HADLEY, Mass. - Middlebury will pursue its seventh overall conference title this weekend when the Panthers battle the field at the NESCAC Men's Tennis Championship. The 2014 edition of the tournament opens on Friday, May 2 at Bowdoin with first round action between Trinity and Bowdoin along with Tufts and Williams. Winners from Friday will advance to Saturday's semifinals and face either Middlebury or Amherst. The NESCAC Men's Tennis Championship will come to a close on Sunday, May 4 at 1 p.m.
Top-seeded Middlebury (17-2, 7-0 NESCAC), which seeks its first NESCAC trophy since 2010 when it was also the No. 1 seed, navigated its conference schedule with an unblemished record. The Panthers edged Amherst, 5-4, on Saturday to earn the top seed and extend their current win streak to 10 matches since suffering a 5-4 loss to Emory on March 29.
Middlebury will face the winner of Friday's first round match between fourth-seeded Bowdoin (10-8, 4-4 NESCAC) and fifth-seeded Trinity (8-7, 4-4 NESCAC). After winning six matches from March 19 to April 12, Bowdoin has struggled down the stretch dropping four of its last six contests. However, the Polar Bears owned key conference wins over Colby, Connecticut College, Tufts and Trinity to return to the NESCAC Championship after a one-year absence when Bowdoin advanced to the title match. The Bantams are also returning to the postseason after a one-year hiatus. Trinity earned its berth by defeating Tufts, Connecticut College, Wesleyan and Bates. The Bantams hope to avenge a 6-3 loss from March 19 to advance to the second round for the first time since 2010. Bowdoin is 3-1 against Trinity in the postseason, and defeated the Bantams most recently in the 2012 quarterfinals by the score of 5-0.
Friday's other first round match features third-seeded Williams (14-5, 7-2 NESCAC) against sixth-seeded Tufts (9-8, 4-6 NESCAC). The Ephs aim to defend their NESCAC Championship in pursuit of their league-best 15th conference crown.
"I feel like our team is finding our rhythm just in time for the tournament," said eph head coach Dan Greenberg. "We had a couple bumps along the way, but they allowed us to see what changes we needed to make, which have helped a lot. Our doubles teams are clicking and that allows us to go into singles with more confidence. At this point, we just need to stay healthy and focused and we can have a good end to the year, especially if we keep progressing in practice."
Since suffering a pair of back-to-back 5-4 losses to Skidmore and Amherst, Williams rattled off three straight wins against Trinity, Bowdoin and Colby to close out the regular season. The Ephs' other league loss came at the hands of Middlebury on April 11, 6-3. Tufts earned the final berth in the tournament after earning wins over Wesleyan, Hamilton, Connecticut College and a pivotal 5-4 win against Colby on April 25. The Jumbos are making their third overall appearance and playing in back-to-back championships for the first time in program history. Friday's match will be the first postseason meeting between the two programs, but Williams defeated Tufts, 7-2, on April 5.
Waiting to face the Williams/Tufts winner will be second-seeded Amherst (29-3, 8-1 NESCAC). The Jeffs' three losses this season came in 5-4 decisions to Concordia (Calif.) and Middlebury and 6-3 decision to Claremont-Mudd-Scripps and rival Amherst. Prior to their loss to Middlebury on April 26, the Jeffs had won 17 matches dating back to March 21. Amherst has captured five NESCAC titles, including consecutive crowns in 2011 and 2012.
The format of the NESCAC Men's Tennis Championship changed in the spring of 2006 and features six teams vying for the NESCAC crown. Prior to 2006, the event was set up as an individual flighted tournament that included players from all 11 members of the NESCAC. Individuals and doubles teams were seeded in different classes, and a team score was determined on a points system that assigned a value for wins. The championship field is now chosen by a tournament selection committee, which seeds the six participating team, with the top two seeds receiving a first round bye.
|First Round - Friday, May 2|
|hosted by Bowdoin
No. 6 Tufts vs. No. 3 Williams - 1 p.m.
No. 5 Trinity vs. No. 4 Bowdoin - 3:30 p.m.
|Second Round- Saturday, May 3|
hosted by Bowdoin
|Championship - Sunday, May 4|
|hosted by Bowdoin
Second Round Winners - 1 p.m.