Contact: Matthew Hart
AMHERST, Mass. – Sweeping doubles play, the third-ranked Amherst College men's tennis team drew one step closer to a third consecutive NESCAC title on Saturday, shutting out Bates College, 5-0, in the semifinals of the conference tournament played on the Lord Jeffs' home courts.
Top-seeded Amherst will host archrival and No. 2 seed Williams College in Sunday's championship match, beginning at 9 a.m, as the Jeffs play to defend their 2011 and 2012 league crowns and secure the sixth team title in program history. Amherst has now won 14 consecutive dual matches, improving to 27-7 on the year while dropping Bates to 10-9.
Juniors Joey Fritz and Justin Reindel gave Amherst a fast start at third doubles on Saturday, notching a tidy 8-3 win over Bates' Dylan Reffe and Peter Yanofsky. Mark Kahan '13 and Michael Solimano '16 made it 2-0 for Amherst soon after, finishing off Timmy Berg and Pierre Plance, 8-5.
Meanwhile, Chris Dale '14 and Andrew Yaraghi '16 received a strong challenge from Robert Crampton and Matt Bettles, as Bates' senior captains grabbed a 3-2 lead early, but the Jeff No. 1s turned momentum in the middle games, breaking to go up 5-4 before pulling away for an 8-5 decision and a Jeff sweep of doubles.
The bottom half of the Amherst order iced the win in singles play as Reindel quickly handled Ben Bogard, 6-0, 6-2, at No. 6. With Fife and Dale in command at fours and fives, it was the rookie who provided the clincher as Fife took down Planche 6-3, 6-1, sending Amherst into the finals with a forehand winner to close out the set.
In unfinished singles action, Dale was on the doorstep against Reffe, having won the opener 6-0 and taken a 5-2 second-set lead. The top of the order proved tighter, as Kahan beat Bettles in the first set at second singles, 6-3, but trailed in the second, 4-1. Fritz's fortunes were the opposite in the top slot, having fallen to Crampton 6-3 in the opener but grabbed a 4-1 second-set lead. At No. 3, Yaraghi and and Berg were still locked in a neck-and-neck first set at the match's conclusion, with the Jeff rookie leading 6-5.
Amherst will be facing Williams for the second time this year, having edged the Ephs, 5-4, at home on April 14. Williams defeated Middlebury in a marathon 5-4 match in Saturday's other semifinal.