Amherst Set to Host 2013 NESCAC Championship

Contact: Matthew Hart

AMHERST, Mass. – The top-ranked Amherst College women's tennis team welcomes the 2013 NESCAC Championship to its home courts this weekend as the Jeffs seek to defend their 2012 conference title and capture their eighth crown in the last nine years.

Joining the hosts in Amherst will be three other programs ranked among the nation's top 10 as second-seeded Williams, No. 3 Bowdoin and No. 4 Middlebury will each attempt to dethrone the Jeffs and secure the conference's automatic bid to the upcoming NCAA tournament. Rounding out the six-team field are fifth-seeded Tufts and No. 6 Trinity, each also ranked among the nation's top 25 squads.

First round play begins with a pair of 1 p.m. matches on Friday as Tufts and Middlebury meet on Amherst's West Courts with the winner to face the Jeffs in Saturday's semifinals. At the same time, Trinity and Bowdoin will square off on the East Courts to earn a date with Williams.

LIVE RESULTS: Regular score updates will be available all weekend through Amherst Sports Information's Twitter page, @AmherstSports.

LINKS: Tournament Program (PDF) Championship Preview

First Round -- Friday, May 3
No. 6 Trinity vs. No. 3 Bowdoin -- 1 p.m., East Courts
No. 5 Tufts vs. No. 4 Middlebury -- 1 p.m., West Courts
Second Round -- Saturday, May 4
Tufts/Middlebury Winner vs. No. 1 Amherst -- 1 p.m., East Courts
Trinity/Bowdoin Winner vs. No. 2 Williams -- 1 p.m., West Courts
Championship -- Sunday, May 5
Second Round Winners -- 1 p.m., East Courts 

After a NESCAC title and fourth consecutive trip to the NCAA semifinals in 2011-12, the Jeffs have been even stronger in the 2012-13 campaign. After a 6-3 win over Williams in the team's lone dual match of the fall, Amherst established itself as Division III's top squad at Emory's Fab Seven Tournament in March, beating the fourth-ranked hosts before knocking off then-No. 1 Johns Hopkins, 5-4, to vault atop the International Tennis Association (ITA) Team Rankings. 

With the team's lone loss of the season coming to earlier in Spring Break to top-10 Division II opponent Lynn University, Amherst enters this weekend on a 14-match win streak. The Jeffs passed their late-April road tests against the NESCAC's top competition, downing Williams and Middlebury by 5-4 margins after beating Bowdoin, 7-2, on March 31.

Headlining Amherst's singles lineup is Jordan Brewer '14, who has won seven of her last eight matches and takes a 16-5 individual record into the conference tournament. Three of the junior's wins have come against players ranked among Division III's top 20, including triumphs over Williams ace Kara Shoemakerand Bowdoin's Kellen Alberstone. Four of her five losses have come against top-five talent, including a pair of setbacks to 2012 NCAA singles runner-up Lok-Sze Leung of Middlebury.

Meanwhile, Jen Newman '14 has been Amherst's primary No. 2 this year and takes a 15-6 individual mark into the weekend, with only three of her setbacks coming to D-III opponents, one of them an ITA Regional quarterfinal loss to Leung in September. Before dropping three-set thrillers to Middlebury's Ria Gergerand Williams' Kathleen Elkins to end the regular season, Newman had won 12 straight against D-III foes.

After Newman, Sue Ghosh '16 steps into the middle of the order as a first-year after an 11-9 regular season which included a 5-2 mark in her last seven matches and four setbacks to top-50 opponents. Caroline Richman '13 has also been a reliable force for Amherst, carrying a 13-7 record into the weekend. The senior captain has played everywhere from first to fourth singles and notably knocked off Bates No. 1 and 29th-ranked Elena Mandzhukova in three sets on April 17.

Gabby Devlin '14 will likely step into the lineup this weekend, taking a 6-2 mark into the tournament after her only regular-season singles appearances came against opposing teams ranked in the ITA's top 30. Zoe Pangalos '14 has starred at the bottom of the card, going 11-5 on the year but winning her last nine matches, all against top-30 teams.

Meanwhile, Amherst's doubles play will be led by Brewer and Devlin, who claimed an NCAA title together as first-years in 2011. Reuniting as juniors, they began the season by winning four straight against D-I competition en route to the Stony Brook Classic title in September. After Devlin missed the remainder of the fall, the duo has been red hot in the spring, entering the postseason undefeated against D-III pairs and 15-2 overall.

Newman and Pangalos have been nearly as lethal at second doubles, teaming up all season to post a 17-6 record which included a run to the championship match at ITA Regionals. Before a tough 8-6 loss to Middlebury's Gerger and Leung on Sunday, the pair had won nine straight, including an impressive 8-4 win for one of Amherst's two points against Lynn. Finally, Richman and Safi Aly '15 team up at third doubles as winners of nine straight with a 14-8 overall mark, their lone D-III losses coming against top-10 programs.

This weekend's tournament marks the fifth straight year in which the same six teams will vie for the NESCAC crown. Leading the challengers will be Williams, which disrupted Amherst's title streak in 2011 and has met the Jeffs in the league final each year since the current tournament format began in 2006. At 16-4, half of the young Ephs' losses this year have come to Amherst with the others at No. 2 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps and a surprise 6-3 upset at the hands of Middlebury. Still, Williams routinely peaks during the postseason, having won five straight NCAA team titles despite only one NESCAC crown during that span.

Meanwhile, Bowdoin (13-3) and Middlebury (10-5) will look to turn heads this year from the third and fourth seeds. The Polar Bears' only losses have come to Amherst, Williams and Emory while the Panthers dropped 5-4 decisions to the Jeffs and Bowdoin in addition to losses against Emory, Claremont, and D-I Cal State-Northridge. Finally, Tufts (8-8) and Trinity (11-6) enter the tournament hoping for Cinderella runs after neither squad managed more than three points against the conference's top four programs this year.