Contact: Matthew Hart
AMHERST, Mass. - Despite falling to archrival Williams College in Sunday's NESCAC Championship, the top-ranked Amherst College women's tennis team secured its 19th consecutive berth to the NCAA Tournament when the 50-team field was announced on Monday. Seeding for the individual singles and doubles tournaments will be announced on Wednesday, May 8.
Earning an at-large bid and hosting duties for the opening three rounds, the Jeffs received a first-round bye and will face the winner of Wilkes University (Pa.) and Mount Saint Mary College (N.Y.) in second-round play on Saturday at 1 p.m. Amherst will host Friday first-round matches between Wilkes and Mount Saint Mary as well as The College of New Jersey and SUNY Geneseo, with the TCNJ/Geneseo winner advancing to face Skidmore College in Saturday's other second round contest. The second round winners will then meet on Sunday at 1 p.m. for a trip to Kalamazoo, Mich. and the national quarterfinals.
The Jeffs boast a 17-2 overall record heading into the national tournament, having only suffered losses to Division II 10th-ranked Lynn University and the Ephs while holding the top D-III ranking of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) as of May 2.
Friday, May 10
Wilkes vs. Mount Saint Mary, 1 p.m. (Amherst Courts)
TCNJ vs. SUNY Geneseo, 1 p.m. (Amherst Courts)
Indoor site: Grande Meadows Athletic Club, Longmeadow, Mass. (Wilkes-MSM will begin at 1 p.m. with TCNJ-Geneseo to follow)
Saturday, May 11
Wilkes-MSM winner vs. Amherst, 1 p.m. (Amherst Courts)
TCNJ-Geneseo winner vs. Skidmore, 1 p.m. (Amherst Courts)
Backup indoor sites: Grande Meadows (Amherst match), Windsor, Conn. (Skidmore match)
Sunday, May 12
Second round winners, 1 p.m. (Amherst Courts)
Backup indoor site: Hampshire College
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY
Having qualified for the NCAA tournament every year since 1995, Amherst boasts an impressive 44-21 overall record, winning the national title in 1999 while finishing as the runner-up on four occasions (2004, 2007, 2009, 2011). Enjoying several deep postseason runs in recent years, the Jeffs have advanced to the national semifinals or finals in each of the past four seasons. Overall, Amherst has reached the semis seven times while reaching the quarterfinals on five more occasions.
After a NESCAC title and trip to the national semifinals in 2011-12, Amherst established itself as Division III's top squad during the 2012-13 regular season. After a 6-3 win over Williams in the team's lone dual match of the fall, Amherst impressed 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 regular season coming to earlier in Spring Break to top-10 Division II opponent Lynn University, Amherst passed their late-April road tests, downing Williams and Middlebury by 5-4 margins after beating Bowdoin, 7-2, on March 31. Beating Middlebury 5-4 once again in Saturday's NESCAC semifinals, the Jeffs took a 15-match win streak into Sunday's title tilt with Williams. The hosts suffered their first major hiccup of the year, however, only managing wins at third doubles and sixth singles as the third-ranked Ephs took home their second conference crown in three years.
Heading into the national tournament, Jordan Brewer '14 will headline Amherst's singles lineup, possessing a 16-7 individual record this year. Three of the junior's wins have come against players ranked among Division III's top 20 entering the season, while five of her seven losses have come against top-five talent, including a trio of setbacks to 2012 NCAA singles runner-up Lok-Sze Leung of Middlebury, whom Brewer notably took to a third set in Saturday's NESCAC semifinals.
Meanwhile, Jen Newman '14 carries a 15-8 individual mark, with only five of her setbacks coming to DIII opponents, one of them an ITA Regional quarterfinal loss to Leung in September. Before losses against Middlebury and Williams over the end of the regular season and conference tournament, Newman had won 12 straight against D-III foes.
Following Newman on the card, Sue Ghosh '16 has stepped into the top half of the lineup as a first-year and owns an 11-10 record which includes five setbacks to top-50 opponents. Caroline Richman '13, meanwhile, takes a 14-8 record into the weekend. The senior captain has played everywhere from first to fourth singles and was the hero for Amherst on Saturday, outlasting Middlebury's Margot Marchese in three sets to clinch the Jeffs' semifinal triumph.
Gabby Devlin '14 will anchor the bottom of the order, taking a 7-2 mark into the tournament with her only singles appearances coming against opposing teams ranked in the ITA's top 30. Zoe Pangalos '14 has also been dominant at the back end of the lineup, going 13-5 on the year and winning her last 11 matches, all against top-30 competition, as she picked up one of Amherst's two points against Williams with a 6-2, 6-3 takedown of Alex Stone at sixth singles.
Meanwhile, Amherst's doubles play will be led by Brewer and Devlin, who will look to return to the top after claiming an NCAA doubles 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 had a red-hot regular season, going undefeated against D-III foes before an upset loss to Williams on Sunday brought their season record to 16-3.
Newman and Pangalos have been nearly as tough at second doubles, teaming up all season to post a 17-8 record which included a run to the championship match at ITA Regionals. Before tough losses to Middlebury and Williams in their last three outings, 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 as a deadly third doubles unit, having won 11 straight with an 18-8 overall mark, their lone D-III losses coming against top-10 programs.
SCOUTING THE FIELD
Making its seventh consecutive NCAA appearance out of the Freedom Conference, Wilkes enters the tournament at 18-2, its only losses coming to Haverford and NYU. The Colonels went 6-0 in Freedom play before blanking Misericordia 5-0 on Saturday to claim their seventh straight conference crown and NCAA bid. They face Mount Saint Mary, the four-time Skyline Conference champion, which went 12-0 in its fall dual match schedule but hasn't competed head-to-head since defeating Farmingdale State 5-0 on October 27 for the conference title.
TCNJ also played a fall conference schedule, earning its 16th straight NCAA bid by winning the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) crown. The Lions fell to Swarthmore and Mary Washington in spring dual matches to take a 15-2 mark into the tournament. They meet familiar foe SUNY Geneseo, having defeated the Blue Knights 6-3 at home on April 27. Geneseo is back in the tournament for the fourth time in the last five years, having reached the second round in 2012. The State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) champions stand at 15-3, with losses to New Paltz, NYU and TCNJ.
Finally, 20th-ranked Skidmore earned the region's other first-round bye after a 5-2 win over Vassar in Sunday's Liberty League title match. The Thoroughbreds will be making their seventh straight at 17th overall NCAA trip, having beaten TCNJ in the 2012 second round before falling to Amherst in the regional final. Skidmore enters the weekend at 12-8 on the year, including setbacks to Williams, Middlebury and Trinity and a 9-0 loss to the Jeffs in the finals of the Wellesley Nor'Easter Bowl on April 7.