After years of losing to the Ephs, the Amherst men’s’ tennis team thought this was the year they were going to defeat their vaunted rivals. After losing two close 4-3 matches to Williams in the past two years, they thought this was the year they could finally go over the top.
The Lord Jeffs made it clear that they thought Williams was comparatively weaker this year and they were much better. The gap had supposedly narrowed. They were wrong.
When the sun set over the Berkshires on April 22, Amherst went home as losers once again. If anything, the Ephs’ 6-1 thumping of their Little Three counterparts was a clear signal to the Lord Jeffs that the gap was only widening.
Number one singles was no contest for captain Andrew Fagenholz ’98, a 6-1, 6-2 winner over Harlan Stock.
Second-seeded James Frank ’98 also took his opponent in straight sets with a 7-6, 6-3 defeat of Ryan Cole. Sherman Lim ’00 returned to the lineup after competing in the Davis Cup in Singapore. Lim engineered a hard-fought 6-4, 6-4 victory over Amherst’s Adam Wolf.
The straight set wins continued as #4 Eric Hasenauer ’00 soundly defeated Reeve Segal 6-3, 6-2 and Bill Stebbins ’99 pummeled Noah Lippe-Klein, 6-2, 6-2. The Lord Jeffs only managed one victory in the match as Scott Chase defeated Scott Zinober ’99. 6-1, 6-2.
The Ephs also dominated the doubles matches. The Williams doubles teams of Fagenholz/Lim and Frank/Pete Stein ’00 had no problem defeating their Amherst counterparts. The only blemish in doubles came when Even Hornbuckle ’99/Zinober lost a closely-fought match to Chase/Segal.
Amherst and Trinity were supposed to be some of the strongest competition the Ephs faced en-route to the NCAA Tournament. The win was especially sweet because all of the players on the Williams men’s tennis squad were able to play. As a testament to the Ephs’ depth, the rest of the non-starters, both in doubles and singles, were able to roundly defeat their Pioneer Valley counterparts.
“It was a great win. We played great,” said Coach Dave Johnson. “Everyone, one through 14, played well. It is great to see that happen.”
The momentum from the big win carried over into last weekend’s NESCAC Tournament, which was hosted by Williams. It was fitting that the tournament took place in Williamstown since the tournament essentially became a showcase of their talent.
As expected, the Ephs blew past their NESCAC competition, accumulating 33 total points. The team’s closest competition, Amherst, had only 21 points.Ephs advanced to the finals of all six singles flights and two of the three doubles flights.
In the first flight of singles, Trinity’s Artem Gonoplsky fought closely with Fagenholz for a set. After barely beating Gonoplsky 7-6 in the first set, Fagenholz came up with a doughnut (6-0) in the second to win the match. Frank’s narrow 6-3, 6-2 loss to Trinity’s Rosty Orach in the second singles flight was the only Eph loss during finals.
Lim, Hasenauer, Stebbins and Zinober each won their respective matches. Of special importance was the win by Zinober in the sixth flight, who beat Amherst’s Scott Chase 6-2, 6-3 in finals after losing to him the week before.
“I couldn’t be more pleased,” Johnson said of the team’s extraordinary success in the last week.”We came out ready to play and we had some great wins. There were really no disappointments.”
“Last year’s third-place finish at the NCAAs was a disappointment to all of us and we are all eager for another chance to compete this season,” Frank said. Frank said while “Amherst is always a big match,” the team’s “main goal” is winning a national title.
“[NESCAC Day 3] was pure pleasure for myself, certainly Sherman Lim, my team, and for all the ladies who have been there with us from the start,” Hasenauer said. “For those ladies on campus yet to experience a Williams men’s tennis match, remember the clock is ticking, and autograph sessions with Andrew Fagenholz are limited.”
The team travels to Trinity this Wednesday and finishes up at home against MIT on Saturday. The team has set very lofty goals for itself, the biggest of which is winning the national title.