CLAREMONT, CA – The Amherst College men's tennis team finished as the national runner-up in 2009 and 2010, but the Lord Jeffs got over their hump with a dominant 5-2 win over top-ranked Emory University Thursday afternoon in the NCAA Division III Championship finals.
Amherst won two of three doubles matches and quickly built a 4-1 lead thanks to some outstanding performances in singles play, but it was Mark Kahan '13 who played the role of hero by finishing off his opponent in the number two matchup. Kahan's 18th consecutive win of the season caused his teammates to storm the court, hoisting the NCAA trophy for the first time in program history.
Amherst had been establishing itself as a national powerhouse since the arrival of head coach Chris Garner, but the Lord Jeffs took the program to new heights in 2011. In addition to claiming its first NESCAC title since 1992 and its first-ever NCAA crown, Amherst closed out the year with an unprecedented 36-1 record and will carry a 19-match win streak into the 2011-12 season. Emory finishes at 24-4 after losing to a Division III opponent for the first time all year.
This marks the eighth NCAA championship in school history, as the men's tennis team joins women's tennis (1999), women's lacrosse (2003), men's basketball (2007), women's cross country (2007), women's ice hockey (2009, 2010) and women's basketball (2011) in the elite group.
The Jeffs had been riding the success of their doubles teams throughout the postseason, and Thursday featured much of the same. Kahan and Chris Dale '14 were the first to finish, defeating Dillon Pottish and Colin Egan at number three by a score of 8-4, with Dale moving in for a winning shot that broke the Eagles. Moritz Koenig '11 and Wes Waterman '12 won by the same score at number two, giving Amherst a 2-0 lead with their victory over Noah Simonson and Ayush Bajoria.
Amherst's Austin Chafetz '12 and Luis Rattenhuber '13 trailed by a score of 6-3 in the top matchup but rallied to tie things up at six points apiece. Chris Goodwin and Will Humphreys won the next point to pull back ahead, but Rattenhuber once again tied the score with an ace. Emory would take the next two games, however, as Chafetz hit a volley into the net to make it a 2-1 contest heading into singles play.
Emory's top three singles players entered the finals with a combined record of 73-8 on the year, including an unblemished mark against Division III competition. The Lord Jeffs were unfazed by the Eagles' top-ranked lineup, as Chafetz, Joey Fritz '14 and Waterman each won their first set by a score of 6-1 to put Emory's back to the wall.
Fritz and Chafetz were in a race to give Amherst its first singles point, but it was Fritz who handed Amherst a 3-1 lead with a convincing 6-1, 6-2 win over Nick Szczurek at number four. Less than two minutes later Chafetz closed out a dominant performance at number three, as he lost only one game during his 6-1, 6-0 win over Egan.
Chafetz's win left Amherst only one point away from the title, setting up another race among Kahan, Waterman and Andrew Jung '12, who had each built a comfortable second-set lead. Jung held a 5-2 advantage and Waterman was in the midst of a tiebreaker, but Kahan beat them both to the punch for his 18th consecutive victory. Before the Jeffs closed out the match, Pottish gave the Eagles their second point with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Rattenhuber in the number one match.
The NESCAC has now claimed six of the past 13 Division III men's tennis titles, with Middlebury most recently accomplishing the feat in 2010. Returning all six singles players and five of the six doubles participants from Thursday's title match, Amherst will be favored to make another title run in 2012.
The Lord Jeffs reached their ultimate goal, but the season will go on for five of the team's standouts. While Kahan and Rattenhuber will begin their quest for the NCAA singles crown tomorrow, Chafetz and Rattenhuber will join Koenig and Waterman in the national doubles tournament. More information will be posted on the Amherst Championship Website.
NCAA Division III Championship Finals
Emory University vs. Amherst College
Thursday, May 26 @ Claremont, CA
1) Chris Goodwin/Will Humphreys (E) def. Austin Chafetz/Luis Rattenhuber (A) 9-7
2) Moritz Koenig/Wes Waterman (A) def. Noah Simonson/Ayush Bajoria (E) 8-4
3) Mark Kahan/Chris Dale (A) def. Dillon Pottish/Colin Egan (E) 8-4
1) Dillon Pottish (E) def. Luis Rattenhuber (A) 6-4, 6-3
2) Mark Kahan (A) def. Chris Goodwin (E) 6-2, 6-3
3) Austin Chafetz (A) def. Colin Egan (E) 6-1, 6-0
4) Joey Fritz (A) def. Nick Szczurek (E) 6-1, 6-2
5) Wes Waterman (A) led Simon LaPerusse (E) 6-1, 6-6 (DNF)
6) Andrew Jung (A) led Noah Simonson (E) 6-2, 5-2 (DNF)
Order of Finish (Doubles): 3, 2, 1
Order of Finish (Singles): 4, 3, 1, 2