Ephs Open Defense of NESCAC Title Saturday at Bowdoin

Ephs Open Defense of NESCAC Title Saturday at Bowdoin

HADLEY, Mass. - Amherst starts the 2014 NESCAC Women's Tennis Championship hosted by Bowdoin as the No. 1 seed for the fifth time in program history. Action gets underway Friday, May 2 with first round matches featuring Trinity against Bowdoin and Tufts versus Middlebury. Teams that advance out of the opening round will face top-seeded Amherst and second-seeded defending champion Williams in the semifinals on Saturday, May 3. The NESCAC Women's Tennis Championship concludes on Sunday morning with action beginning at 9 a.m.

The NESCAC championship features the same tournament field for the sixth straight year. During last year's tournament, Middlebury and Bowdoin advanced out of the first round, only to fall in the semifinals to host Amherst and Williams. With their second round wins, the Jeffs and the Ephs were pitted against each other in the conference championship match. Amherst and Williams have met in Sunday's final every spring since the current tournament format was adopted in 2006. Amherst had emerged as the victor in the first five meetings, three of which ended in 5-4 decisions, however Williams won in 2011 as the Ephs claimed a 5-3 win for their first NESCAC crown since sharing the title with the Jeffs in 2004. Amherst regained the 2012 title for its eighth NESCAC championship, but Williams prevailed last year, 5-2, for its sixth title.

Friday's opening round features fourth-seeded Middlebury (9-6, 4-3 NESCAC) against fifth-seeded Tufts (9-8, 5-4 NESCAC). The Panthers earned their berth by knocking off Colby, 9-0, and Trinity and Wesleyan by identical 7-2 results. Middlebury enters the tournament winning three of their last five matches. The Panthers will face the Jumbos for the second time in a week, as Middlebury claimed the regular season meeting 7-2 on April 25. The setback for Tufts was part of a 5-3 NESCAC schedule in the month of April that saw the Jumbos collect a pair of 9-0 wins over Colby and Wesleyan, two 8-1 victories over Hamilton and Bates, and a 5-4 triumph over Trinity. This will be the fourth time Middlebury and Tufts have met in the championship, with the Panthers owning a 2-1 edge in the series following last year's 5-1 first round win.

Whichever team advances out of Friday's first round match will have contend with top-seeded Amherst (15-3, 8-0 NESCAC). Since falling to Emory, 8-1, on April 12, the Jeffs rattled off eight straight wins to close out the regular season. Before the loss, Amherst had won seven consecutive matches following a 4-3 loss to Division I Cal State-Fullerton. The Jeffs' lone remaining loss came at the hands of Williams in a 6-3 decision back on October 5.

Third-seeded Bowdoin (13-5, 6-2 NESCAC) will take on sixth-seeded Trinity (9-6, 3-4 NESCAC) in the other first round match on Friday morning. The Polar Bears posted only two conference losses this spring, dropping matches against Amherst (6-3) and Williams (7-2). The day after losing to the Jeffs, Bowdoin suffered a 5-4 loss to Emory, but rebounded by defeating Colby and Bates and getting past Middlebury, 5-4. In the tournament for the sixth consecutive year, the Bantams grabbed the last spot in this year's championship for the third straight year. Trinity registered a 6-3 win against Wesleyan on April 3, a 9-0 win against Connecticut College on April 9 and a 9-0 win against Bates in the last match of the regular season. Earlier this season, the Polar Bears defeated the Bantams by the score of 8-1 on March 19. Last year, Bowdoin knocked off Trinity, 5-0, in the first round.

The Bowdoin-Trinity winner on Friday will rise to face second-seeded Williams (18-1, 7-1 NESCAC) on Saturday. Winners of six straight NCAA Division III Women's Tennis Championships, the NESCAC Champions are in pursuit of their third league title in four years. Williams' lone setback came on April 19 when the Ephs fell to Amherst, 7-2. Prior to the loss, the Ephs were riding a 16-match winning streak this season, including a 6-3 win against the Jeffs.

"We are working hard on the intangibles of how we compete on court and trying to improve in small ways as we head into post-season," said Eph head coach Alison Swain. "I could see improvement in the way we competed this past weekend in terms of our focus and playing like a team. We will keep these aspects of our play as goals for the post-season."

"I think our team's strength right now is our experience and our drive to improve," added Swain. "This is a team that is focused and works hard at every opportunity we get to practice or play. This is a  team that is going to keep improving each day for the rest of the season. I also think the on-court leadership of Kara and Kathleen, our two captains, cannot be underestimated. They really set the tone for competing with focus and drive, but also remembering that this process is fun and a team effort at the end of the day."
"In terms of this weekend, we need to continue to play focused, energetic tennis from the first point of our matches, especially in doubles," Swain noted. "It's important that every player and doubles pair knows their strengths and plays to those from the start. There are a lot of teams gunning for us this year, talented teams who have demonstrated improvement. We have a lot of experience on our team, and we need to use that competitive experience to be relentless on court."

The format of the NESCAC Women'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 teams, with the top two seeds receiving a first round bye.

First Round - Friday, May 2
hosted by Bowdoin
No. 6 Trinity vs. No. 3 Bowdoin - 8 a.m.
No. 5 Tufts vs. No. 4 Middlebury - 10:30 a.m.
Second Round- Saturday, May 3

hosted by Bowdoin
Winner No. 5/No. 4 vs. No. 1 Amherst - 8 a.m.
Winner No. 6/No. 3 vs. No. 2 Williams - 10:30 a.m.

Championship - Sunday, May 4
hosted by Bowdoin
Second Round Winners - 9 a.m.
Ephs sweep Maroons 9-0
March 27, 2014 Ephs sweep Maroons 9-0
Women's Tennis Tops Wesleyan
September 21, 2013 Women's Tennis Tops Wesleyan
A Summer at "The Hall"
August 29, 2013 A Summer at "The Hall"