By Anne Bello
Published Jun 12, 2012 at 7:00 AM ET; Updated Jun 10, 2012 at 8:24 PM ET

Boston, MA — The Franklin & Marshall women had quite a year. The 2011-2012 season represented something of a new start for the Diplomats: the 2011 Walker Cup champions had a new coach at the helm, as Gavin Jones replaced John White. The team handled the change with aplomb, moving up the rankings steadily and finishing the season in the B Division. By the end of the season, F&M was ranked 15th in the nation, the program’s best finish in over a decade.

Other teams couldn’t help but recognize F&M’s improvement. But they also noticed something else: the Diplomats’ outstanding sportsmanship, teamwork, and character. These qualities, plus improvement, are what the Chaffee Award recognizes.

The award, which is named for former Williams coach Clarence C. Chaffee, has been presented  annually since 1987 to the coach whose team best demonstrates these qualities. Coaches discuss with their team which team they feel is deserving of this award. Coaches then vote on the award at the National Team Championships meeting, with each team getting one vote. This year’s award was presented at the 2012 Women’s National Team Championships (Howe Cup), which were hosted by Harvard.

2012 Women's National Team Championships (Howe Cup): Franklin & Marshall receiving the Chaffee Award

2012 Women's National Team Championships (Howe Cup): Franklin & Marshall receiving the Chaffee Award

This year, the Franklin & Marshall women played a challenging schedule. The F&M men have competed in the A Division the past few seasons, while last year the F&M women won the C Division. Given the teams’ joint travel schedules, the F&M women ended up playing a number of A Division teams.

For some teams, going into contest after contest overmatched could be disheartening. F&M, however, seemed to grow from the experience, turning 0-9 losses to A Division teams into 9-0 wins over C and D Division teams. At the Women’s National Team Championships, the Diplomats drew on their experiences from the regular season. They rebounded from losses in the opening round and consolation semifinals to win 5-4 over Hamilton to close their season with a win.

The Diplomats are led by Jones, the head coach, and Ron Epps, the associate head coach. The 2011-2012 squad had four seniors: Tanya Arora, Gabby Robinson, Morgan Smith, and Aleka Woods. Arora and Smith were co-captains.