Men’s tennis (14-5 overall) had a great weekend, winning its first two NCAA matches over UMass Dartmouth and Bowdoin easily.
The Ephs clinched a spot in the Elite Eight on Sunday by defeating Bowdoin 5-1. The Bowdoin match seemed like it would be a challenge at the beginning; the first doubles team of Dicken Chaplin ’12 and Bret Thacher ’09 suffered a 1-8 loss. The Ephs were in danger of going down 0-2 as the second doubles team of Will Petrie ’12 and Nick Lebedoff ’10 went down 2-6 midway through the competition. In one of the highlights of the weekend, they had an amazing comeback, winning the match 8-3. “It deflated Bowdoin,” said tri-captain Rick Devlin ’09. The third doubles team of Jeremy Weinberger ’10 and Kevin Shallcross ’12 had an easy victory, winning 8-3. With the momentum clearly in their favor, the Ephs moved into singles play.
Shallcross, playing fifth singles, had a quick victory 6-2, 6-4 and put the Ephs up 3-1. In fact, all five singles players were victorious. Devlin, playing third, had the next victory, winning easily, 6-4, 6-3. Tri-captain Karol Furmaga ’09 clinched the win on court six, with a close 7-6(8), 7-5.
Overall, the match against Bowdoin demonstrated the team’s skill and mental toughness. “I am really proud of our guys for battling through a challenging season and stepping up when it counted most – the Bowdoin match,” Furmaga said. “Despite all the adversity that we faced and continue to face, our guys continue to find the will to fight for that extra inch – that tenacity is what defines Williams tennis. That inch is definitely what made the difference in the last couple of matches.”
The Ephs also had an easy win the day before, defeating UMass Dartmouth 5-0. The doubles teams got the team off to a good start, winning all of their matches. Chaplin and Thacher won 8-5, Petrie and Lebedoff were victorious 8-6, and Weinberger and Shallcross had an overpowering win, crushing their opponents 8-3. Petrie and Shallcross then clinched their matches in singles play quickly. Playing on courts four and five respectively, both had dominant victories, blasting their opponents with a score of 6-0, 6-0.
“The last two matches we played against UMass Dartmouth and Bowdoin were successful because there was a sense of urgency and awareness that our season was on the line,” Furmaga said. “Instead of panicking though, the team stepped up to the challenge and proved once again that we are a viable contender for the national title.”
With those two victories, the team is headed to the quarterfinals of nationals for the 13th year in a row and will play third-ranked UC Santa Cruz. The match will be tough, but the Ephs have confidence going in. “UC Santa Cruz is a very powerful team,” Devlin said. “They are well-coached and solid at every position. We just need to come out with intensity and competitive fire and we’ll have our chances.”
Adding to the team’s success this weekend were the accomplishments of individuals. Lebedoff was named to the First Team All NESCAC, and Weinberger was named to the second team.
“Overall, we are pretty satisfied with the season thus far,” Furmaga said. “We have made it to the Elite Eight, once again, and are looking to do some damage in the rounds to come.”