC Athletics Hall of Fame.
"We would like to congratulate Susan on her well-deserved honor," stated women's tennis head coach Jeff Clark. "She and many of her teammates set the bar very high for success, not just for women's tennis, but all athletics at UTC. We hope that every time we compete, we can make her and her teammates proud."