Courtesy of the NESCAC
HADLEY, Mass. – The top-ranked Amherst College men's tennis team will begin its NESCAC title defense this Saturday by traveling to Williamstown for the semifinals of the conference championship.
The 2012 edition of the tournament opens on Friday at Williams College with a pair of first-round matches. Winners from Friday will advance to Saturday's semifinals and face either Amherst or Williams, with Sunday's title bout set for 1 p.m. Results of each match and updated schedules will be available at the conclusion of each day at www.nescac.com.
#1 AMHERst (27-2, 8-0)
A year ago at Middlebury, Amherst won its first NESCAC championship since 1992, rolling past Bowdoin and Williams by 5-0 scores en route to its fourth overall league title. The victory was a preview of things to come during the month of May, as the Lord Jeffs would go on to hoist the NCAA trophy for the first time ever with a 36-1 record.
Amherst (27-2, 8-0 NESCAC) hasn't missed a beat this season. The Jeffs have faced the five other participants in the tournament, notably earning 9-0 wins over Middlebury and Trinity and narrowly defeating Bates and Williams by 5-4 scores. A win on Saturday afternoon could set Amherst up against Williams in the tournament for the fifth year in a row if the Ephs advance, as the Jeffs are 3-1 in their last four postseason meetings with their rivals.
Highlighting Amherst's doubles lineup are seniors Austin Chafetz and Luis Rattenhuber, who have posted an 8-0 record since they began teaming up on Mar. 23. Rattenhuber has also won each of his past six singles matches, while Mark Kahan '13 has earned his spot atop the Jeffs' ladder. With a 12-0 mark in singles play this year, Kahan has won 30 consecutive matches dating back to last March.
#4 MIDDLEBURY (12-5, 4-3) VS. #5 BATEs (10-7, 4-4)
Before it can think about Sunday's final, Amherst will have to get past the winner of Friday's first-round match between fourth-seeded Middlebury (12-5, 4-3 NESCAC) and fifth-seeded Bates (10-7, 4-4 NESCAC). All of the Panthers' six NESCAC titles have come in the last eight years, winning four in a row from 2004 through 2007 and then back-to-back crowns beginning in 2009. This is the first year Middlebury has missed out on bypassing the opening round.
Looking at this season, the Panthers already own a 7-2 victory over their first-round opponent, the Bobcats. Back in the NESCAC championship after being absent from the field last spring, Bates has put together a 10-3 mark since that setback to Middlebury on Mar. 11, with all three losses coming against tournament opponents Amherst, Bowdoin and Williams. The Bobcats, whose only conference title came in 1988, are hoping to make their first appearance in Saturday's semifinals.
#3 BOWDOIN (11-6, 7-2) VS. #6 TRINITy (9-7, 5-4)
Friday's other match features third-seeded Bowdoin (11-6, 7-2 NESCAC) and sixth-seeded Trinity (9-7, 5-4 NESCAC), as the Polar Bears and the Bantams will clash in the opening round for the third time in the last four years. In the 2009 championship, Bowdoin got past Trinity 5-3 before dropping a 5-1 decision to eventual champ Middlebury in the semifinals. The Bantams turned the tables with a 5-2 victory during the 2010 tournament, but Bowdoin managed to return to the semifinals in 2011 with a 5-1 victory over Tufts, while Trinity fell short to Williams by the same score.
It's been an impressive spring so far for the Polar Bears. After suffering a 7-2 setback to Amherst in California on Mar. 20, Bowdoin went on a nine-match tear before losing again, a streak that included a 6-1 win over Trinity on Mar. 31. The Bantams have been idle since falling in their second consecutive match on Apr. 24, 6-3 to Bates. Of note is the fact that the Polar Bears are the only team to advance out of the first round and win the NESCAC title, doing so in thrilling fashion during the 2008 championship.
#2 WILLIAMs (15-1, 6-1)
Waiting to face the Bowdoin-Trinity winner will be second-seeded Williams (15-1, 6-1 NESCAC). The only blemish on the Ephs' record so far this season has been the aforementioned 5-4 loss to the rival Lord Jeffs on Apr. 22. During the match, Williams held a 2-1 advantage after doubles but was outmaneuvered in singles play, as Amherst won at positions one, three, four, and five with half of the decisions coming in straight sets.
The Ephs rebounded in their next outing by getting past Bowdoin 5-4 before wrapping up the conference schedule the next day at Bates, 6-3. Prior to the setback to Amherst, Williams claimed an 8-1 win at Trinity on Apr. 9, as the Ephs have faced the five other tournament foes in the past month. No team in the history of the conference has more league crowns than Williams' 14, and although the Ephs have reached Sunday's final in each of the last two years, eight seasons have come and gone since they last held the championship trophy.
2012 NESCAC MEN'S TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIP
Hosted by Williams College * Friday-Sunday, May 4-6
First Round - Friday, May 4
No. 3 Bowdoin vs. No. 6 Trinity --- 1 p.m.
No. 4 Middlebury vs. No. 5 Bates --- 1 p.m.
Semifinals - Saturday, May 5
No. 1 Amherst vs. Winner of Middlebury/Bates --- 1 p.m.
No. 2 Williams vs. Winner of Bowdoin/Trinity --- 1 p.m.
Championship Match - Sunday, May 6
Semifinal Winners --- 1 p.m.