After defeating fifth-seeded Wesleyan on Saturday, the first-ranked women swept Middlebury 5-0 on their way to the NESCAC Championship and an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament. Middlebury, seeded second, had defeated Amherst on Saturday to advance to the finals. This marks the fifth time that Williams has entered the NESCAC tournament as the first seed and the eighth title overall for Williams. For captain Maya Hart ’16 and Alex Stone ’16, this marks their third title.
“Winning the NESCAC tournament was extremely exciting and rewarding,” Hart said. “This is the first time our program has won NESCACs two years in a row. Although we won both matches 5-0, Wesleyan and Middlebury really tested us. In particular, although we had a 3-0 advantage going in to singles, Middlebury fought extremely well and forced us to play our best to get the win. We are looking forward to hosting the first rounds of NCAAs here this weekend.”
Hart and Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio ’18 got things started with a quick 8-3 victory, putting Williams on the board. Julia Cancio ’18 and Hannah Atkinson ’17 fell behind 3-4 but managed to serve to 4-4. They won the next four straight games for the 8-4 victory. Juli Raventos ’18 and Linda Shin ’17 led throughout on their way to an 8-3 win to complete the 3-0 doubles sweep.
In singles, Williams won three sets before Middlebury could counter. Atkinson got things started with a quick 6-0 win, Leah Bush ’19 broke through a 4-4 tie in her first set to win 6-4 and Raventos secured her first set with a score of 6-3. By winning her second set 6-2, Bush brought the Ephs within one win of clinching. Atkinson supplied the victory with a 6-2 win of her own in the second set. Raventos was down in the second set and Middlebury led in the unfinished matches played by Cancio, Shin and Mia Gancayco ’18.
On Saturday, doubles began the match against Wesleyan, going 3-0 in close matches. Raventos and Shin finished first by a score of 8-5. Hart and McDonnell Nieto del Rio followed with an 8-6 victory, before Cancio and Atkinson finished the sweep with a 9-8(7) win.
Going into singles up 3-0, the Ephs needed just two wins to clinch. Bush supplied the first one, overcoming Wesleyan’s Dasha Dubinsky 6-1, 6-0. Shin supplied the second, ending the day with a 6-3, 6-1 victory. Gancayco, Raventos, Cancio and Atkinson all began singles matches that did not finish.
The 5-0 victory secured the Ephs’ spot in the NESCAC Finals last Sunday. Last year, when Williams and Amherst met in the finals it was the 10th consecutive time the two teams met in the NESCAC Championship. However, Middlebury triumphed over Amherst, thus securing Middlebury’s spot in the NESCAC finals.
“Our team played with high energy, focus and a lot of composure in the doubles,” Head Coach Alison Swain ’01 said. “We were aggressive and able to control a lot of the net points. I was particularly impressed with [Atkinson] and [Cancio’s] No. 2 doubles match tiebreaker against Wesleyan to get the doubles sweep in the semifinals and well as [Hart]and [McDonnell Nieto Del Rio’s] controlling their No. 3 doubles match from start to finish in the finals to get the first point on the board.”
“It’s really important that we are playing great doubles right now, and it’s fun to see all our hard work come together in matches.”
After these huge victories, the Ephs now focus on the NCAA Regionals beginning this Friday at home. The women will enter NCAA play as the defending national champions.