Amherst Looking to Return to National Championships in 2009

Zack Lerner
Senior Zack Lerner earned ITA All-American status
in each of the last two years.

2007-08 Recap
During his head coaching debut last season, Chris Garner introduced both a hard work ethic and a difficult match schedule to the Lord Jeffs in an effort to get the most out of his players. Despite missing out on the NCAA tournament with a 10-9 overall record, the hard work paid off when Amherst pulled off a tremendous upset in the NESCAC Championship opening round by defeating fourth-ranked and third-seeded Williams College. The win not only avenged a 6-3 loss to the Ephs from earlier in the season, but it marked the first time since the spring of 1994 that Amherst had gotten the best of its archrival. The Jeffs’ season came to a close with a loss in the conference semifinals to national semifinalist Middlebury, but they were able to earn two spots on the All-NESCAC Team and send one player to compete in the NCAA Singles Championship. Another high point of the season came with a 6-3 upset over then-12th ranked DePauw University to close out a Spring Break trip.

Amherst loses four seniors to graduation in Mike Mintz, Jeff Wan, Tal Avrahami and Geoff Schwartz. Mintz highlighted the Class of 2008 by earning All-NESCAC honors for the first time in his career, as he landed a spot on the Second Team for his singles play. Mintz posted an overall record of 9-7 and spent most of his time at the #2 position, as he went 6-6 as the Jeffs’ No. 2 player, 1-1 as the No. 1, and 2-0 as the No. 3. Wan was just as impressive in singles play last year, posting an 11-5 record that included victories in the #3 spot against Division II Concordia and against Williams in the conference championship opening round.

The Jeffs’ most experienced doubles player last year was Avrahami, who went 11-4 overall and 9-3 in the #3 spot, with two of those losses coming at the hands of Division II and III opponents. Avrahami ended his doubles career on a high note by upsetting pairs from Williams and Middlebury in the NESCAC Championship. Schwartz was also an experienced doubles player, spending most of his time paired with Wan in the #2 hole but playing four matches at #1 and three at #3, as he accounted for five of the team’s doubles victories as a senior.

Returning Players
Highlighting the Class of 2009 is Zack Lerner, who last year earned his second consecutive All-NESCAC First Team selection, and also a two-time ITA All-American. Although Lerner was 11-9 in singles play at the #1 position last season, he closed out the year by winning six of his last seven matches, including a straight-set victory in the first round of the NESCAC Championship that helped lift the Lord Jeffs past the Ephs. Lerner was once again invited to compete in the NCAA Singles Championship, where he was knocked out in the opening round.

This year’s juniors will be led by Daniel Kim and Dan Gonzalez. Kim went 7-7 in singles play as a sophomore and seemed to shine against tougher competition, as he was a combined 4-0 when playing in the #2 or #3 spots but just 1-7 in the #4 and #5 holes. Gonzalez never tasted defeat in his five matches last year, posting a 3-0 mark in singles competition and a 2-0 record in doubles play.

Amherst was fortunate to have several first-years step into leading roles last year, as this year’s sophomores will bring plenty of valuable experience to the team. Tony Sheng had success similar to that of Gonzalez, going 5-1 in singles competition with his only loss coming at the hands of a Division II opponent. Sean Doerfler was thrown right into the mix, spending most of his time as a top-three singles player and teamed up with Lerner as Amherst’s #1 doubles pair. Doerfler was 5-5 in doubles action and earned six singles victories, including three as the Jeffs’ #2 player. Moritz Koenig was also impressive in his debut season, winning four doubles matches and five singles matches. Koenig was 4-1 as the #5 singles player and a combined 4-4 when playing in the #2 and #3 doubles matches.

Also returning to the team and looking to play larger roles will be senior Peter Stein, juniors Scott London, Alex Kaufman, Ben Krause and Robert Abbey, and sophomores Max Gumport, Alex Gumport and Tristan Biesecker, all of whom combined to go 5-2 in singles play and 4-2 in doubles last year.

Coach Garner welcomes 10 additions to the team this year in transfer student Priit Gross and first-years Robert Sorrel, Julian Camacho, Austin Chafetz, Andrew Jung, Surainder Asokaraj, Wesley Waterman, Sean Sperling, Jonathan Thaler and Chris Morrison.

Season Outlook
Amherst will have the opportunity to compete against a number of the top teams in the country. The fall schedule is highlighted by dual matches with Wesleyan, national championship contender Kenyon, and Johns Hopkins and Carnegie Mellon, both of whom could be top ten teams by season’s end. The Jeffs will face stiff conference competition in the spring as they face the top six teams in the NESCAC. The 2008-09 season begins Friday, Sept. 26, when Amherst will take part in the ITA individual singles and doubles regional championships at Williams.