Women’s tennis outlasts Middlebury, takes third consecutive NESCAC title

Women’s tennis defeated Tufts and Middlebury to win its third straight NESCAC Championship. Photo courtesy of Sports Information.

 

Women’s tennis (15–4, 7–1 in the NESCAC) won its third straight NESCAC title last weekend. After earning a first round bye, the women, who hosted the tournament, defeated Tufts in the semifinals and beat Middlebury in the championship match.

On Saturday, No. 2 seed Williams took on No. 3 seed Tufts to determine which team would advance to play No. 1 Middlebury in the final. Middlebury punched its ticket to the championship with a 5-2 win over Bowdoin.

The Jumbos looked to avenge their 7-2 loss to the Ephs from the week before, but the women had other ideas, gaining an early advantage.

The Ephs came out of the gates on fire in doubles, with Julia Cancio ’18 and Emily Zheng ’20 claiming the first point of the dual on  with an 8-1 win over Alexa Meltzer and Conner Calabro at No. 3.

At No. 2, co-captain Hannah Atkinson ’17 and Chloe Henderson ’20 followed suit shortly thereafter, notching a narrow 8-6 victory over Otilia Popa and Tomo Iwasaki.

Juli Raventos ’18 and co-captain Linda Shin ’17 completed the Ephs’ sweep of doubles, as they finished off Mina Karamercan and Lauren Louks by an 8-3 margin to give the Ephs breathing room heading into the singles portion.

Leah Bush ’19 played at No. 2 singles and was the first off the court after downing Lauren Louks 6-0, 6-0 to earn the Ephs’ fourth point of the match.

Atkinson provided the fifth and final point when she defeated Katherine Wiley in straight sets 6-2, 6-1.

Having comfortably overcome Tufts, the women booked their spot in their 13th straight NESCAC tournament final, a rematch of last year’s championship dual against Middlebury.

While the Ephs claimed last year’s NESCAC title with a 5-0 win over the Panthers, they lost the regular-season encounter 6-3. Middlebury was No. 2 in the April 27 ITA poll, while the women were ranked No. 4.

The Ephs propelled themselves to a strong start in the doubles portion by tallying points on two of the three courts. The top pairing of Shin and Raventos defeated Skylar Schossberger and Katherine Hughes 8-4 just moments before Atkinson and Henderson doubled the Ephs’ advantage on court two against Kaysee Orozco and Catherine Blazye by the same margin of victory.

Facing the prospect of heading into singles down 3-0, the Panther duo of Alexandra Fields and Christina Puccinelli ensured that the Panthers remained within striking distance by defeating Cancio and Zheng, 8-5. However, the Ephs wasted little time in the singles portion to reassert their superiority in the dual.

Atkinson jumped out to a huge lead over Heather Boehm on court three, taking the first set 6-0. She won the second 6-3 reestablish the Ephs’ two-point advantage.

Blazye then overcame Shin at No. 4 with a 6-4, 6-2 performance to narrow the margin to 3-2.

With the end in sight after first set victories on courts five and six, the Ephs dominated at the end of the dual.

Motivated after her loss in doubles, Cancio quickly dismissed Maddi Stow 6-3, 6-2, bringing the Ephs to within one point of claiming their third straight and eighth overall NESCAC title.

Mia Gancayco ’18 delivered the finishing blow, as she bested Molly Paradies 6-1, 6-4, and gave the home crowd license to celebrate.

“The team and I were very pleased with how we competed this weekend,” Head Coach Alison Swain ’01 said. “We have been focused all of April on continuing to improve and focus on areas where we know we can continue to develop both as a team and individually. That improvement showed up on court this weekend, and I am extremely proud of this group and how they have prepared up to this point for the postseason.”

With the victories, the Ephs claimed an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, making their 24th consecutive appearance.

They host the Regional round of the tournament this weekend. After a first-round bye, the women face the winner of Johnson and Wales and Wilkes at 9 a.m. on Saturday at the on the Torrence M. Hunt ’44 Tournament Courts.

The Ephs graduate Atkinson and Shin at the end of the season. Shin has been an All-American in each of the past two seasons as part of a doubles pairing with Raventos, and she was an All-American in singles in 2014.