Sixth-Ranked Men’s Tennis Goes 4-1 Against Western Competition
Issue   |   Tue, 03/20/2018 - 22:54

Avoiding the cold and snow on campus, the Amherst men’s tennis team made its annual trip to California to kick off the spring season. In the span of a week, the Mammoths matched up against some of the best schools that Division III has to offer, with all five opponents ranked in the top 30 and three in the top 10. Overall, it was an incredibly successful week for the No. 6 team in the nation, as Amherst emerged ahead in four of their five matches.

The weeklong event commenced on Sunday against the No. 27 Skidmore Thoroughbreds. Although Skidmore arrived in California undefeated, the Mammoths blitzed the Thoroughbreds, winning five of the six singles matches and two of the three doubles matches for a 7-2 overall victory.

In doubles play, Sean Wei ’21 and Nathan Kaplan ’20 teamed up to defeat Steven Koulouris and JT Wynne by a score of 8-6 on the first court. Jayson Fung ’20 and Ethan Hillis ’21 continued the success with an 8-3 win over Travis Leaf and Lucas Pickering before Kevin Ma ’21 and Zach Bessette ’19 fell to Jason Keye and Jack McClaren, 8-5, leaving Amherst with a 2-1 edge heading into singles action.

Wei dominated the first singles spot, cruising past Koulouris, 6-3, 6-0. While Bessette suffered a tight 6-4, 1-6, 11-9 loss at the hands of Wynne, Hillis got the Mammoths back on track with an easy 6-3, 6-2 win over Leaf. Kaplan, Ma and Fung all added singles victories to clinch the Amherst 7-2 win.

Next up for the Mammoths was a trip to Claremont, where they faced off against the No. 12 Carnegie Mellon Tartans. Amherst got off to a fast start by sweeping all three doubles matches, including the Wei/Kaplan partnership knocking off one of the top players in the nation, Daniel Levine, and his teammate Chaz Downing, 8-5. While Amherst started slowly on the singles side with Wei dropping the opening match to Levine and Downing defeating Bessette, the Mammoths’ depth proved crucial as Hillis, Kaplan, Ma and Fung all recorded straight set victories with no opponent recording more than four games in a set. Winning these last four matches allowed Amherst to clinch a second consecutive 7-2 win.

No. 11 Whitman College was the next opponent for the Mammoths, but despite the lofty ranking, did not prove to be a problem for Amherst. After Wei and Kaplan dropped the first doubles court by a score of 5-8, the Mammoths rattled off eight straight wins to take the match, 8-1. Amherst proved especially dominant on the singles side, where they swept all six matches in straight sets except for Hillis, who toughed out a 1-6, 6-1, 6-3 victory over Ben Kirsh. Jesse Levitin ’19 made his season debut in style with a 6-4, 6-1 win against Chase Friedman in the sixth and final singles spot as to Amherst’s next competitor, the No. 9 Washington University in St. Louis Bears, was its toughest to date. Wei and Kaplan opened up with a solid 8-3 win over Konrad Kozlowski and Daniel Li, and though Hillis and Fung dropped the second doubles match, Bessette and Ma recovered with an 8-3 victory to put the Mammoths up 2-1. The match came down to the singles portion, where Wei powered through a nail-biter to claim a 4-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-1 win over Johnny Wu.

Amherst was faced with some adversity after Hillis lost two tiebreakers in a three-set loss and Bessette was defeated in straight sets. However, the Mammoths managed to turn it around as Kaplan won in straight-sets, Ma came back from a set down to win and Fung closed out the 6-3 Amherst win with a 6-3, 6-3 victory of his own.

In their final match of the break, the Mammoths were pitted against the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Stags, who entered the match ranked third in the nation. Amherst proved no match for the Stags, with the Mammoths winning only one set the entire event as they were swept in a disappointing 9-0 loss.

Amherst will be off next weekend before traveling to Swarthmore the following weekend to play Case Western Reserve University on Saturday, March 31 and Kenyon College on Sunday, April 1.