Amherst Captures Fourth Straight NESCAC Crown with Win Over Williams

MIDDLEBURY, VT – For the third consecutive season, Amherst College defeated archrival Williams College to claim the NESCAC Women's Tennis Championship title, as the Lord Jeffs earned a 5-4 win in the conference finals held at Middlebury College. This is the fifth straight year Amherst has claimed at least a share of the title, and the fourth consecutive year the Jeffs have won the title outright.  

The win was the eighth in a row for the Jeffs (15-1), whose lone loss of the season came at the hands of Williams (16-3) on Apr. 6. Amherst's victory was an upset on both the national and regional levels, as the Ephs were ranked second in the nation and seeded first in the NESCAC Championship, while the Jeffs were ranked third and seeded second.

Today, the match point was up for grabs at court four. Nikki Reich had won the deciding match earlier this month to help the Ephs defeat Amherst, but she could not pull out the win this time, and fell to first-year Laken King (Laurelton, NY) in a tough and hard fought three-setter, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2. 

Despite notching a 2-1 lead in doubles play, Williams could muster only two wins in the singles lineup.  Grace Baljon and Allie Rottkamp tallied victories at court two and court five, respectively, while the remaining four Ephs faltered. After teaming up for Amherst's lone win in doubles play, sophomore Brittany Berckes (Secaucus, NJ) and senior Alicia Menezes (Staten Island, NY) won at No. 1 and No. 3 singles, respectively.

Amherst grabbed the first two singles victories to go up 3-2, before Baljon's win knotted the score.  Then, Allie Rottkamp's victory gave Williams the lead at 4-3.  First-year Natasha Brown (Woodland Hills, CA) picked up a 6-3, 6-1 win in the No. 6 spot, leaving King and Reich alone on court four with the deciding third set left to be played.

It was no surprise that the match ended in a 5-4 result, as the last four meetings between these teams heading into Sunday's finals had ended with one team coming out on top by a 5-4 margin. Amherst took a 2-1 lead in the season series, as the Jeffs had taken a 5-4 win at Williams in the fall before the Ephs took a 5-4 win at Amherst in the spring.

Both teams will be considered among the contenders for a national title, but the Jeffs and Ephs have not met in the national tournament since the 2003-04 season, when Amherst earned a 5-3 win over its archrival to advance to the national title match. The 2008 NCAA Championship Tournament begins Friday, May 2.

NESCAC Championship Finals – Middlebury College (Middlebury, VT) – Amherst 5, Williams 4
1) Alicia Menezes/Brittany Berckes (A) def. Cary Gibson/Annie Schneidman (W) 8-3 
2) Allie Rottkamp/Grace Baljon (W) def. Jill Wexler/Natasha Brown (A) 8-4 
3) Nikki Reich/Annie Hancock (W) def. Jennifer Murphy/Laura Stein (A) 8-6

1) Berckes (A) def. Gibson (W) 6-2, 6-4 
2) Baljon (W) def. Wexler (A) 6-3, 6-2 
3) Menezes (A) def. Ashley Parsons (W) 6-3, 6-1 
4) Laken King (A) def. Reich (W) 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 
5) Rottkamp (W) def. Monica Snyder 6-3, 6-4