Contact: Matthew Hart
AMHERST, Mass. – Senior Bryan Chow pulled out a dramatic second-set tiebreaker over Chris Dale '14 then powered to the decisive three-set triumph at fifth singles, clinching the 2013 NESCAC Men's Tennis Championship for Williams College by way of a thrilling 5-4 triumph over host Amherst College on Sunday.
With the win, the Ephs ended the Lord Jeffs' two-year reign atop the conference, knocking off Amherst after the Jeffs took the teams' regular season contest, 5-4. Williams earns the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Championship with the triumph while Amherst (27-8), ranked third nationally, will await the announcement of the tournament field on Monday night in hopes of an at-large bid.
In a back-and-forth battle between evenly-matched rivals, the Ephs (18-3) took two of three in doubles play then overcame a strong Amherst surge in singles. Justin Reindel '14 and Andrew Yaraghi '16 notched quick straight-set wins for the Jeffs, but Trey Meyer took No. 1s from Joey Fritz '14, and after Ben Fife '16 won to put Amherst up 4-3, Matt Micheli and Chow rallied for three-set triumphs over Mark Kahan '13 and Dale.
After Williams swept doubles in the squads' regular season matchup, Fritz and Reindel made sure that wouldn't be the case Sunday, breaking early at No. 3 and pulling away for an 8-3 win over Chow and Brian Astrachan. The Ephs were too much at first doubles, however, as Meyer and Alex Schidlovsky jumped ahead of Dale and Yaraghi 3-0 and never looked back, with Meyer's winner putting away the 8-2 triumph.
With the match tied 1-1, focus shifted to the second doubles clash where Micheli and Felix Sun held serve early over Kahan and Michael Solimano '16, eventually going up 6-5. The Jeffs rallied, with Solimano firing a big winner for an Amherst break, but Williams recovered to break back then Micheli capped the surge with a forehand winner to notch an 8-6 victory and a 2-1 Eph lead.
Amherst started strong in singles, taking five of six first sets and evening the score at 2-2 when Reindel fired an ace on match point to claim a 6-4, 6-2 win over Dylan Page at sixth singles. Yaraghi continued the Jeff surge, finishing off Sun, 6-3, 6-3, at No. 3, but Williams tied it 3-3 shortly after as Meyer completed a 6-4, 6-3 win over Fritz at first singles.
Fife gave the Jeffs a leg up at fourth singles, however, with a huge second-set rally against Zach Weiss. After winning the opener, the Amherst first-year fell behind 5-1 in the second but ripped off a series of breaks to storm back and claim the 6-4, 7-5 win when his strong forehand led to a Weiss error on match point.
With Micheli forcing a third against Kahan at No. 2, all eyes then turned to the gripping conclusion of Chow and Dale's second set. After Dale led 5-4, Chow broke to go up 6-5, but Dale recovered to force the tiebreak. The Eph senior was too strong down the stretch, however, rallying from an early deficit to take the breaker 8-6, forcing a third set and denying Amherst the chance to wrap up the title early.
Momentum stayed with the Ephs as Micheli overpowered Kahan in the rubber match at second singles, finishing off a 5-7, 6-4, 6-1 win and knotting the score at 4-4. Chow, meanwhile, rode the wave of his tiebreak triumph to a dominant start in the third set, going up 5-0 before firing off an ace to finish off Dale and deliver Williams the conference crown with his 5-7, 7-6 (8-6), 6-1 triumph.
The 44-team NCAA tournament bracket will be announced on NCAA.com Monday evening after 7 p.m.