HADLEY, Mass. - Williams begins the 2016 NESCAC Women’s Tennis Championship hosted by Bates as the top seed for the fifth time in program history. Competition gets underway Friday, May 6 with first-round matches featuring Wesleyan versus Bowdoin and Tufts against Amherst. Teams that advance out of the opening round will face No. 1 Williams and No. 2 Middlebury in the second round on Saturday, May 7. The NESCAC Women’s Tennis Championship concludes on Sunday, May 8 with action beginning at 9 a.m.
The NESCAC Championship features five teams from the tournament field a year ago. Last season, Amherst and Bowdoin advanced out of the first round. The Purple & White knocked off host Middlebury, while Williams dispatched the Polar Bears. Following their second-round wins, Amherst and the Ephs faced each other in the conference championship match for the tenth consecutive year. Amherst and Williams are the only programs to play in Sunday’s final every spring since the existing tournament format was adopted in 2006. Williams went on to win its third NESCAC title after defeating the Purple & White by a 5-2 score. The Ephs have previously hoisted the trophy in 2011 and 2013. Amherst captured five straight conference crowns from 2006-10, and again in 2012 and 2014.
Friday’s opening round starts with fourth-seeded Bowdoin (12-5, 5-3 NESCAC) taking on fifth-seeded Wesleyan (10-4, 6-4 NESCAC) for the second consecutive year on Friday morning. The Polar Bears won 10 of their first 11 matches in the spring schedule, including a 5-4 triumph over Wesleyan and wins against Bates, Hamilton and Trinity. Bowdoin handed Williams its lone conference loss in a 6-3 decision, but lost to Tufts, 7-2, in the regular season finale. The Cardinals are making back-to-back NESCAC Championship appearances for the first time in program history and third overall appearance. Wesleyan struggled early in its spring schedule, falling to the top four NESCAC seeds in its first five matches. Since suffering a 6-3 loss to Amherst on April 17, the Cardinals have put together a six-match winning streak, which includes wins over Bates, Colby, Tufts, Trinity and Connecticut College. Last year in the first round, Bowdoin edged the Cardinals, 5-4, in the only postseason meeting between the two squads.
The Bowdoin-Wesleyan victor will face No. 1 seed Williams (16-3, 6-1 NESCAC) on Saturday. The Ephs, who wrapped up the regular season with a 7-2 win over Tufts, are in pursuit of their fourth league crown in six years. Williams picked up its only conference loss of the season last Saturday when it fell to Bowdoin, 6-3, after defeating Amherst, Middlebury and Wesleyan. The Ephs lead the all-time conference postseason series against the Polar Bears, 5-0, including four straight semifinal wins and last year’s 5-1 decision. Williams and the Cardinals have not played in the NESCAC Championship.
Third-seeded Amherst (11-6, 5-2 NESCAC) will take on sixth-seeded Tufts (11-6, 5-4 NESCAC) in Friday’s other first-round match. The Purple & White, who enjoyed a seven-match winning streak midway through the season, earned a spot in the NESCAC Championship by defeating Bowdoin, Colby, Trinity, Wesleyan, and Tufts. The Jumbos opened their conference schedule with wins over Colby, Bates and Trinity before going on to defeat Connecticut College and Bowdoin to return to the postseason one year after missing the championship. Tufts is looking for its first conference championship win in four postseason appearances. The two programs are no strangers in championship competition, but Amherst has had the upper hand in the series, having won all three matches. However, the programs have not squared off since the 2010 semifinals when Amherst prevailed, 5-0.
Whichever team advances out of Friday’s first-round match will battle second-seeded Middlebury (12-3, 7-1 NESCAC). The Panthers earned the No. 2 seed for the second straight year after defeating Amherst, 6-3, in the final match of the regular season on Sunday. Middlebury started the spring by upending Hamilton, Bates and Wesleyan before falling to Williams, 7-2. The Panthers bounced back with a 5-4 win over Tufts, a 7-2 victory against Bowdoin, a 9-0 triumph over Connecticut College and a critical 6-3 win over Amherst to wrap up the regular season. In NESCAC postseason play, Middlebury is 0-5 against Amherst, including last year’s 5-4 loss in the semifinal round, and has not faced Tufts.
The format of the NESCAC Women’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 teams, 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 nescac.com.