Tennis Teams Red-Hot Early into Season
Issue   |   Tue, 04/02/2013 - 22:43

Men

Touring Southern California for their season-opening trip, the Men’s tennis team got their 2013 campaign off to a solid start over spring break. Playing 17 matches in six days, the Jeffs underwent a grueling early test and still managed to finish with a 12-5 record. It was an impressive result for this new-look team, who graduated three of its top six players last season; the squad looks poised to make up for those losses with impressive depth and a strong freshman class.

The Jeffs were hoping to get off to a quick start in the Golden State and began the week with three split-squad matches on the first day of competition. In the first of those matchups, Amherst swept the College of the Desert, winning all six singles and three doubles contests without dropping a single set.

The team, however, was challenged much more seriously by Cerritos College, with the Jeffs narrowly edging out a 5-4 victory. With the match tied at three matches apiece following the singles slate, Amherst pulled out big victories in two of the three doubles contests to earn the team win. Notable on the afternoon was the play of Birk Mitau ’16 and Kade Pettie ’15, who edged out a 9-8 (7-4) victory in final doubles match that proved to be the difference-maker.

The Jeffs went up against previously undefeated Vanguard Univ. in the day’s final match and, unfortunately, were unable to tarnish that perfect record. After taking two of three doubles matches, Vanguard earned victories in four singles contests, coasting to the 6-3 victory and handing Amherst their first loss of the break.

The Jeffs picked up another loss the following day, as they fell to sixth-ranked Cal Lutheran. Aiming for the big upset, Amherst fought the Kingsmen closely but was unable to capitalize on opportunities for victories in singles play, losing three three-setters on the afternoon. The other split-squad, however, salvaged the day by earning an impressive 5-4 victory over Westmont. Eli Mlaver ’14 came up big for the Jeffs in this matchup, earning the decisive, three-set victory in singles play to carry the team.

Building on their narrow victory, the Jeffs swept their competition over the next two days. The team went 6-0 and only dropped six individual matches en route to easy team victories. Among those contests was the Jeffs’ NESCAC opener against Tufts, who also made the long trip to the west coast. The Jeffs handled the Jumbos with ease, earning the 7-2 victory and falling only at the No. 1 doubles and No. 6 singles spots.

Amherst, though, was unable to keep their momentum rolling on Day 5 of the trip. Facing a top-20 Division II program in Azusa-Pacific, the Jeffs fought hard to stay in the match but ended up falling just short. After tying the contest at three-points apiece, Amherst dropped the final three matches, eventually losing 6-3. Surprisingly, the team also suffered a defeat at the hands of Glendale later in the afternoon, but did recover to salvage an easy victory against Cal Tech.

Wrapping up their trip, Amherst overwhelmed Wisconsin-Whitewater and Carleton College the following day, dropping only one individual match in the two contests combined. Even with a loss in their final contest of the break, a matchup against defending Pacific Coast Athletic Conference Champion San Diego Mesa College, the team had to be pleased with its play.

Given the grind of six consecutive days of matches, the Jeffs’ performance was certainly a step in the right direction.

Building on that momentum, the Jeffs returned home to host Nichols and Vassar in their first two home matches of the season. The squad had little difficulty with either opponent, earning matching 8-1 victories in both contests.

With those two victories, Amherst improved to 15-7 on the year. Hosting Bates next weekend, the Jeffs will open home conference play and get into the heart of their schedule. Having put in the hard yards already, the team is hoping that that work can carry them to a successful season.

Women
The defending-NESCAC Champion Women’s Tennis team has begun their pursuit of a national title. Winners of seven of the past eight conference championships, the Lady Jeffs are the undisputed powerhouse of the NESCAC. The team battled injuries throughout last season, still making it to the semifinals of the NCAA tournament before falling to Chicago. This year’s group is young and talented, featuring one of the best doubles lineups in the nation, and may have even greater postseason potential.

Before looking that far ahead, though, there is still much to be done. The Lady Jeffs got a solid start on that groundwork by opening their spring season in style against Wesleyan. In their first action since mid-October, Amherst did not miss a beat, overwhelming their Little Three rivals en route to a 9-0 sweep. The Jeffs did not lose a set on the afternoon and, in fact, were hardly challenged outside of the No. 1 doubles contest. In that match, the junior duo of Zoe Pangalos and Jennifer Newman needed a tiebreak to narrowly edge out their opponents, 9-8 (7-4).

Following the victory, the team traveled to the southeast for its annual spring break trip. The team faced a solid Division II opponent in their opening match and fell to eighth-ranked Lynn University. The tandem of Pangalos and Newman earned the Jeffs’ sole doubles victory, 8-4, at the No. 2 spot, while Caroline Richman ’13 earned the only singles victory, running away in the third set for a 6-3, 1-6, 6-0 win. The loss marked Amherst’s first on the year, dropping the team to 2-1 overall.

The Lady Jeffs, though, had no time to dwell on the loss, as they were slated to play in the Fab Seven Tournament two days later. Facing off against a quality opponent in fourth-ranked Emory, the Amherst team needed to bring its A-game, if it wanted to compete with the Dooleys. The clash of top-five teams lived up to expectations, as the contest was locked at four matches apiece with only the No. 6 singles match left on the slate. With all eyes watching, Amherst’s Gabby Devlin ’14 pulled out the victory in a three-set thriller. Devlin forced the decider by winning the second set in a tiebreaker, 7-6 (7-4), before taking the third, 6-4.

High off the thrill of their 5-4 victory, Amherst faced an even tougher challenge the following day against No. 1-ranked John Hopkins. The Jeffs earned victories at No. 1 and 2 doubles to spot themselves a lead heading into singles play. Although the Blue Jays were able to win at the No. 3, 4 and 6 spots, Newman, Pangalos, and Jordan Brewer ’14 all won their matches to close out the impressive Amherst victory.

The following morning, the Jeffs wrapped up tournament play against Washington & Lee Univ. The contest was abbreviated and moved indoors because of rain, but those conditions could not prevent the Jeffs from completing an undefeated weekend. The Jeffs won the first five matches played, erasing the need for the remaining matches to be completed, and earned the 5-0 shutout.

Returning to the northeast, the Jeffs got right back into conference play following their trip. Amherst traveled to Hamilton this past weekend and easily dispatched the Continentals, 8-1. First-year Sarah Monteaguda led the Jeffs on the afternoon, earning an impressive victory at No. 1 singles and teaming up with Isabel Camacho ’14 to win at the No. 1 doubles spot, as well.

The Jeffs returned to the court the following afternoon, hosting their first conference match of the season. No. 8 Bowdoin visited and was promptly shown the door. Amherst easily handled the previously-undefeated Polar Bears by a final margin of 7-2 and remained undefeated in NESCAC play themselves (3-0).

With the early victories, the Lady Jeffs have set the foundation for a successful season. Amherst will look to build on this momentum, as they return to action at the Wellesley Tournament this coming weekend.

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