Women's Tennis Brings Home NESCAC Crown
Issue   |   Wed, 05/07/2014 - 02:11
The Amherst women’s tennis team won the program’s ninth NESCAC championship this past weekend — a conference record.

Amherst women’s tennis returned to the top of the NESCAC after a one-year hiatus with a convincing 5-1 win over defending champion Williams. The championship-clinching win followed a 5-3 semifinal victory over Middlebury for the second-ranked Jeffs, extending their winning streak to nine matches. The championship was Amherst’s ninth in program history — a NESCAC record.

Saturday’s semifinal clash, which featured the first-seeded Jeffs against the fourth-seeded Panthers, was a rematch of Amherst’s 9-0 regular season drubbing of Middlebury.

The Jeffs’ No. 2 doubles team, seniors Zoe Pangalos and Jen Newman, claimed the first point of the day by beating Alexandra Fields and Lily Bondy. Seniors Jordan Brewer and Gabby Devlin extended the Amherst lead by knocking off Ria Gerger and Kaysee Orozco 8-4. However, Middlebury sophomores Lauren Amos and Margot Marchese kept the Panthers within striking distance, as they beat Safi Aly ’15 and Sarah Monteagudo ’16, 9-7.

Middlebury tied it up with Bondy’s 6-0, 6-0 sweep of sophomore Sue Ghosh, but Brewer and Devlin both picked up wins to restore the Jeffs’ lead and put them one point away from the final.

“On Saturday, I think I played one of the worst matches of my life. I just had a really, really bad day, and thankfully the team had my back for the rest of the match,” Ghosh said.

Orozco’s 7-5, 6-4 defeat of Newman made it 4-3, and the tension was high as the final two singles matches were both headed to three sets. Monteagudo managed to secure an Amherst victory by fighting back from a 6-0 hole in the first set. She knocked off Dorrie Paradies 0-6, 6-3, 6-4, while Pangalos held a narrow lead over Marchese (6-3, 4-6, 1-0), and their match was left unfinished.

Williams, who had advanced to Sunday’s final by beating Bowdoin 5-3, was looking to take revenge for a regular season loss to Amherst. The Ephs came out hot, as Kathleen Elkins and Maria Pylpiv beat Newman and Pangalos on the second doubles court 8-2.

The Jeffs bounced back with wins from the No. 1 and No. 3 doubles courts to take a 2-1 advantage into singles play. Brewer and Devlin took care of Kara Shoemaker and Rebecca Curran, 8-4, while Monteagudo and Aly got the better of Linda Shin and Hannah Atkinson 8-5.

“The sun wasn’t shining the day we played our archrival Williams, but it seemed that the stars were all aligned,” Brewer remarked. “Doubles with Gabby was a breeze — we were playing like a well-oiled machine. It felt amazing to have the support of my coach, wildly cheering teammates, parents and friends.”

Amherst wasted little time putting the championship away, as they won three singles matches in straight sets to clinch a 5-1 triumph. Devlin secured a decisive win over Elkins, 6-1, 6-1, while Ghosh cruised past Pylpiv 6-3, 6-1.

“On Sunday, I knew that there was no room for error. My coaches were very supportive, and I focused on the fact that we were in the finals, rather that I lost the previous day,” Ghosh remarked. “I just trusted my game and put all my energy into the match, and I guess it paid off.”

Those points put Amherst up 4-1, and put Brewer in position to capture the championship on the top court. The senior did just that, beating Shoemaker 6-2, 7-6.

“Over the last two years, I’ve played this same opponent, Kara Shoemaker, seven times and so there was history,” Brewer said. “The fact that my match would be the deciding match definitely added tension but also an opportunity to rise to the occasion and meet the challenge.”

However, the match was closer than the 5-1 final score suggests, as Williams led all three unfinished matches.
As the NESCAC Champions, the Jeffs own an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, which begins this Friday, May 9. Amherst earned a first round bye and will be in action at home on Friday against the winner of Farmingdale St. and Endicott.

“I’m so greatful and honored to have experienced the support of my teammates, coaches and friends of AWT over the past four years. It has been a joy to have the opportunity to represent Amherst in competition,” Brewer continued. “I will always remember friends made, experiences, shared and life lessons learned from both wins and losses.”

Brewer and the Jeffs hope to extend their season deep into the national tournament. As the second-ranked team in the country, Amherst looks to improve upon its third place finish from last season. The team has brought home just one NCAA championship in 1999 under the reign of current head coach, Jackie Bagwell.