Men's Tennis Looks For Sixth NESCAC Title

May 4, 2010

Defending conference champion Middlebury College will be in pursuit of a sixth title in the last seven years when the top-seeded Panthers travel to Amherst, Mass. for the NESCAC Men's Tennis Championship. The 2010 edition of the fifth-annual tournament looks exactly like the 2009 version, as all six teams return with the same seeding from last year. Joining Middlebury with a first round bye is host Amherst, the second seed. The three-day championship takes to the courts on Friday, May 7 with first round action between fourth-seeded Bowdoin and fifth-seeded Trinity along with third-seeded Williams taking on sixth-seeded Bates. Teams that advance from Friday's play will compete in the semifinals on Saturday, May 8. The 2010 NESCAC Men's Tennis Championship concludes on Sunday, May 9 at 1:00 p.m.

This will be the third year in a row that the Polar Bears (10-5, 5-3 NESCAC) have faced the Bantams (12-5, 4-4 NESCAC) in the NESCAC tournament, and Bowdoin hopes this meeting will be similar to the last two results. In 2008, Bowdoin upended top-seeded Trinity 6-3 in the semifinals en route to its first league title. Last year, the Polar Bears came away with a 5-3 win over the Bantams in the first round before falling to eventual champion Middlebury in the semifinals, 5-1. Similar to last season, Bowdoin won the lone meeting of the regular season in California by a 5-4 score and the Polar Bears have gone 5-3 since then, the three losses suffered to the three teams seeded above them. Trinity has played in nearly double the amount of matches since that match out west on March 24, posting an 11-3 record. The Polar Bears won their final match of the regular season over Maine rival Bates, 7-2, while the Bantams have only one win in their last three outings, falling to Williams on April 29 by a 6-3 decision.

Whichever team advances from Friday's first round rematch will have to face one of the most dominant teams in NESCAC play in recent years, top-seeded Middlebury (16-2, 8-0 NESCAC). The Panthers once again completed the league slate without a loss to a league squad and have only been defeated by a conference team in a regular season match once since 2002. It should come as little surprise then that Middlebury owns five of the last six NESCAC titles, most recently moving past Amherst 5-3 for the 2009 crown. This spring, the Panthers won seven of their eight conference matches by scores of either 9-0 or 8-1. The second-seeded Lord Jeffs came close to preventing the Panthers' perfect NESCAC season on Saturday, however Middlebury managed to come away with a 5-4 decision and then wrapped up the weekend with an 8-1 win at Williams on Sunday. Against its potential semifinal opponents, the Panthers recorded an 8-1 win at Trinity on April 10 and followed a week later with a 9-0 victory against Bowdoin.

Friday's other first round rematch features third-seeded Williams (9-5, 6-2 NESCAC) against sixth-seeded Bates (11-6, 5-4 NESCAC). Last year in the first round, the Ephs won two-out-of-three doubles matches and then took three singles matches to post a 5-1 victory over the Bobcats. In the semifinals, rival Amherst prevented Williams from returning to Sunday's final for the second year in a row with a 5-0 win. No other team has more NESCAC men's tennis titles than the Ephs (14), who won 11 straight from 1993 to 2003. Bates, meanwhile, is one of five teams in this year's tournament field with a championship to its credit, the lone title coming in 1988. Friday's showdown in the first round will be the first meeting this spring between these foes. Bates is 4-2 over its last six matches, most recently falling in the aforementioned loss to Bowdoin, 7-2 on April 30, and earning a 6-3 decision over Tufts on May 2. Williams had a five-match winning streak snapped with Sunday's 8-1 loss to Middlebury.

Waiting for the winner of Friday's Bates-Williams contest will be second-seeded Amherst (22-8, 7-1 NESCAC). The Lord Jeffs have become one of the premier teams in the conference in just the past few years. After recording its first win over Williams since 1994 in the opening round of the 2008 tournament, Amherst took it to the next level in 2009 with a semifinal victory against the Ephs and finished as the runner-up to Middlebury. The Jeffs gained a bit of revenge against the Panthers a few weeks after the championship setback, ousting the NESCAC champs in the NCAA quarterfinals and completing the season as the national runner-up. Amherst owns wins in 14 of its last 16 matches, including an 8-1 victory at Bates on April 11 and a 7-2 win at Williams on April 18.

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. Results of each match and updated schedules will be available at the conclusion of each day at www.nescac.com.

First Round - Friday, May 7 at Amherst
No. 5 Trinity vs. No. 4 Bowdoin - 1:00 p.m.
No. 6 Bates vs. No. 3 Williams - 1:00 p.m.

Semifinals - Saturday, May 8 at Amherst
Winner No. 5/No. 4 vs. No. 1 Middlebury - 1:00 p.m.
Winner No. 6/No. 3 vs. No. 2 Amherst - 1:00 p.m.

Championship - Sunday, May 9 at Amherst
Semifinal Winners - 1:00 p.m.

-- courtesy NESCAC --