CARY, N.C. – The Amherst College women's tennis team fell short of a second consecutive appearance in the NCAA title match, dropping a 5-1 result to second-ranked University of Chicago in the national semifinals on Tuesday.
The third-ranked Lord Jeffs (18-4) had their win streak come to a halt at 10 matches, while the Maroons (23-4) increased theirs to 14. Chicago will take on four-time defending champion Williams College tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. at Cary Tennis Park for the NCAA title.
Amherst will also wrap up its season tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. by facing fifth-ranked Emory University in the national consolation match. The Lord Jeffs suffered a 5-4 loss to the Eagles back on Apr. 14 but are 2-0 in their last two NCAA consolation appearances (2005, 2010).
Amherst's Caroline Richman '13 and Safi Aly '15 won yesterday's third doubles flight against Carnegie Mellon in a thrilling tiebreaker, but the Lord Jeff duo made things look easy on Tuesday. Putting in one of their best all-around performances of the season, Richman and Aly were effective with every weapon in their arsenal and didn't surrender a single game to Elaine Baik and Stephanie Rettig, giving Amherst a quick 1-0 lead and early momentum.
Kendra Higgins and Carmen VacaGuzman took a 7-4 lead in the top doubles flight, but Amherst's Laura Danzig '12 and Gabby Devlin '14 broke serve to stay alive. The Lord Jeffs then overcame a 30-0 deficit in the next game and held on to bring the score to 7-6, but the Maroons would hold their next serve for an 8-6 win. Tying the match at 1-1, Higgins and VacaGuzman improved to 18-0 against Division III competition.
The second doubles flight was a back-and-forth thriller that saw Amherst's Jennifer Newman '14 and Zoe Pangalos '14 take a 4-3 lead against Jennifer Kung and Linden Li. The Maroons won the next two games, but the Jeffs came back to tie the score at 5-5 and 6-6.
The difference maker came in the next game, when Chicago used outstanding net play to overcome a 30-15 deficit and win three consecutive points for a 7-6 lead. Newman and Pangalos were then broken on the next serve, marking only the second time this spring a team managed to win two doubles points against Amherst.
Chicago backed Amherst against a wall when Kung defeated Newman in the second singles flight (6-4, 6-0) and Kelsey McGillis got past Aly at number six (6-2, 6-4), giving the Maroons a commanding 4-1 lead. With the Lord Jeffs leading the third and fourth flights and in the midst of a comeback at number five, all eyes were on Court 1 as Higgins took on Danzig.
Higgins won the first set, 6-2, but Danzig stormed back to win the second by the same score. Chicago's top player seemed to be in control with a 3-0 lead in the third set, but Danzig put together a dominant rally to win four consecutive games and pull ahead, 4-3. Higgins regrouped and regained the lead at 5-4, but Danzig showed incredible poise by fighting off two match points. Amherst's star couldn't fend off a third, however, as Higgins held serve and closed out the 6-4 third set to send Chicago into Wednesday's finals.
The 5-1 final was not a good indication of how well Amherst played, as the Lord Jeffs were in control of the three singles matches that did not finish. Richman was on the verge of picking up a win against VacaGuzman at number three (6-1, 5-2), while Pangalos took the first set from Li and was tied in the second (6-1, 5-5). Devlin dropped her first set to Megan Tang in the fifth flight (6-4) but held a 5-4 lead in the second frame.
Now 20-1 against Division III teams this year, Chicago will be making its first-ever appearance in the NCAA finals. The Maroons had lost their previous two matches against Amherst, as the Lord Jeffs picked up a win in the 2009 semifinals and another in the 2010 consolation bout.
Live scoring will be available for Wednesday's matches. For more information, visit the Amherst championship website.
#2 Chicago def. #3 Amherst, 5-1
1. Kendra Higgins/Carmen VacaGuzman (C) def. Laura Danzig/Gabby Devlin (A) 8-6
2. Jennifer Kung/Linden Li (C) def. Jennifer Newman/Zoe Pangalos (A) 8-6
3. Caroline Richman/Safi Aly (A) def. Elaine Baik/Stephanie Rettig (C) 8-0
1. Kendra Higgins (C) def. Laura Danzig (A) 6-2, 2-6, 6-4
2. Jennifer Kung (C) def. Jennifer Newman (A) 6-4, 6-0
3. Caroline Richman (A) vs. Carmen VacaGuzman (C) 6-1, 5-2, unfinished
4. Zoe Pangalos (A) vs. Linden Li (C) 6-1, 5-5, unfinished
5. Megan Tang (C) vs. Gabby Devlin (A) 6-4, 4-5, unfinished
6. Kelsey McGillis (C) def. Safi Aly (A) 6-2, 6-4
Order of Finish (Doubles): 3, 2, 1
Order of Finish (Singles): 2, 6, 1