Middlebury, Amherst Claim Top Seeds, First Round Bye
HADLEY, Mass. – Middlebury College, the winner of four consecutive NESCAC titles from 2004 through 2007, has earned the number-one seed and a first round bye in the 2009 NESCAC Men’s Tennis Championship. The three-day tournament begins on Friday, May 1 with first round action featuring defending NESCAC Men’s Tennis Champion Bowdoin as the fourth seed against fifth seed Trinity while third seed Williams clashes with sixth seed Bates. Friday’s winners will advance to Saturday’s semifinals against Middlebury and second-seeded Amherst, which also received a first round bye. The 2009 NESCAC Men’s Tennis Championship wraps up on Sunday, May 3, with the final match at 9:00 a.m.
Fourth-seeded Bowdoin (10-5, 5-3 NESCAC) will look to rekindle some of the magic that brought the Polar Bears the conference crown last spring. Seeded fourth in the 2008 championship, Bowdoin moved past Maine rival Bates 5-0 in the opening round, then upended top-seeded Trinity 6-3 in the semifinals the next day. The Polar Bears capped a remarkable run in the final by snapping Middlebury’s title streak at four with a hard-fought 5-4 victory for the program’s first league championship. Bowdoin will start things up on Friday morning against one of the squads it beat en route to the 2008 title, fifth-seeded Trinity (10-5, 5-4 NESCAC). When these two teams met this season on March 17 in Pomona, Calif., the Bantams were opening up the spring with their first match while the Polar Bears already had five outings under their belts. Bowdoin went on to post a 5-4 victory against Trinity, a win that was part of a seven-match victory streak which eventually came to a halt on April 11 to Middlebury, 6-3. The Bantams head into weekend with four wins in their last six contests, most recently recording a pair of 7-2 victories at Bates on April 25 and at Colby the next day. The Polar Bears have dropped three of their last four matches, with all three setbacks coming in conference play.
Friday’s winner will face top-seeded Middlebury (17-2, 9-0 NESCAC) in the semifinals on Saturday. The Panthers were the only squad to go undefeated against conference foes this year, finishing out the regular season slate over the weekend with a pair of wins. Middlebury took an 8-1 decision on Saturday over Williams, then traveled to Amherst on Sunday in a battle of undefeated conference teams and emerged with a 5-4 victory for the number-one seed in this year’s championship. The difference for the Panthers over the Lord Jeffs came in the doubles set, winning 2-1 as the singles matches split evenly. Against its potential semifinal opponents, Middlebury earned a pair of 6-3 wins over both teams, downing Trinity at home on April 5 before traveling to Bowdoin on April 11.
The other first round match on Friday will feature third-seeded Williams (11-4, 6-2 NESCAC) against sixth-seeded Bates (10-5, 5-5 NESCAC). The Ephs were busy at the end of the regular season, playing six conference matches in the final nine days and going 5-1. Bates, meanwhile, went 4-4 down the stretch in April, most recently falling to Trinity on Saturday, 7-2, before bouncing back against Wesleyan on Sunday, 8-1. The Ephs and the Bobcats faced each other just over a week ago in Williamstown. The hosts claimed a 7-2 victory on April 20 with four of the five singles wins for Williams coming in straight sets. After reaching the final in the first two years the tournament was held, Williams was denied last spring in the first round by rival Amherst, as the Lord Jeffs won a marathon match by a 5-4 score. Bates, which is making its third playoff appearance in the past four years, was turned back by eventual champion Bowdoin last April, 5-0 in the first round. Williams has won a remarkable 14 NESCAC titles - the most by any conference team - including 11 in a row from 1993 to the Ephs’ most recent crown in 2003. Bates won its only NESCAC championship in 1988.
Second-seed Amherst (23-5, 6-1 NESCAC) will take on the Bates-Williams winner on Saturday. Although the Lord Jeffs fell just short of securing the number-one seed in this year’s tournament, they still managed to earn an opening round bye for the first time as they had never been seeded higher than fifth. During last year’s championship, Amherst managed its first win over Williams since the spring of 1995 before falling to Middlebury in the semifinals, 6-2. This season, the Lord Jeffs posted victories over both of its potential semifinal adversaries, rolling past Bates 8-1 on April 4 before edging out Williams for the second time in as many meetings, 5-4. Sunday’s aforementioned 5-4 loss to Middlebury snapped a 10-match winning streak for Amherst. A win on Saturday would give the Jeffs a shot at a fourth NESCAC title, as their previous three came from 1990-92.
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.
2009 NESCAC MEN’S TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIP
First Round - Friday, May 1 at Williams
No. 5 Trinity vs. No. 4 Bowdoin - 9:00 a.m.
No. 6 Bates vs. No. 3 Williams - 9:00 a.m.
Semifinals - Saturday, May 2 at Williams
Winner No. 5/No. 4 vs. No. 1 Middlebury - 9:00 a.m.
Winner No. 6/No. 3 vs. No. 2 Amherst - 9:00 a.m.
Championship - Sunday, May 3 at Williams
Semifinal Winners - 9:00 a.m.