Amherst edges women’s tennis in NESCAC finals

Althought women’s tennis scored a regular season victory over Amherst on April 6, the tables were turned in the final of the NESCAC tournament on Sunday. The Ephs fell to the Jeffs in a heartbreaking 5-4 loss. Even without the NESCAC crown, the nationally second-ranked Ephs gained an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament. It is the 16th consecutive season in which the team has made it to Nationals. Williams will host the regional this weekend.

“We are thrilled to be hosting the first three rounds of the NCAA championships on our home courts,” Head Coach Alison Swain said. “It is exciting to be at this point in the season. We have talked about the NCAA championships all year and trained for them. We are in a great place competitively and as a team.”

In the NESCAC tournament on Sunday, the match started out well for Williams, as the team earned a 2-1 lead in doubles. Co-captain Allie Rottkamp ’08 and Grace Baljon ’10 powered through their doubles match, beating their Amherst opponents 8-4 on court two. Star-rookie Nikki Reich ’11 and Annie Hancock ’09 played solid tennis in their match on court three, taking it 8-3.

Despite the promising start, the Ephs weren’t able to connect in singles to clinch the win. The Jeffs quickly won two singles matches to take the lead 3-2. However, Baljon and Rottkamp continued their inspired play on courts two and five. Baljon’s 6-3, 6-2 win knotted the score and Rottkamp’s 6-3, 6-4 win brought Williams to a 4-3 lead. Hancock and Reich fought for their matches, but weren’t able to overcome their Amherst opponents. The Jeffs finished ahead 5-4 and claimed the title for the third straight season.

The Ephs are not dwelling on the defeat. “I think we are going to use this loss to make us better,” Swain said.

Plus, the Ephs claimed several wins in the NESCAC tournament. On Saturday, the top-seeded Ephs crushed the fifth-seeded Polar Bears, 9-0, in the NESCAC semifinals.
The women took the three doubles matches easily. Cary Gibson ’09 and co-captain Annie Schneidman ’08 earned a win on court one, 8-3, while Baljon and Rottkamp went 8-3 and Reich and Hancock won 9-7.

In singles play, the Ephs shut the Polar Bears out, as Gibson, Baljon, Ashley Parsons ’11, Reich, Rottkamp and Hancock all won their matches on courts one through six, respectively.
NCAA play begins on the Ephs’ home courts on Friday. Williams will play on Saturday against the winner of the match between New Paltz (8-2) and St. Lawrence (12-3), which will be played on Friday.