Men's Tennis Brings Home NESCAC Crown
Issue   |   Wed, 05/07/2014 - 02:12
The Amherst men's tennis team brought home the team’s sixth overall title, giving them an automatic bid for the upcoming Div. III NCAA Tournament.

The fourth-ranked Amherst men’s tennis team came home NESCAC champions this past weekend for the sixth time in team history. After receiving a first round bye, the second-seeded Jeffs were set to face third-seeded Williams in the conference semifinals. Nationally speaking, the 11th-ranked and reigning national champion Ephs had dropped six spots in the recently announced ITA rankings, while Amherst fell one spot to fourth in the country after losing to Middlebury last weekend.

Against their archrivals, the Jeffs jumped out to an early 3-0 lead after the doubles matches. Sophomores Andrew Yaraghi and Aaron Revzin led things off with an 8-6 win in the second spot over Rohan Shastri and Jose Raventos. Michael Solimano ’16 and Anton Zykov ’17 followed suit, defeating Alexander Schidlovsk and Brain Astrachan in the third spot by the same score. Senior co-captains Joey Fritz and Justin Reindel capped off the doubles sweep with another 8-6 win in the top slot over Matt Micheli and Conrad Harron.

In the singles matches, Amherst had to shift up their lineup for spots two through six, as the team’s No. 2 singles player, Chris Dale ’14, had injured his ankle.

“Chris was unable to play this past weekend due to an sprained ankle, but the team came together well in his absence,” head coach Chris Garner remarked.

Ben Fife ’16 stepped in to fill the void at the bottom of the ladder for the Jeffs, but the sophomore lost his match to Raventos 6-1, 6-0 in what would be Williams’ lone point of the day.

In the fifth singles spot, Reindel extended the team’s lead to 4-1 with a convincing 6-1, 6-1 victory over Howard Weiss. In need of only one more W to advance to the championship final the next day, Amherst still had four singles matches in play. Zykov clinched the match in the No. 3 spot, beating Shastri 6-4, 6-2. The remaining matches were left unfinished, as Solimano and Yaraghi had both split the first two sets of their matches and Fritz was up 7-5, 5-2.

The 5-1 win was the first Amherst-Williams match to be decided by a score other than 5-4 since April 2011. With the victory, the Jeffs punched their ticket to their fourth straight NESCAC final. In the other semifinal match, top-seeded Middlebury downed fourth-seeded and 16th-ranked Bowdoin 5-0 — pitting the Panthers against the Jeffs in a rematch of Amherst’s regular season finale where the team lost 5-4.

“Every season, a new social dynamic is created. The students seem to enjoy being on the team. Hopefully each season a bond is created where they will be there for one another on-and-off the court,” Garner said.

“Team chemistry has really improved this season due to team bonding, which as you know, I’m a big proponent of,” Revzin added.

On Championship Sunday, the Jeffs repeated their doubles performance from the day before, once again earning the 3-0 advantage. Fritz and Reindel notched the first win of the day, defeating Alex Johnston and Andrew Lebovitz 8-5 in the No.1 spot. Third doubles finished shortly after, where Solimano and Zykov topped Ari Smolyar and Peter Heidrich 8-4, followed by second doubles, where Yaraghi and Revzin won their match over Brantner Jones and Palmer Campbell 8-5.

“Something great about the NESCAC tournament was our doubles play. We had worked a lot on doubles during the week, and it was nice to see the work pay dividends, as we swept all three doubles spots in both matches,” Solimano said.

“I was very proud of Mike’s performance this weekend. I’m glad my talent has rubbed off on him,” Revzin said of Solimano, also his roommate.

With Dale still out with an injury, Russell Einbinder ’16 stepped into the sixth singles spot for the finals. However, Jackson Frons defeated the sophomore 6-4, 6-1 for Midd’s only win on the day. In the top spot, Fritz gave Amherst a 4-1 lead with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Johnston, and Yaraghi sealed the victory with a 6-0, 7-5 win over Smolyar in the fifth spot.

In their second 5-1 victory of the weekend, the Jeffs brought home their third NESCAC Championship in four years, earning an automatic bid for the Div. III NCAA tournament. Amherst’s accomplishments this season warranted a top seed in the national tournament, also giving them a first round bye.

“I think that our team’s chemistry is always high, but becomes even more elevated towards the end of the season,” Solimano said. “We can all see our goals for the season in sight now, and it is imperative that we all come together to accomplish those goals.”

The Jeffs will host regional play this weekend, starting on Saturday, where they will face the winner of Stevens and Southern Maine. Should they win, they will be in action again at home on Sunday. The remainder of the tournament will be hosted May 19-21 at Claremont Mudd-Scripps in California.

For the seniors on the team, they hope to re-live the national championship season from their first-year when the team upset Emory in the finals of the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

“I know everyone enjoys summer vacation, but hopefully the guys can hold off on it a bit longer,” Garner said.