Men's Tennis Suffers First NESCAC Loss of the Season
Issue   |   Tue, 04/29/2014 - 23:08
Photo Courtesy of Niahlah Hope '15
This weekend, senior co-captain Joey Fritz and the Jeffs look to reclaim the back-to-back NESCAC titles they won in 2011 and 2012.

The third-ranked Amherst men’s tennis team had their 17-match win streak snapped on Saturday by eighth-ranked NESCAC foe Middlebury. With both teams previously undefeated in the NESCAC and the top-seed of the conference at stake, the Panthers edged the Jeffs 5-4.

Amherst got on the board first with a win the top doubles spot, as senior co-captains Joey Fritz and Justin Reindel defeated Alex Johnston and Andrew Lebovitz 8-6. However, Middlebury answered with a win in the second spot, as Bratner Jones and Palmer Campbell topped sophomores Aaron Revzin and Andrew Yaraghi 8-3.

The Panthers claimed the doubles advantage with another victory in the third spot over Michael Solimano ’16 and Anton Zykov ’17. With the Jeff duo up 7-4, Peter Heidrich and Ari Smolyar came back to even the score at eight-all, pushing the match to a tiebreaker. The Midd. pair came out on top 7-5 to take the match and the lead.

Johnston extended the Panthers’ lead to 3-1 with a 7-6, 6-0 win in the top singles spot over Fritz. Solimano defeated Campbell 6-4, 6-3 in the third spot to close the deficit to 3-2, but Middlebury notched another victory in the fourth spot, as Smolyar took down first-year Anton Zykov 6-4, 6-1. Up 4-2, the Panthers only needed one more win to seal the victory.

In the second singles spot, senior co-captain Chris Dale prevailed 7-5 in the first set against Jones after digging himself out of a 2-5 hole. Jones evened the set score by winning the second 6-4 and followed with a 6-4 third set win to clinch both the individual and overall match.

Yaraghi defeated his opponent, Courtney Mountfield, in the No. 5 spot, 6-1, 6-3, while Justin Reindel ’14 won his match by the same score in the No. 6 spot to bring the final score to 5-4.

With the loss, Amherst falls to 8-1 in the NESCAC, while Middlebury improves to 7-0. On the season, the Jeffs still flaunt an impressive 29-3 record and hope to bounce back this weekend at Bowdoin in the NESCAC Championships. As the No. 2 seed, Amherst received a first round bye and will face the winner of the Williams-Tufts match on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

When asked if he finds that the team’s mentality changes heading into the post season, Garner responded, “Yes, you can tell the end of school is getting closer. Guys become more focused on closing out their classes in strong fashion. If the team makes the post season, it’s a lot of fun because they get a chance to compete against a strong opponent.”

Amherst has a history of making both conference and national title runs in recent years, as the team brought home both the NESCAC and NCAA Championship in 2011 as well as another conference title in 2012.

“Every team would love to play in the national championship game, but you can only play the match in front of you, which is this Saturday,” Garner remarked. “Every match has keys to winning, and the national championship is no different except they give a trophy to both teams after the match.”

For now, the Jeffs will await their opponent for their NESCAC semifinal match-up. When asked if there was anything the team should improve on for upcoming weekend, Garner responded, “Top secret ... just kidding. Winning the last point of the match seems to always work.”