The women’s tennis team protected its perfect NESCAC record and No. 1 ranking with two victories over high-quality competition this past weekend. After losing their top spot in the ITA’s national rankings at the end of March, the Jeffs’ strong play over the past two weeks re-earned them their No. 1 ranking, but also provided their opponents, Colby and Williams, with an incentive to play spoiler. Yet the Jeffs handily dealt with both teams, dismissing Colby 7-2 on Saturday before defeating their archrivals by the same score the following afternoon.
The Jeffs opened their weekend play in Waterville, Maine at Colby. The team swept the doubles play and won four of six singles matches to earn a convincing victory. At No. 1 doubles, the freshman team of Isabel Camacho ’14 and Zoe Pangalos ’14 shut out their opponents, 8-0, before splitting up to pick up wins in their respective singles matches as well. Camacho’s victory at No. 5 singles was impressive in its own right, as she edged out her opponent, 7-6 (14-12), in a tight first-set tiebreaker before running away with the second, 6-1.
Winning the second match of the weekend proved to be a much more straightforward task for the Jeffs than it might have appeared on paper. The Ephs, ranked No. 2 in the nation, had already played Amherst down to the wire earlier this year when the teams met for a preseason contest in October. The smallest of margins, 5-4, had decided that matchup, which Williams lost as the higher-ranked team. In fact, that upset represented a recent trend between Amherst and Williams in which the lower-ranked team had won each of the previous five matchups.
Nevertheless, the Lady Jeffs did not back down from the challenge and, instead, earned their seventh consecutive victory of the season. Amherst dropped only nine games in sweeping the doubles points and pulled out four singles victories as well. Among those wins were two impressive performances by Carlissa King ’11 and Natasha Brown ’11 at No. 3 and No. 6 singles, respectively. King pulled out at tense third set, 13-11, after winning the first and dropping the second. Brown, on the other hand, came from behind after losing the first set to post a 2-6, 7-6, 10-4 victory. She explained afterwards that there was “special significance in beating our archrivals and the team behind us in the NCAA rankings so convincingly.” Amherst’s victory was their 17th triumph in the last 22 meetings between the teams and pushed their lead in the all-time series to 33-23.
However, the regular-season challenges for the Jeffs do not end here. The team will look to use their big victories as a springboard this week, as they face off against Tufts, Trinity, and Bowdoin, in what will undoubtedly be three competitive contests.
Great teams always seem to be able to look back on a season and identify a turning point, a moment that defined the team for the rest of the year. The men’s tennis team might just have found that moment. Coming off what was unarguably their most impressive performance of the season over archrival Williams, the fourth-ranked Jeffs routed their NESCAC competition last week to improve to 25-1 on the year and 5-0 in conference play. It would seem that the Jeffs’ win over Williams has amplified the team’s intensity and drive to a level which opponents will be hard-pressed to match.
The Jeffs began their weekend dominance with a sweep of Colby College, 9-0. Amherst was able to pull out all three doubles matches, each by score of 8-6, while singles play proved to be significantly more lopsided. In five of the six matches, Amherst players lost five or fewer games with Chris Dale ’14 prevailing most easily with a 6-1, 6-0 win at No. 4 singles.
In the second matchup of the weekend, the Jeffs rolled to an 8-1 victory over Tufts. They swept the doubles play and dropped only one singles match en route to their eighth straight victory, moving into a tie with Middlebury for first place in the NESCAC. The Jeffs’ top five singles players all earned straight set victories, while the team of Sean Doerfler ’11 and Justin Reindel ’14 coasted to an 8-1 victory at No. 2 doubles.
As impressive as this week was for the Jeffs, the story behind their remarkable performance truly begins a week earlier against their archrivals. As team captain Moritz Koenig ’11 explained, “The win against Williams last week was monumental for us. It proved we have gotten to the point where we can deal with adversity and overcome temporary struggles. Beating them without one of our best players, Austin Chafetz ’12, [out due to injury], was a huge accomplishment.”
Since their victory over the Ephs, Amherst has looked near infallible, as Colby and Tufts can attest to. The team’s confidence is through the roof, and while they remain wary of getting ahead of themselves, the potential for their continued growth and success is quite evident.
Yet, they will not be without challenge. NESCAC competition intensifies for the team this coming week with key matchups against Bates, Trinity and Brandeis. Given their experience with adversity, however, these Jeffs seem capable of handling the adversity with poise.