KALAMAZOO, Mich. – The 2019 Amherst College men's tennis season came to an end on Monday afternoon when the #4 ranked Mammoths were defeated 5-0 by the #2 team in the country University of Chicago in the NCAA Division III quarterfinals at Sorensen Courts at Western Michigan University.
Amherst closes out the year with a record of 18-5 and their first trip to the national championship site since 2015, when they were also eliminated by the Maroons. The University of Chicago (20-2) advances to face either Bowdoin or Claremont Mudd-Scripps in Tuesday's semifinals.
"I'm incredibly proud of these guys and how hard they worked, what adversity we overcame," said Head Coach Todd Doebler, the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Coach of the Year.
In the end, the #2 team in the country and the #1 team in the Central Region was just too much for the Mammoths to get in a groove against.
Chicago boasts three of the top nine ranked doubles teams in the region, and they showed it by winning all three doubles matchups to take a 3-0 lead in the match.
Sean Wei '21 and Jayson Fung '20 fell to Ninan Kumar and Erik Kerrigan 8-2, while the pairs of Zach Bessette '19/Harris Foulkes '22 and Damien Ruparel '22/Willie Turchetta '22 were set down by 8-3 finals.
Wei at first singles and Turchetta at #6 were the only Mammoths to win the first sets of their singles matches. Wei led Kerrigan 6-4, 4-3 when the match ended, while Turchetta took his first set 6-1 over Alex Guzhva.
The path to victory disappeared when Alejandro Rodriguez topped Foulkes 6-0, 6-2 at #5 and Charlie Pei clinched the win for Chicago with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Fung at third singles. Bessette and Kevin Ma '21 were each fighting to stay in their second sets.
"Chicago was really good today. They deserve a lot of credit, but I'm just incredibly proud of the entire season and the direction we're headed with these guys," added Doebler.
The match marked the end of the Amherst careers of Bessette and fellow seniors Oliver Kendall, Jesse Levitin and Jon Heidenberg. According to the coach, it is a group that has meant a lot to the team, despite not always playing in the regular lineup.
"We're gonna have big shoes to fill with the seniors in terms of their leadership and what they added here. The guys that we're losing have been great leaders and really cared about the program. For the young guys, it's a great taste for them to see what it's like to be here and I think this is only going to fuel them and motivate them to get better and work really hard to return here.
Sophomore Sean Wei will stay in Kalamazoo and compete in the Individual singles championship, where he hopes to replicate a run to the final day of play last year, when he finished as a national semifinalist.
"Sean made an amazing run last year and he's gotta be ready to play his best tennis and get after it to play at the level he's capable of," said Doebler.
Individual play begins on Friday at Kalamazoo College.