Amherst tops women’s tennis 6-3 to avenge NCAA finals loss

Co-captain Ashley Parsons ’10 watches her return in her singles victory over Wellesley on Sunday.
Co-captain Ashley Parsons ’10 watches her return in her singles victory over Wellesley on Sunday.

It was a bittersweet weekend for women’s tennis. The women swept Wellesley in a decisive 9-0 victory on Sunday after falling to nationally ranked No. 2 Amherst in a 6-3 defeat on Saturday. Last weekend concluded the team’s scheduled dual matches, and it ended its fall season 2-1.

For Head Coach Alison Swain, the fall was crucial for getting a sense of her team’s footing for the more intensive spring season. “The fall season is tremendously important for us to bond as a team, get a sense of where we are at and where we can get to in the spring, and focus our efforts,” she said.

Last weekend’s matches certainly painted a clearer picture of where the team stands in relation to significant competition. Currently ranked sixth in the region, Wellesley was set to prove itself a worthy opponent. However, the Ephs proved to the Blue that they were anything but.

Williams just barely scooted past Wellesley last year with a 5-4 win that literally came down to co-captain Ashley Parsons ’10 as the last deciding singles match on court. This year, however, Williams started the match with a bang and never looked back, taking all three doubles matches while only dropping eight games. Co-captain Grace Baljon ’10 and Taylor French ’12 set the tone by taking their first doubles match 8-2, while the doubles teams of Nikki Reich ’11 and Kristin Alotta ’12 and Lucy Marchese ’11 and Nancy Worley ’13 played to identical results of 8-3, 8-3.

The Ephs then dominated singles play, only dropping one set in six matches.

“Wellesley is definitely gunning to win their NEWMAC conference this fall and get an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament,” Swain said. “Bouncing back from a tough loss on Saturday to beat Wellesley 9-0 is a huge feat.”
Saturday was a different story as the Ephs met the Jeffs for the first time since the team defeated the Jeffs in last year’s NCAA tournament. In their battles prior to the NCAA tournament last year, Amherst was able to hand Williams its only two losses of the season.

The Jeffs provided a similar challenge this year, handing the Ephs their only loss of the fall.

Early in the match, it seemed that Williams had stored up some of its momentum from the NCAA tournament as the team won first and second doubles.

However, the team was only able to take one of six singles matches on the day, when Alotta defeated her opponent Jill Wexler 6-3, 6-1, in her 32nd straight consecutive singles win.

In terms of the other five matches, Williams just couldn’t seem to play up its strengths in decisive moments. “We lost some very important, very close deuce games in some key moments of the singles matches,” Swain said. “Amherst has a very talented team, and their singles players played very tough in the match.”

This was the shortest fall season the Ephs have had, but the three matches they played have been crucial to the spring line-up.

“The fall always helps me as a coach to get a sense of how each individual is playing and doubles teams mesh or don’t mesh on court,” Swain said. “It helps me gain a focus for our first five weeks of practice in February and March and gives the girls some motivation and goals for the off-season.”

Before then, the women will take what experience they have gained in these last three matches and bring it to the New England Women’s Intercollegiate Tennis Tournament, an individual tournament, which will be held this weekend at Smith and Mt. Holyoke.