AMHERST, Mass. – Fresh off a second consecutive NESCAC title, the top-ranked Amherst College men's tennis team will begin its national championship defense this Saturday on its home courts.
For the fourth consecutive year and sixth time in school history, Amherst has been selected as a regional host site for the NCAA Division III Men's Tennis Championship. The Lord Jeffs will join four schools on campus this weekend, with competition beginning Friday and concluding Sunday.
Playing at Amherst in Friday's opening round of the 43-team, single-elimination tournament will be Marywood University and Nichols College, with the winner facing Amherst on Saturday. Vassar will take on The College of New Jersey in Saturday's other match, with Sunday's winner advancing to the national quarterfinals. Start times for this weekend's matches will be announced on Tuesday.
The Lord Jeffs (29-2) didn't advance out of the NCAA's regional rounds from 1998-2008, but head coach Chris Garner has transformed Amherst into a national powerhouse. The Jeffs have made three consecutive appearances in the national title match, finishing as the NCAA runner-up in 2009 and 2010 before taking home the program's first championship last May.
The Lord Jeffs are 14-0 since dropping a dual match to Westmont on Mar. 23, but they have been tested by some of the best teams in Division III. During its current win streak, Amherst has defeated No. 3 Williams and No. 5 Claremont, also posting two victories against 10th-ranked Bowdoin and shutting out No. 12 Middlebury.
Four of the top 11 players in the ITA Northeast rankings hail from Amherst, led by top-ranked Mark Kahan '13. With a 13-1 record in dual matches this year, Kahan had a 30-match win streak snapped during Sunday's NESCAC title bout against Bowdoin. Senior Luis Rattenhuber has won six singles matches in a row and joins classmate Austin Chafetz as the region's top-ranked doubles pair, as the duo is 9-1 since teaming up on Mar. 23.
Looking to get out of Friday's first round and earn a matchup with Amherst will be the Pacers of Marywood University (11-5), the 2012 Colonial States Athletic Conference champions. In the midst of a 10-match win streak that dates back to mid-March and includes seven shutouts, Marywood will be attempting to advance past the tournament's opening round for the first time in program history.
Leading the three-time defending CSAC champions will be Todd Doran, the conference's Player of the Year. Doran is 11-3 as the Pacers' top singles player, also joining Evan Bolus to post a 9-1 record in the past 10 doubles matches in the top spot. Bolus has won 10 consecutive singles matches at number two, as has Daniel Pfafman at number three. The team's top three singles players are 36-10 in dual match play this season, with the two leading doubles pairs a combined 18-2 in the last 10 matches.
Friday will feature the first-ever meeting between Marywood and the Bison of Nichols College (17-3), who are carrying a program-record 16-match win streak into their NCAA Tournament debut. Getting past the Pacers would not only set a program mark for wins in a season, but it would represent the only NCAA Tournament win in any sport in the college's history. Nichols rolled through the Commonwealth Coast Conference regular season, posting a perfect 8-0 record while surrendering just nine points to opponents.
Senior Steve Carella has posted an overall record of 17-4 as the winningest singles and doubles player in program history. Sophomore Isiah Prosper has won 15 consecutive matches and is 17-2 overall, while CCC Rookie and Co-Player of the Year Brandon Roode heads into the weekend at 15-5. Highlighting the team's doubles pairs are Prosper and Justin Deluca, who are 11-0 at number three since teaming up on Mar. 20.
TJ Riley leads the Lions as the 22nd-ranked player in the Northeast, having put together a 7-4 record at the top of the singles lineup. Gabe Allen is 10-2 at number six and has won six in a row, five of which have come in straight sets. Jordan Cruz has posted seven consecutive doubles victories with a variety of teammates, while Steven Fernandez and Riley are 4-0 in their past four attempts at No. 2 doubles.
Squaring off against TCNJ on Saturday will be the Vassar College Brewers (14-10), who are making a fifth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance as the 11th-ranked team in the Northeast. Vassar is coming off a second-place finish in the Liberty League, a conference that doesn't award an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Brewers earned a 5-4 win over TCNJ in the last meeting (2010), but the Lions are 6-0 in the other matchups dating back to 2002.
Vassar is led by brothers Ben Guzick and Andrew Guzick, exceptional singles players who also make up on the best doubles teams in all of Division III. The Guzicks are ranked sixth nationally and No. 2 in the Northeast, notably knocking off Williams College's top pair by a score of 8-4. Andrew Guzick ranks sixth in the Northeast in singles play and has picked up big wins against players from Amherst and Claremont. The Pacers are looking for their first-ever NCAA Tournament win, having gone one-and-done in the past four years.
Meredith College and the town of Cary will host the team championships finals, which will be held May 21-23 at the Cary Tennis Park in Cary, NC. Student-athletes selected to the individual championships will be announced Wednesday, May 9.
More information about the weekend's matches is available at the NCAA Regional Championship website.