Tennis Starts Strong
Issue   |   Tue, 04/03/2012 - 23:44
Photo courtesy of Sam Masinter ’04
Sophomore Joey Fritz won the No. 2 singles match against Vanguard after dropping the first set.

Women

After falling just short of a National Championship last season, the women’s tennis team opened their 2012 campaign in great form over spring break. The Lady Jeffs, who finished as the NCAA runner-up last year, looked very strong and were undefeated in their four contests. They have since begun their NESCAC season, traveling to Williams this past weekend where they lost a closely fought battle.

Over the break, the Jeffs made their spring debut against Vanguard Univ. The team made quick work of the Lions, sweeping all three doubles matches en route to a solid 8-1 victory. Amherst backed up their performance two days later at Concordia Univ. The team showed their impressive depth, winning at No. 3 doubles and No. 2 through six singles.

The Jeffs next matchup, though, was nowhere near as easy as the first two. Facing Cal State Fullerton, the Jeffs got off to a good start, winning two of three doubles points. Cal State responded to the Jeffs’ push with some impressive tennis, tying the score at 4-4, winning three of the first five singles matches that were played. That set the stage for first-year Safaa Aly in the decisive singles match. After dropping the first set, Aly rallied in impressive fashion, taking the second set 6-3 and edging out her opponent 7-6 (2) in a third-set tiebreak. The victory gave Amherst a 5-4 win and kept the Jeffs undefeated on the trip.

In their fourth and final match of the break, Amherst closed out their trip at Pomona College. The Jeffs, riding the momentum of their huge victory the day before, swept all their matches, trouncing the Sagehens 9-0 and putting the final touches on an impressive 4-0 trip.

The team, though, did not take any time to celebrate that start. In a matchup of rivals, the Jeffs opened regional play on Sunday against Williams, the defending National Champion. The two heavyweights, ranked as the top two teams in Division III, were expected to play a competitive battle, and it did not disappoint.

The Jeffs’ No. 1 doubles team of Jordan Brewer ‘14 and Laura Danzig ‘12 made quick work of Williams’ best duo, winning 8-1. Amherst managed to split the remaining doubles matches,with Gabby Devlin ’14 and Caroline Richman ’13 eding out a tight 9-7 victory in the three-spot.

Williams made a strong comeback in singles play. At the No. 1 spot, Brewer got out to a fast start, taking the first set 6-0. Unfortunately, she could not keep up the pressure as her opponent responded to take the next two sets, 6-3. Amherst, though, found itself on the winning end of a three-setter in the No. 2 spot. Danzig dropped her first set but rallied to earn a 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 victory.

At No. 3 singles, Jennifer Newman ’14 followed Danzig’s example, coming back after losing her first set to earn an impressive victory, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. Newman’s win gave Amherst a 4-2 lead with three singles matches to play, but the Jeffs couldn’t close it out. At No. 4 singles, Richman lost in three sets, while Zoe Pangalos ’14 also lost in the No. 5 spot. The match came down to the decisive No. 6 singles contest between Aly and Williams’ Caroline Capute. Aly jumped on top early, taking the first set 6-4, but Capute came on strong to take the next two, 6-3, 6-2. The victory gave Williams the 5-4 win overall, solitifying their top ranking.

Despite the loss, the Jeffs were still upbeat. “We know that we can play with Williams,” said Pangalos. “It’s just a matter of putting in the practice over the rest of the season to improve.”

Amherst will look to get back to their winning ways, as they compete in the Wellesley Invitational next weekend. The Lady Jeffs will look to build some momentum in preparation for the heart of NESCAC play, only a couple weeks away.

Men

The defending National Champion men’s tennis team opened their 2012 spring season in Southern California over spring break, playing a whopping 20 matches in six days.

The Jeffs opened their season with three matches on Day 1 of their trip. The team sent three different lineups to compete at Cal Tech, Vanguard and San Diego State, respectively. None of the split-teams encountered much resistance, as all three won with relative ease. Amherst swept Cal Tech and San Diego State, only dropping eight games total against the latter, while dispatching Vanguard, 6-3.

Notable on the day were Mark Kahan ’13 and Joey Fritz ’14. At No. 1 singles against Vanguard, Kahan earned a comeback win, after dropping the first set. Similarly, Fritz also lost his first set at the No. 2 spot, but rallied for the 2-6, 6-0, 6-4 victory.

On Day 2 of the west coast swing, Amherst faced Bowdoin, Cerritos and Chapman. The Jeffs kept up their impressive play, sweeping Cerritos and Chapman and besting Bowdoin, 7-2, to improve to 6-0 on the trip.

Although they were tested once again, Amherst was able to get by Cal Lutheran, Kalamazoo and Hope International to maintain their undefeated record through Day 3 of the trip. Amherst dropped Hope International to 0-12 on the season with an 8-1 victory, while taking care of business against 25th-ranked Kalamazoo, 7-2.

The match against Cal Lutheran though lived up to its billing, as a battle between two of the top Division III schools in the nation. The ninth-ranked Kingsmen got off to a quick start by winning the No. 1 doubles contest. Amherst came back to win the other two doubles matches, but dropped the No. 1 singles contest to fall into a 2-2 tie. After splitting the next four matches, the teams remained tied and the No. 6 singles match proved to be the decider. Eli Mlaver ’14 managed to pull out the big victory, coming from behind to earn a 6-7 (5), 6-1, 6-1 win and give the Jeffs the 5-4 victory.

Day 4 of the trip saw Amherst lose its first match of the spring season. The Jeffs fell to the College of the Desert, but did manage to beat Whittier (6-3) and outlast Concordia (5-4). Notable in the latter was first-year Andrew Scheiner’s effort.

Scheiner dropped his first set 3-6, but rallied to squeeze out the second, 7-6, before running away with the match in the third, 6-0. With their 2-1 performance, the team moved to 14-1 on the season.

The following day saw the Jeffs lose another tough match, this time against Westmont, 8-1. Amherst’s split-squad was unable to keep up in doubles, as the NAIA 10th-ranked Warriors swept those three matches and continued rolling through singles play. However, the Jeffs did recover to dispatch No. 13-ranked Pomona, 7-2, and Glendale, 6-3.

Amherst closed out their spring break play on Day 6 of their trip with victories in their final two matches. In the first matchup, the Jeffs swept San Diego Mesa, 9-0, taking all of the doubles points and winning five of the six singles matches in straight sets. However, the match against No. 18 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps was a different story.

Claremont handed the Jeffs their sole loss of the 2011-2012 season, so this matchup was sure to be a closely fought battle. In doubles play, Luis Rattenhuber ‘13 and Austin Chafetz ’12 earned a victory at the No. 1 spot, while both the other doubles contests were tightly played affairs. The teams ended up splitting the matches, going into singles play with Amherst leading 2-1.

The matchup remained closely contested until Mark Kahan earned Amherst’s clinching victory with a thrilling three-set victory. Kahan won the first set, 6-1, but dropped the second 6-4 and was trailing 4-2 late in the third. However, he managed to pull off the last four games of the match to outlast his opponent.

Rattenhuber was also involved in a marathon three-setter in the No. 3 singles spot. Both the first two sets went to tiebreakers, which the players split, before Rattenhuber won the decider, 6-4.

With the victory, Amherst improved to 18-2 on the trip and look to be in good shape heading into the NESCAC season. The team’s success will give them confidence moving forward, as they look to defend their No. 1 ranking and push towards another national title.

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