Men's Tennis To Challenge For NESCAC Title

May 1, 2012

The Middlebury men's tennis team will look for its seventh NESCAC Championship this weekend. The 2012 edition of the six-team tournament opens on Friday at Williams with first round action between Bates and Middlebury along with Trinity and Bowdoin. Winners from Friday will advance to Saturday’s semifinals and face either Amherst or Williams. 

A year ago at Middlebury, Amherst won its first NESCAC championship since 1992, rolling past Bowdoin and then rival Williams by 5-0 scores en route to its fourth overall league title. The victory was a preview of things to come during the month of May, as the Lord Jeffs would go on to hoist the NCAA trophy for the first time ever just a few weeks later and finished with a 36-1 record. Amherst (27-2, 8-0 NESCAC) hasn’t missed a beat this season. The Jeffs, who went undefeated in eight conference matches, have faced the five other participants in the tournament, notably earning 9-0 wins over Middlebury and Trinity and narrowly defeating Bates and Williams by 5-4 scores. A win on Saturday afternoon could set Amherst up against Williams in the tournament for the fifth year in a row if the Ephs advance, as the Jeffs are 3-1 in their last four postseason meetings with their rivals.

Before it can think about Sunday’s final, Amherst will have to get past the winner of Friday’s first round match between fourth-seeded Middlebury (12-5, 4-3 NESCAC) and fifth-seeded Bates (10-7, 4-4 NESCAC). All of the Panthers’ six NESCAC titles have come in the last eight years, winning four in a row from 2004 through 2007 and then back-to-back crowns beginning in 2009 before going all the way to the NCAA title in 2010. With all the recent success, the tide appeared to shift away from Middlebury during last year’s championship. The Panthers failed to advance to Sunday’s final for the first time since the current tournament format was adopted in 2006, and this year Middlebury missed out on bypassing the opening round for the first time. Looking at this season, the Panthers already own a 7-2 victory over their first round opponent, the Bobcats. Back in the NESCAC championship after being absent from the field last spring, Bates put together a 10-3 mark since that setback to Middlebury on March 11 with all three losses coming against tournament opponents Amherst, Bowdoin, and Williams. The Bobcats, whose only conference title came in 1988, are hoping to make their first appearance in Saturday’s semifinals.

Friday’s other first round match features third-seeded Bowdoin (11-6, 7-2 NESCAC) against sixth-seeded Trinity (9-7, 5-4 NESCAC), as the Polar Bears and the Bantams will clash in the opening round for the third time in the last four years. In the 2009 championship, Bowdoin got past Trinity 5-3 before dropping a 5-1 decision to eventual champ Middlebury in the semis. The Bantams turned the tables during the 2010 tournament, earning a 5-2 victory in the opening round that prevented the Polar Bears from making their fourth consecutive semifinal showing. Bowdoin managed to return to the semifinals in 2011 with a 5-1 victory over Tufts, while Trinity fell short to Williams by the same score. It’s been an impressive spring so far for the Polar Bears. After suffering a 7-2 setback to Amherst in California on March 20, Bowdoin went on a nine-match tear before losing again, a streak that included a 6-1 win over Trinity on March 31. The Bantams have been idle since falling in their second consecutive match on April 24, 6-3 to Bates. Of note is the fact that the Polar Bears are the only team to advance out of the first round and win the NESCAC title, doing so in thrilling fashion during the 2008 championship.

Waiting to face the Bowdoin-Trinity winner will be second-seeded Williams (15-1, 6-1 NESCAC). The only blemish on the Ephs’ record so far this season has been the aforementioned 5-4 loss to the rival Lord Jeffs on April 22. During the match, Williams held a 2-1 advantage after doubles but was outmaneuvered in singles play 4-2, as Amherst won at positions one, three, four, and five with half of the decisions coming in straight sets. The Ephs rebounded in their next outing by getting past Bowdoin 5-4 on April 28 before wrapping up the conference schedule the next day at Bates, 6-3. Prior to the setback to Amherst, Williams claimed an 8-1 win at Trinity on April 9, as the Ephs have faced the five other tournament foes in the past month. No team in the history of the conference has more league crowns than Williams’ 14, and although the Ephs have reached Sunday’s final in each of the last two years, eight seasons have come and gone since they last held the championship trophy.

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 4 at Williams

No. 5 Bates vs. No. 4 Middlebury - 1:00 p.m.

No. 6 Trinity vs. No. 3 Bowdoin - 1:00 p.m.

Semifinals - Saturday, May 5 at Williams

Winner No. 5/No. 4 vs. No. 1 Amherst - 1:00 p.m.

Winner No. 6/No. 3 vs. No. 2 Williams - 1:00 p.m.

Championship - Sunday, May 6 at Williams

Semifinal Winners - 1:00 p.m.

--courtesy NESCAC--