Jeffs Finish Fourth at NCAA Championship

CARY, N.C. – The Amherst College women's tennis team ended its season with a 5-4 loss to Emory University on Wednesday, giving the Lord Jeffs a fourth place finish at the NCAA Division III Championship.

It was an odd ending for the two teams, which were scheduled to begin their match at 12:30 p.m. at Cary Tennis Park but did not finish until 7:30 at Duke University's Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center. Amherst closes its season at 18-5, while Emory finishes at 19-6. 

The Eagles held a 2-1 lead after doubles play, but Amherst battled back to win three of the first four completed singles matches. The final two points would go to Emory, as Malavika Padmanabhan clinched the victory by outlasting Zoe Pangalos '14 in a thrilling fourth flight. 

The national championship trophy went to Williams College for a fifth consecutive year, with University of Chicago finishing as the Division III runner-up. 

It was no surprise that Caroline Richman '13 and Safi Aly '15 were the first to finish for Amherst in doubles play, as they won for the third time in as many days. After taking a 6-0 lead against Jordan Wylie and Allie Damico, the Jeffs finally snapped their streak of winning 15 consecutive games dating back to Monday. Amherst regrouped and took the final two games for an 8-1 final, with Richman closing her doubles season at a perfect 20-0 by delivering an overhead smash for the clinching point. 

After Gabrielle Clark and Zahra Dawson tied the match by earning an 8-3 win over Laura Danzig '12 and Gabby Devlin '14, Padmanabhan and Brenna Kelly gave the Eagles a 2-1 advantage heading into singles play by coming from behind for an 8-6 win over Jennifer Newman '14 and Pangalos. The Lord Jeffs held leads of 4-1 and 5-2 in the second flight, but Emory won six of the final seven games and each of the last four, overcoming a 40-30 deficit in the last frame to break serve for the big point. 

Clark made it a 3-1 match in favor of Emory, defeating Danzig by a score of 6-3, 6-0 in the first flight. After Aly gave Amherst its first singles point with a straight-set win over Lauren Pinsky (6-4, 6-1), Devlin tied things up with a 6-3, 6-3 victory against Kelly at number five. Devlin fell into an early 2-1 hole in her opening set but would control the rest of the match, closing out her win with a tough serve that Kelly couldn't return.

Shortly after Richman handed the lead over to Amherst with a 6-2, 6-2 win against Dawson in the third flight, Pangalos stayed alive by fighting off a match point and winning a great battle with Padmanabhan in a second-set tiebreaker.

Amherst had momentum on its side, but after a 20-minute lightning delay Wylie tied the score at 4-4 by defeating Newman in three sets at number two (6-2, 4-6, 6-2).

With the match riding on the fourth flight, rain began to fall as Padmanabhan led Pangalos in the third set, 4-2. Play was moved indoors to Duke University, where Pangalos broke serve to cut her deficit to 4-3. The Amherst sophomore's comeback would end there, as Padmanabhan won the remaining two games to cap off what was a phenomenal performance by both players. 

Wednesday marked the final dual match for Danzig, who played a pivotal role in helping the Lord Jeffs post an 80-13 record in four years. Danzig and classmates Kimberly Snyder '12 and Ashley McCall '12 also helped Amherst earn three NESCAC titles, two appearances in the NCAA title match and two others in the national consolation round. 

Although her outstanding dual match career has come to a close, Danzig will begin her quest for an individual NCAA title tomorrow when she takes part in the national singles and doubles tournaments at Cary Tennis Park. She will first take on Kathryn Schmidt of Carleton College at 11 a.m. in the Singles Round of 32, while Newman will face Gabrielle Clark of Emory. 

Should Danzig or Newman advance, they would compete in the Singles Round of 16 no earlier than 1 p.m. The opening round of the doubles tournament will also begin Thursday, with Danzig and Devlin set to face Mackenzie Knoop and Thavindra Ekanayake of Trinity (Texas) no earlier than 5 p.m.

For more information on the singles and doubles tournaments, visit the Amherst championship website. 

#5 Emory def. #3 Amherst, 5-4
1. Gabrielle Clark/Zahra Dawson (E) def. Gabby Devlin/Laura Danzig (A) 8-3
2. Brenna Kelly/Malavika Padmanabhan (E) def. Zoe Pangalos/Jennifer Newman (A) 8-6
3. Caroline Richman/Safi Aly (A) def. Jordan Wylie/Allie Damico (E) 8-1

1. Gabrielle Clark (E) def. Laura Danzig (A) 6-3, 6-0
2. Jordan Wylie (E) def. Jennifer Newman (A) 6-2, 4-6, 6-2
3. Caroline Richman (A) def. Zahra Dawson (E) 6-2, 6-2
4. Malavika Padmanabhan (E) def. Zoe Pangalos (A) 6-0, 6-7(6), 6-3
5. Gabby Devlin (A) def. Brenna Kelly (E) 6-3, 6-3
6. Safi Aly (A) def. Lauren Pinsky (E) 6-4, 6-1

Order of Finish (Doubles): 3, 1, 2
Order of Finish (Singles): 1, 6, 5, 3, 2, 4