Victory and Redemption: The Story of a National Championship

Olivia Soffer and Matia Cristiani, accompanied by their coach, Emma Davis, greet others on a tennis court

In the third set of the doubles national title final, tennis players Matia Cristiani ’26 and Olivia Soffer ’25 felt the match slipping away from them. 

After winning the first set handily, 6-1, against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, they lost a grueling, back-and-forth second set, 7-6, failing to capitalize on a match point.  

Now, at the start of the third set, two games seemed to fly by in a flash, and the Babson duo had lost them both. Just like that, the pair were down 2-0 in the deciding set, a national championship on the line. “If we don’t step it up right now,” Cristiani thought, “we won’t win this match.” 

Soffer tried to shut out the nerves and the stakes and simply focus on the task at hand: playing tennis. “This is the game I’ve played since I was 5 years old,” she thought. “It’s just tennis. Try not to overthink it. Keep it simple. Just play tennis.” 

That approach worked. Cristiani and Soffer bounced back from that early deficit, ultimately winning four games in row to close out the set 6-4 and win the national championship, the seventh overall in Babson’s history. After the hard-earned victory, Cristiani and Soffer shared a long hug. “I felt a lot of relief. It was a long match,” Soffer said. “It was nice to look at Matia and say, ‘We did it.’ ” 

The win offered the pair sweet redemption, after having come so close to victory only a year earlier. 

Memories of Last Year 

Matia Cristiani ’26  and Olivia Soffer ’25
Matia Cristiani ’26 (left) and Olivia Soffer ’25 share a hug after winning the national championship.

Soffer and Cristiani came to St. Louis, the site of the NCAA Division III championships, with a lot of expectations and a few lingering memories. They were two out of only 32 players selected for the singles draw (in which Cristiani would excel, reaching the semifinals), and one of just 16 doubles pairings chosen. 

The pair, however, had been in this situation before. In the championships of 2023, competing in the doubles pairings, they went on a run, reaching the finals before losing. “There was a lot of disappointment,” Soffer said. “It is easy to get negative after that.”  

Adding to the heartbreak was the fact that Soffer had made it to the finals of the singles draw as well and, on the very same day as the doubles defeat, also came up short. “It was two tough losses for me,” she said. “I took a hard hit on my mental.” 

While the pair were defeated, they were not broken. The disappointments gave them fuel and motivation. “It gave us more willingness to win,” Cristiani said. “I think we worked harder this year.” 

Those disappointments also were learning experiences. The pair learned to be tougher, more resilient, to hang in there when momentum and luck turned against them. Soffer used to dread the memory of those losses. “Now, I can be grateful for it,” she said. “We did a real good job of turning that around.” 

Another Shot 

In the wake of 2023, Cristiani and Soffer had multiple conversations about earning a second chance and taking another shot at the title. In St. Louis, they had their opportunity. 

Before that final match against Nikolina Batoshvili and Alisha Chulani of Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, the tournament’s top seed, the Babson duo admitted to feeling nervous. They thought of their history together. “It was in the back of my mind that we don’t want to lose twice in a row,” Soffer said. 

The national championship of Olivia Soffer ’25 and Matia Cristiani ’26 is the seventh overall in Babson’s history, and the first won by women athletes at the College.

Their opponents proved fierce and aggressive. The head coach of the Babson women’s tennis team, Emma Davis, admired her players’ determination. “It was remarkable to watch them bounce back after having a match point in the second set and going down 2-0 in the third set,” Davis said. “They never lost hope or stopped fighting, which is a huge reason they were able to win that match. That win took a lot of heart and grit.” 

With the win, Cristiani and Soffer become Babson’s first women athletes to achieve a national title, and they join the pantheon of other College champions: the men’s soccer teams of 1975, 1979, and 1980; the men’s ice hockey team of 1984; the men’s basketball team of 2017, and the men’s tennis singles champion David Weisman ’98 in 1998.  

After the title match, Cristiani and Soffer went out to dinner with their coaches. “We had steaks,” Soffer said. “It was very good.”

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