Contact: Ben Badua
AMHERST, Mass. - Sweeping doubles action, the top-ranked Amherst women's tennis team secured a berth to its fifth consecutive national quarterfinal with a 5-0 NCAA third round victory over Skidmore on Sunday afternoon.
Also defeating the Thoroughbreds, 9-0, in a regular season match-up on Apr. 7, the Jeffs picked up wins at fifth and sixth singles to improve to 19-2 on the season. Skidmore wraps up the year with a 13-9 overall mark.
Taking an early 4-1 lead at second doubles over Alex Smith '15 and Rachel Plevinsky '14, Amherst's Jen Newman '14 and Zoe Pangalos '14 soon stretched the margin to 7-1. On the verge of victory, Pangalos hammered home an overhand volley to give the Jeffs the advantage in the decisive ninth game before Skidmore sent a return wide of the left baseline to concede its first match point.
Holding onto a 5-4 edge at third doubles against Melissa Hirsch '14 and Yumi Karlshoej '15, Caroline Richman '13 and Safi Aly '15 won the next two frames. Ahead 40-15 with Richman serving for match point the Jeffs forced Skidmore to send a return on a volley beyond the endline to put the home team up 2-0.
Also up by as much as 4-1 in their first doubles match-up with Nataly Mendoza '13 and Lee Ford '14, the Jeffs' Jordan Brewer '14 and Gabby Devlin '14 dropped two of the next three games. With the Thoroughbreds unable to return a Devlin serve, the Purple & White took a 6-3 edge before breaking Skidmore to inch closer to a win. Fighting off several match points, the Thoroughbreds forced another game, but it proved too little, too late with the visitors eventually sending a Devlin return into the net to put the wraps on Amherst's doubles sweep.
Keeping the Jeffs rolling in singles play, Pangalos took an early 5-0 lead on Zoe Valella '15. Ripping a cross court forehand late in the sixth game, the junior caught the top of the net, but the ball stayed in play, dropping in for set point. Also up 5-0 and serving for the win, Devlin rifled an ace down the middle of the court to take the first frame of her fifth singles match against Robyn Baird '14.
It was more of the same in the second for the Amherst duo with Pangalos putting away an overhand winner to finish off a 6-1 victory. Devlin followed suit by recording another clean sheet to punch the Amherst's ticket to Kalamazoo, Mich. and the national quarterfinal.
Taking the first set against Mendoza, 6-2, at the top of the singles lineup, Brewer also led the second, 2-0, when the match was suspended. Newman was ahead of Ford, 6-4, 0-1 in the second slot, while Ghosh was even at 5-5 in the first set of her third singles battle with Hirsch. Upon completion, Richman clung to a 5-2 margin over Smith.