Defending Champ Middlebury Hosts Three-Day Event This Weekend
HADLEY, Mass. – Amherst College will be in search of the program's first conference crown since 1992 when the top-seeded Lord Jeffs travel to Middlebury, Vt. for the 2011 NESCAC Men's Tennis Championship. The courts will come to life Friday morning with first round action when fifth-seeded Tufts meets fourth-seeded Bowdoin at 9:00 a.m., followed by sixth-seeded Trinity taking on third-seeded Williams at 11:00 a.m. Winners from Friday's action will face Amherst and defending champ Middlebury during Saturday's semifinals. The 2011 NESCAC Men's Tennis Championship concludes on Sunday, May 8 at 9:00 a.m.
While fourth-seeded Bowdoin (11-5, 6-3 NESCAC) has appeared in every NESCAC championship since the tournament began in the spring of 2006, winning the program's first league title in 2008, fifth-seeded Tufts (11-6, 4-3 NESCAC) made the field for the first time ever. Three teams were in the running for the final two spots in this year's conference tournament - Bates, Trinity, and Tufts. The Jumbos and the Bantams separated themselves from the Bobcats via conference tie-breakers, and Tufts edged Trinity for the fifth spot thanks to a 5-3 win in the lone meeting between the two on April 21. Bowdoin and Tufts faced each other just over a month ago, and the Polar Bears came away with an 8-1 win. While the Jumbos have won three of their past five matches, the Polar Bears are 4-1 in their last five. Bowdoin's three conference losses occurred to the three seeds above it in this year's championship, including a pair of 5-4 setbacks to Middlebury and Williams. Last spring, Bowdoin missed out on the semifinals for the first time in three years in a 5-2 opening round loss to Trinity.
Friday's winner will take on top-seeded Amherst (29-1, 8-0 NESCAC) on Saturday morning. The Lord Jeffs have been nearly unstoppable this season, as their lone loss so far came at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps on March 19, 6-3. Amherst went on to win its next 12 matches, including a 6-3 decision over Middlebury in the season finale on April 30 to secure the top seed in this year's championship. The Lord Jeffs have earned victories against the five other participants in this year's tournament, including a 7-2 victory over the Polar Bears on April 9 and an 8-1 win against the Jumbos on April 17. Williams came close to knocking off Amherst on April 10, holding a 3-1 advantage at one point in the match, however the host Jeffs stormed back to win 5-4. The top four singles matches went the full three sets in the meeting between the two rivals. The victory gave Amherst a bit of revenge after Williams ousted the higher-seeded Jeffs in the 2010 semifinals, 5-3. The Jeffs will be looking for a fourth conference crown this weekend, as their three previous titles all came from 1990 through 1992.
Third-seeded Williams (12-6, 5-2 NESCAC) will take on sixth-seeded Trinity (9-7, 4-5 NESCAC) during Friday's other first round contest at Middlebury. The two teams met just over a week ago in Williamstown with the Ephs claiming an 8-1 victory. Both teams earned a win in the opening round of last year's tournament, and while Williams got past Amherst in the semifinals Trinity was unable to overcome Middlebury, falling to the eventual conference champions, 5-0. The Ephs have 14 NESCAC titles to their credit, winning 11 in a row from 1993 to their most recent championship in 2003. The Bantams, meanwhile, have never gotten past the semifinal round, even as the top-seeded team in the 2008 playoffs. This will be the second time these two squads have faced one another in the NESCAC championship. Williams posted a 7-0 win over Trinity in the 2006 semis.
Waiting to play the winner of the Trinity-Williams match will be second seed and defending NESCAC and NCAA champion Middlebury (16-2, 6-1 NESCAC). The Panthers have enjoyed a successful run in the NESCAC championship in recent years, winning six of the last seven league titles, including last year's over Williams by a 5-0 score. Middlebury suffered just two losses during the regular season, falling at Azusa Pacific on March 30, 6-3, and the aforementioned loss to Amherst in the season finale for both teams this past Saturday, 6-3. The setback was only the second for the Panthers to a conference team in regular season play since the 2002 season. Bowdoin came close to handing Middlebury its first NESCAC loss of the year two weeks prior to the Amherst match, however the Panthers prevailed 5-4 on April 16. Against its potential semifinal opponents, Middlebury earned a pair of 7-2 decisions over both teams, downing Trinity on April 9 and Williams on April 24.
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.
2011 NESCAC MEN'S TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIP
First Round - Friday, May 6 at Middlebury
No. 5 Tufts vs. No. 4 Bowdoin - 9:00 a.m.
No. 6 Trinity vs. No. 3 Williams - 11:00 a.m.
Semifinals - Saturday, May 7 at Middlebury
Winner No. 5/No. 4 vs. No. 1 Amherst - 9:00 a.m.
Winner No. 6/No. 3 vs. No. 2 Middlebury - 11:00 a.m.
Championship - Sunday, May 8 at Middlebury
Semifinal Winners - 9:00 a.m.