HADLEY, Mass. - Defending conference champion Amherst will have its sights set on a second consecutive league title when the Jeffs host the 2013 edition of the NESCAC Women's Tennis Championship. Action gets underway Friday, May 3 with first round matches featuring Trinity against Bowdoin and Tufts versus Middlebury. Teams that advance out of the opening round will face top-seeded Amherst and second-seeded Williams in the semifinals on Saturday, May 4. The NESCAC Women's Tennis Championship concludes on Sunday afternoon with action beginning at 1:00 p.m.
The NESCAC championship features the same tournament field for the fifth-straight year. During last year's tournament, Middlebury and Bowdoin advanced out of the first round, only to fall in the semifinals to host Amherst and host Williams. With their second round wins, the Lord Jeffs and the Ephs were pitted against each other in the conference championship match yet again. Amherst and Williams have met in Sunday's final every spring since the current tournament format was adopted in 2006. Amherst had emerged as the victor in the first five meetings, three of which ended in 5-4 decisions, however Williams would not be denied in 2011 as the Ephs claimed a 5-3 win for their first NESCAC crown since sharing the title with the Jeffs in 2004. Amherst claimed the 2012 title from the host Ephs, in a 5-2 decision for their seventh NESCAC championship.
Friday's opening round features fourth-seeded Middlebury (10-5, 6-2 NESCAC) against fifth-seeded Tufts (8-8, 5-4 NESCAC). The Panthers suffered only two losses to league opponents this spring- both 5-4 decisions to Amherst and Bowdoin. Middlebury handed Williams a 6-3 loss on March 28 and enters the tournament winning three of their last four matches. The Panthers will face the Jumbos for the second time in just over two weeks, as Middlebury claimed the regular season meeting 7-2 on April 21. The setback for Tufts was part of a 5-4 NESCAC schedule in the month of April that saw the Jumbos collect two 8-1 wins over Colby and Bates, two 9-0 triumphs over Hamilton and Wesleyan, and a 5-4 win over Trinity. This will be the third time Middlebury and Tufts have met in the championship, and each team has a win to its credit in the series.
Whichever team advances out of Friday's first round match will have the challenge of getting past top-seeded Amherst (16-1, 9-0 NESCAC). The Jeffs have been tough to beat this season, as their lone loss of the year came at Division II Lynn on March 20, 7-2, and they have rattled off 14 wins since then. There have been a few close calls in the last two weeks, with Amherst taking 5-4 wins from Williams on April 20 and Middlebury on April 28.
Third-seeded Bowdoin (13-3, 6-2 NESCAC) will battle sixth-seeded Trinity (11-6, 3-5 NESCAC) in the other first round match on Friday afternoon. Like Williams and Middlebury, Bowdoin posted only two conference losses this spring, dropping back to back matches Amherst (7-2) and Williams (6-3). The day after losing to the Ephs, Bowdoin suffered an 8-1 loss to Emory, but rebounded to enter the tournament riding a five-match win streak. In the tournament for the fifth consecutive year, the Bantams grabbed the last spot in this year's championship for the second straight year. Trinity fell to Bowdoin, 7-2, on March 20 and dropped a heartbreaking 5-4 decision to Tufts on April 25.
The Bowdoin-Trinity winner on Friday will rise to face second-seeded Williams (16-4, 6-2 NESCAC) on Saturday. Winners of five straight NCAA Division III Women's Tennis Championships, the Ephs are in pursuit of their second NESCAC title in three years. The Ephs dropped two matches to their rival Amherst this season, along with the 6-3 loss to Middlebury and a 5-4 nail biter to Claremont-Mudd-Scripts in early March. Aside from the April 20 setback to Amherst, Williams has won the rest of its seven matches in April.
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 www.nescac.com.