Second-ranked women’s tennis (11-2, 2-0 in the NESCAC) emerged from the opening weekend of conference play undefeated in spring Div. III play after dropping Tufts and upsetting No. 1 ranked Amherst on the road. Near-flawless doubles play and momentum that has been building since the team’s spring training trip saw the Ephs through to a 6-3 result on Sunday after a 7-2 victory on Saturday.
“We had an excellent debut to our conference play this weekend,” Head Coach Alison Swain said. “I couldn’t have asked the team for any more than they gave.”
Sunday’s match found Amherst and Williams ranked first and second in the nation, respectively. A desire for revenge had been burning in the Williams team since last season, when the only two tarnishes on its otherwise undefeated season both came at the hands of its archrival. On Sunday, the Ephs finally returned serve, dealing the Jeffs their first loss of the season.
The Ephs began their retribution by sweeping all three doubles matches with little resistance from the Jeffs. Caroline Capute ’12 and Lucy Marchese ’11 dominated on court three, dropping only one game for an 8-1 result. Co-captain Grace Baljon ’10 and Taylor French ’12 delivered as well at No. 1 with an 8-6 showing, while teammates Kristin Alotta ’12 and Nikki Reich ’11 earned the same result on court two.
The team wasn’t able to sweep all its matches in singles play, but the Ephs did earn a singles split – and, ultimately, the victory. Baljon was able to avenge her fall season loss to Amherst’s Brittany Berckes: The two have met eight times in their college careers and have gone 4-4 overall, but Baljon took the latest victory in a straight set 7-5, 7-6(6) win. Alotta’s win on court two enabled her to remain undefeated in singles play while simultaneously delivering her Jeff opponent Laura Danzig her only Div. III loss of the season in a three set 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 result. Reich and Marchese weren’t able to capitalize on their doubles momentum and fell in their respective singles matches in the third and fourth positions, while Nancy Worley ’13 fell in her third set at No. 5. Finally, with the Ephs’ victory already determined, Capute defeated her opponent in a super tie breaker at No. 6, going 6-7(7), 6-3, 10-6.
While the stakes weren’t quite as high in Saturday’s match against Tufts, Williams was more than happy to earn its first conference win for the season against its 17th-ranked opponents.
The Ephs suffered one of two defeats of the day in doubles play. Baljon and French avenged their fall doubles loss to Tufts’ Julia Browne and Meghan McCooey with an 8-3 showing, while Capute and Marchese followed up on court three with an 8-5 win. Alotta and Reich, playing No. 2 doubles, succumbed to their Tufts opponents in a closely contested 8-9(5) match.
“I think more than anything, our doubles results of the past couple of weeks show how hungry we are at the start of each match and how well we are taking advantage of opportunities on the court,” Swain said.
While Browne overpowered Baljon in singles play, the Ephs otherwise went undefeated in non-exhibition individual matches. Alotta fell in a second tiebreak against McCooey at court two but pulled through in her third set to take the match. Reich, Marchese, Worley and Capute rounded out the Ephs’ singles wins.
The team is hoping to capitalize on the momentum from the Amherst win in order to claim even more victories later this season. “After our match [against Amherst], our team is far more excited about the potential to win the Little Three this year,” Swain said. In addition, the wins put the Ephs on track to earn a NESCAC title – which would be a first for the senior class.
The team faces off against Middlebury at 4 p.m. at home today before traveling to Maine for back-to-back 10 a.m. matches, against Bowdoin and then Colby.