Women’s tennis upsets arch-rivals in 5-4 nailbiter

Women’s tennis (11-2, 3-1 in the NESCAC) edged past Amherst, 5-4, on Sunday, adding another victory to the count after a strong spring break campaign. The Ephs won six of their seven spring break matches and had plenty of momentum going into the match, but the Jeffs played resiliently on their home courts. The dual match came down to one singles match on court four: Nikki Reich ’11 rallied to give Williams the winning point.

Beating Amherst was an important milestone for the team. Amherst defeated Williams in each of the last three match-ups and holds the second spot in the national rankings, one spot ahead of Williams. Sunday’s win put the Ephs in a position to challenge the Jeffs in the post-season.
Early on in the match, the Ephs established themselves by taking two of the three doubles matches. Although Cary Gibson ’09 and Annie Schneidman ’08 fell to last year’s national doubles champions Alicia Menezes and Brittany Berckes on the first court, Allie Rottkamp ’08 and Grace Baljon ’10 emerged victorious on the second. Reich and Annie Hancock ’09 also won on the third.

Baljon added to the Ephs’ lead with a quick victory at second singles (6-4, 6-2). Number one singles player Gibson dropped the first set in her match, but came back to win in three sets (3-6, 6-0, 6-3).

With four points under their belts, the Ephs had victory nearly in sight, but they faced a tough challenge further down the line. In the previous match again Emory, Lucy Marchese ’11 had torn her ACL and her spot on the third court needed to be filled. Ashley Parsons ’10 stepped up in her absence while Reich advanced to the fourth court, Rottkamp to the fifth and Hancock to the sixth. Amherst claimed three of the matches, but, in the fourth, Reich persevered through three sets. She finally won (4-6, 6-3, 7-5) and sealed the victory for Williams.

“It was a huge confidence builder for the rest of the team playing Amherst without Lucy in the line-up, and still managing to win,” Head Coach Alison Swain said. “We know we can beat any team in the country when we’re playing well.”

In fact, the Ephs faced and defeated some of the best teams in the country on their spring break trip. On March 29, the women won their match against fourth-ranked Emory, 5-4. They beat 11th-ranked Trinity (Texas) by the same margin the day before. Through the duration of their spring training trip, Williams only suffered a loss to Washington and Lee, the top-ranked team in the nation. Williams also beat Pomona-Pitzer, Redlands, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps and Pt. Loma.

“Overall we chose to play a very competitive spring break schedule, which has prepared us very well for any match we’ll play this season” Swain said. “We got tougher with every match we played.”

The Ephs beat Middlebury 7-2 last night, but the results came in too late to be fully included in this issue. The Ephs will fight for the Little Three title as they host Wesleyan on Saturday at 11 a.m.