HADLEY, Mass. - Middlebury is the top seed for the 2017 NESCAC Women’s Tennis Championship that will be played May 5-7 at Williams. Competition gets underway Friday, May 5 with first-round matches featuring Wesleyan versus Bowdoin and Tufts against Amherst. Teams that advance out of the opening round will face the top-seeded Panthers and No. 2 Williams in the second round on Saturday, May 6. The NESCAC Women’s Tennis Championship concludes on Sunday, May 7 with action beginning at 1 p.m.
The 2017 NESCAC Championship features five teams from the tournament field a year ago. Last season, Amherst and Wesleyan advanced out of the first round. The Mammoths fell to Middlebury, while Williams dispatched the Cardinals. Following their second-round wins, the Panthers and Ephs faced each other in the conference championship match for the first time. Williams went on to win its seventh NESCAC title after defeating the Panthers by a 5-0 score.
Friday’s opening round starts with fourth-seeded Wesleyan (11-3, 5-3 NESCAC) taking on fifth-seeded Bowdoin (13-4, 5-3 NESCAC) for the third consecutive year. The Cardinals are making their third straight NESCAC Championship appearance and fourth overall. Wesleyan finished the regular season winning four out of its last five matches. The Cardinals have wins over Amherst, Bates, Connecticut College, Hamilton and Trinity this season. The Polar Bears, who are seeking their first NESCAC title, won eight of their first nine matches to start the spring and have victories against Bates, Colby, Connecticut College, Trinity and Tufts. Wesleyan and Bowdoin did not play each other during the regular season and have split their two postseason matchups. Last year in the first round, Wesleyan earned a 5-1 win over Bowdoin to advance to the second round for the first time in program history.
The Bowdoin-Wesleyan victor will face No. 1 seed Middlebury (13-3, 8-0 NESCAC) on Saturday. The Panthers are the top seed for the first time since 2007 and enter the NESCAC Tournament riding a 10-match win streak. Middlebury is in pursuit of its first conference title after advancing to the final last season before falling to Williams, 5-0. Middlebury, which went unbeaten in NESCAC play, defeated Wesleyan (6-3) and Bowdoin (8-1) during the regular season.
Third-seeded Tufts (13-5, 6-3 NESCAC) will take on sixth-seeded Amherst (6-8, 4-4 NESCAC) in Friday’s other first-round match. Tufts is the No. 3 seed for the first time since 2011, which was the last time the Jumbos advanced to the semifinals. Tufts, which is looking for its first NESCAC title, defeated the Mammoths, 5-4, on April 19 and owns wins over Bates, Colby, Hamilton, Trinity and Wesleyan this spring. Amherst has advanced to the final 10 of the last 11 years and won league-best nine NESCAC Championships, the most titles among the field. The Mammoths have wins over Bates, Bowdoin, Connecticut College and Hamilton this season. Despite not playing each other in the regular season this year, the two programs are no strangers in championship competition, having played each other four times. Amherst has won all four matches, including a 5-4 victory in the opening round last year.
The Tufts/Amherst winner will battle second-seeded Williams (13-4, 7-1 NESCAC). The Ephs earned a bye into the second round for the 10th straight season. Williams, the two-time defending champions, opened the spring with five wins in its first seven matches. The only blemish on the Ephs’ conference schedule was a 6-3 loss at Middlebury on April 8. Williams defeated Tufts, 7-2, last weekend and earned an 8-1 win over Amherst on April 15. The Ephs, who have won seven championships overall, are 2-0 against Tufts in the postseason and last faced the Jumbos in the 2011 semifinals. Williams is 3-7 against Amherst in tournament play. The teams last played each other in the 2015 final, with the Ephs coming away with a 5-2 victory.
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.