Ephs topple Polar Bears, 9-0, for 3rd straight NESCAC win

Leah Bush '19
Leah Bush '19

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. - After a near-perfect 8-1 victory over arch-rivals, Amherst, last weekend, the Ephs returned to the court on Saturday afternoon, fully rested for an encounter with the seventh-ranked Polar Bears of Bowdoin College on the Ephs' home turf. The two teams split their two meetings last season, with the team from Maine outdoing the Massachusetts side for the first time in the two schools' history, 6-3, in the regular season, before the Ephs swept them aside in the NCAA Semifinals, 5-0. Unfortunately for the Polar Bears, they fared little better this time around than they did in last year's national semifinal, failing to capture a single point in a resounding 9-0 victory for the purple and gold.

The Ephs were able to really build up a head of steam in the doubles portion on Saturday, winning the first match off the court at the number three position without dropping a game, courtesy of a top performance from Juli Raventos and Leah Bush

The other two doubles matches were much more competitive, however, and though the Ephs eventually captured both, the Polar Bears didn't make it easy for them.

Julia Cancio and Emily Zheng faced stiff competition in the form of Tasha Christ and Tess Trinka on Court 2, as the latter junior-freshman pairing never allotted the Ephs' junior-freshman duo much breathing space. Nevertheless, the Eph tandem created space when it mattered, taking the second doubles point of the afternoon by a slim 8-6 margin.

Not long after their teammates' triumph on Court 2, Hannah Atkinson and Chloe Henderson followed suit on Court 1. Up against the formidable senior combination of Joulia Likhanskaia and Samantha Stalder, the Ephs were always going to have a match on their hands, but thanks to a break to go up 5-3, the Ephs were able to capitalize on their opportunities and see the pro-set out 8-5, to complete the doubles sweep, leading the dual 3-0 going into the singles portion.

Though the Polar Bears may have hoped for a turn-around in singles, the Ephs had the dual all but clinched before their opponents could find a way back into the match.

Buoyed by a rare appearance in the doubles portion, Bush nearly replicated her flawless doubles win in the singles portion, taking the first set off Likhanskaia at the top position, 6-2, before blanking her fellow Floridian, 6-0, in the second set, pulling the Ephs to within one point of clinching the dual.

The Ephs did not have to wait long for the finishing blow, as Cancio delivered the requisite point on Court 5 only minutes later, tidying up a comfortable pair of 6-1 sets against Pilar Giffenig.

Though the match had been won, the Ephs were ruthless on the remaining four courts, as both Mia Gancayco and Zheng allowed their opponents only four games or fewer to push the win tally to seven out of seven for the Ephs. Gancayco saw off Christ with two 6-2 sets, before Zheng dismissed Sasa Jovanovic 6-3 and 6-0.

The final two matches on the courts were slightly closer, but the Ephs again proved to have too much in the tank for the Polar Bears.

Atkinson was the first of the remaining two Ephs to prove her mettle, staving off a challenge from Stalder in the second set, 7-5, after the senior co-captain took the first set off her Polar Bear counterpart, 6-3.

Raventos had a slightly harder time of it on Court 2, however, and she required a third-set match-tiebreaker in order to claim the Ephs' ninth and final point of the dual. The junior started off well, cruising to a 6-2 first set, but then things got interesting in the second, when Trinka fought back, 7-5, to a force a decisive third-set tiebreaker. After her second-set setback, however, Raventos was able to collect herself, and she proved more than capable in the match-tiebreaker, needing only 14 points to see off the plucky Polar Bear, 10-4.

After the match, Eph head coach Alison Swain praised her team's impressive all-around performance against a perennially tough opponent: "We played really solid tennis across the board today. I'm really proud of our team for the way we competed together from start to finish."

Swain will look for her team to reproduce that same tennis tomorrow when they take the courts against a Colby team that will look to rebound from a 9-0 loss at the hands of Middlebury last time out. The Ephs are set to host the Mules starting at 11:30 AM EDT on Sunday morning.

Williams 9, Bowdoin 0

  1. Atkinson, Hannah/Henderson, Chloe (WILLIAMS) def. Likhanskaia, Joulia/Stalder, Samantha (BOWDOIN) 8-5
  2. Cancio, Julia/Zheng, Emily (WILLIAMS) def. Christ, Tasha/Trinka, Tess (BOWDOIN) 8-6
  3. Bush, Leah/Raventos, Juli (WILLIAMS) def. Giffenig, Pilar/Jovanovic, Sasa (BOWDOIN) 8-0
  1. Bush, Leah (WILLIAMS) def. Likhanskaia, Joulia (BOWDOIN) 6-2, 6-0
  2. Raventos, Juli (WILLIAMS) def. Trinka, Tess (BOWDOIN) 6-2, 5-7, 1-0(4)
  3. Atkinson, Hannah (WILLIAMS) def. Stalder, Samantha (BOWDOIN) 6-3, 7-5
  4. Gancayco, Mia (WILLIAMS) def. Christ, Tasha (BOWDOIN) 6-2, 6-2
  5. Cancio, Julia (WILLIAMS) def. Giffenig, Pilar (BOWDOIN) 6-1, 6-1
  6. Zheng, Emily (WILLIAMS) def. Jovanovic, Sasa (BOWDOIN) 6-3, 6-0

Order of Finish:
Doubles - 3, 2, 1
Singles - 1, 5, 4, 6, 3, 2

Match Notes:
Williams: 10-4, NESCAC 4-1, nationally ranked #4, regionally ranked #2 (Northeast)
Bowdoin: 11-4, NESCAC 5-3, nationally ranked #7, regionally ranked #4 (Northeast)