Athletics

Amherst Returns Deep Lineup for Title Run

NESCAC09
Amherst returns the entire singles lineup from a National Runner-Up squad for 2009-10.

2008-09 Recap
Last year, the Amherst College women’s tennis team lost to only one squad all season en route to a 21-2 overall record. The Lord Jeffs opened their year with a loss to archrival Williams College, and after 21-straight wins, ended the year with a loss to the Ephs in the 2009 National Championship match. During the win streak, Amherst defeated the Ephs twice, including a win that sealed Amherst’s sixth straight NESCAC Championship.

Amherst’s run through the conference tournament earned the Jeffs the right to host the first three rounds of NCAA Tournament action once again. For the second straight season Amherst made quick work of Skidmore College after earning a first-round bye, setting the table for the year’s third meeting with Tufts University. Amherst took a regular season match over the Jumbos 5-4, before winning 5-2 in the conference tournament. In the NCAA’s third round, Tufts jumped out to a 2-1 lead after doubles, and sat tied 3-3 halfway through singles play before the Jeffs were able to advance with a 5-3 result. Amherst traveled to Lawrenceville, GA for the national quarterfinals where they would run past Gustavus Adolphus 6-0, before edging University of Chicago 5-4 in the semifinals. The Lord Jeffs’ magical run came to a close the following afternoon though, as Williams won its second straight national championship with a 5-2 result.

Losses
Amherst lost a trio of graduating seniors last season in tri-captains Tara Shabahang, Melissa Moulton and Anuja Ankola. All three players played a vital role in leading the program on and off the courts, and will be remembered for their dedicated service to the team. During their four years on the team, Amherst won four outright NESCAC Championships and went 67-12 overall in dual matches. Notably, Ankola played a vital role during the 2008-09 campaign, pairing with Mimi Bell at number two doubles.

Key Returnees
The 2009-10 Amherst women’s tennis team will have a strong chance to return to the national championship match once again, as the squad returns all six singles players from last year’s lineup, while losing just one doubles competitor in Ankola. Headlining this year’s senior class is quad-captain and three-time ITA All-American Brittany Berckes. She is joined by classmates Jill Wexler, Jennifer Ouyang and Christina Martinez to form the team’s quad-captain group. Wexler has consistently played both singles and doubles for Amherst, while Ouyang and Martinez will look to break into the lineup as regulars this season.

Amherst returns seven juniors to the courts this fall, including four regulars from last year’s singles ladder. Leading the class of juniors is the twin sister duo of Carlissa and Laken King, who played singles in nearly every match last year. Classmates Mimi Bell, Jennifer Kim and Charlotte Wilinsky will look to contribute coming off a strong year of development last season. Juniors Natasha Brown and Danielle Erb are taking the fall season off to study abroad, but will return to give the team a boost once again this spring.

Sophomores Laura Danzig, Ashley McCall and Kim Snyder return after a successful rookie year. Danzig played as the number six singles player for most of her first season, and should slide back into a regular role this fall, while McCall and Snyder will hope to find a slot in the lineup this year.

Newcomers
Amherst welcomes four first-years to the program, with rookies Kate Paul, Caroline Richman, Priyanka Kumar and Sarah Nyirjesy arriving on campus this fall. Both Richman and Paul were heavily recruited coming out of high school, and could make an impact as soon as this year.

Fall Season Outlook
Amherst will once again open their fall slate with the ITA Championships at MIT on Sept. 18, before traveling to face Williams in a dual match Oct. 3. The Jeffs will play in a doubles tournament at Middlebury the following weekend, before serving as one of three hosts for the NEWITTs Oct. 16-18.