WILLIAMSTOWN, MA. – Second-seeded Williams women’s tennis (20-3) advanced to the NCAA Quarterfinals for the fifth consecutive year with a 5-4 defeat of third-round opponent and conference foe, Tufts University (15-7). With the match knotted at 4-4, Ephs first-year Nancy Worley clinched the decisive fifth point in a come from behind three-set victory to send the Ephs to Fredericksburg, Virginia for a chance at their third straight national title.
Williams’ number one pair of Grace Baljon and Taylor French, and Tufts top duo of Julia Browne and Meghan McCooey, have played each other twice this season. In the first match at the fall’s ITA New England Championship, the Jumbos came out on top to take the title in the doubles final. In the regular season match up, Williams was able to avenge the loss. This afternoon Browne and McCooey had the edge at court one, tallying the Jumbos’ only doubles point with an 8-3 victory.
Lindsay Katz and Janice Lam challenged the Ephs’ number two combination of Kristin Alotta and Nikki Reich to a tiebreak in their last meeting on April 17. The Ephs handled their competition with ease this time in an 8-3 win. Lucy Marchese and Caroline Capute added the important second point for the Ephs at court three with an 8-4 finish.
Nikki Reich took the first point for Williams at court three, winning in straight sets, 6-2, 6-2. The Jumbos quickly evened the match up with wins at courts one and two. Julia Browne defeated Grace Baljon at court one, 7-5, 6-2. McCooey closed out her match 6-2, 6-1 against Kristin Alotta.
Singles play came down to the wire, and all eyes turned to the bottom of the singles ladder at courts four, five, and six. Williams had lost the first set of all three matches. It was a surprising turn of events, particularly since Williams had defeated Tufts earlier in the season in a 7-2 results.
“I think they really played like they were the underdogs and had nothing to lose,” said Williams’ head coach Alison Swain. “They had the confidence to know they could beat a team like us.”
Caroline Capute fell next at court six after having won eight straight matches heading into this match. With the loss at court six, Williams would have to win the final two matches to advance. Once Capute lost, Lucy Marchese was on serve in the third set at court four after having falling behind in the first set. Marchese closed out her final set to take a 2-6, 6-2, 6-3.
Worley had not even finished her second set when Marchese stepped off the courts. The first-year remained calm under the high-pressure situation to close out the second set and cruise in the third set to clinch the match in a 5-7, 6-3, 6-1 match.
“Nancy responded incredibly well,” said Swain. “Needing to win her match after Lucy finished, she was still in the second set having lost the first set, and from that point on she didn’t make more than four unforced errors for the rest of the match. She stayed calm and didn’t let the moment become too big for her.”
The Ephs have not played down for much of this season, but will take a lesson or two from today’s tight match.
“Last year in the quarterfinals we were down 3-4 against Denison and came from behind,” commented Swain. “We used it last year to give us confidence to play tough points well and I hope that the team will take this match in the same fashion.”
The Ephs will travel to Virginia for the NCAA Quarterfinals set to begin on May 25 against #8 Gustavus Adolphus.
Williams 5, Tufts 4
1) Julia Browne/Meghan McCooey (T) def. Grace Baljon/Taylor French (W) --- 8-3
2) Kristin Alotta/Nikki Reich (W) def. Lauren Hollender/Edwina Stewart (T) --- 8-3
3) Lucy Marchese/Caroline Capute (W) def. Hillary Rosen/Janice Lam (T) --- 8-4
2) McCooey (T) def Alotta (W) --- 6-2, 6-1
3) Reich (W) def. Stewart (T) --- 6-2, 6-2
4) Marchese (W) def. Lam (T) --- 2-6, 6-2, 6-3
5) Nancy Worley (W) def. Jennifer LaCara (W) --- 5-7, 6-3, 6-1
6) Hollender (T) def. Capute (W) --- 7-5, 6-4