Men’s tennis, winners of three straight, perfect against Jeffs

Ask any Williams athlete and he or she will tell you that regardless of record, circumstance or condition, a competition against Amherst is as fiercely and tightly contested as anything you can imagine. All the pent-up hostility between the two archrivals is released on the field, and a victory for one over the other is more savored than any other triumph. It’s an absolute war.

Just not this time.

Saturday afternoon saw outstanding individual and team efforts come from all directions as high-powered men’s tennis soundly defeated an overwhelmed Amherst side, 7-0.

“We were very intent on beating Amherst,” said Milos Janicek ’02, who boasted wins at both number-two doubles and number-three singles. “This week’s practices were intense. Coach [Dave] Johnson really believes you play like you practice, so this week was about getting us focused on our game.”

It was the third win in a row for the defending national champions, as Williams (8-1 overall ; 3-0 in the NESCAC) maintained its unbeaten record in conference play. Amherst (1-3, 1-3) has now fallen in three consecutive matches, a run that is sure to drop them out of national polls, where they had been ranked 19th.

The top-ranked Ephs, however, showed none of the jitters that beset them two Saturdays ago against Tufts, taking control of the match early on. The partnership of Josh Lefkowitz ’02 and Dave Frankel ’04 in the top doubles slot was far more than the Lord Jeffs could hope to handle, and the duo rolled over Bryan Wexler and Adam Leibsohn, 8-1.

Janicek and Tim White ’05 had a bit more trouble with Andy Tsai and Peter Ransmeier, but still managed to come away with an 8-6 victory.

Lex Urban ’04 made an appearance in the doubles rotation as well, stepping in for classmate John Haywood ’04 as he and the resurgent Daniel Murray ’04 whipped Andrew Merle and Will Abbott, 8-2.

Singles play was just as one-sided, with the Ephs dropping only a single set to the Lord Jeffs in the entire proceedings. Ironically, that set was lost by Murray at number four, who played some of his best tennis this year in taking out Amherst’s senior co-captain George Tsai, 2-6, 6-3, 6-0.

It has been a slow-starting season for the sophomore from St. Louis, who lost his doubles partner and brother Andrew Murray ’04 to a non-tennis-related ACL injury earlier in the spring. A tough first set Saturday, however, may have marked the end of a rough spell for the fiery competitor, whose crowd-pleasing outbursts punctuated a hard-fought comeback victory.

“Everyone did a good job today,” said Janicek after the match, “but especially Danny. He hasn’t been up to his own expectations, but today he was really on top of his game.”

It was an appellation that could have been attached to the entire Williams squad, as the team alternately used savvy and power into racking up five straight-set victories, led by powerful play at the head of the singles queue. Lefkowitz and Frankel individually thrashed their doubles opponents, with wins coming over Wexler at 6-1, 6-2 and over Leibsohn at 6-1, 6-3, respectively.

Janicek had little trouble with Andy Tsai, besting the Tampa native 6-3, 6-2, while both White and Urban managed to blank the opposition in the second set. Will Abbott fell 6-4, 6-0 to the formidable frosh, while Urban continued to punch his ticket with a 6-3, 6-0 besting of Andrew Merle.

It has been an impressive run in the top six for White and Urban, who take the places of Andrew Murray ’04 and Toby Reigeluth ’04, the victim of a shoulder surgery over winter break. “There’s a lot of slack for the rest of the team to pick up,” said Janicek. “But it’s been impressive how everyone has gotten the job done. Everyone is up to or beyond expectations.”