Amherst Returns Top Five Players from 2010 NCAA Runner-Up Squad

For the second time in as many years, Amherst exceeded expectations to advance to the NCAA title match only to fall just shy of the program’s first national championship. Returning from their Spring Break trip with a 12-7 record, the Lord Jeffs won their next 11 matches against Division III competition to enter the regular season finale with a chance to clinch the top seed in the NESCAC Championship. A perfect conference record would be spoiled by top-ranked Middlebury in a 5-4 result, but Amherst still earned a first-round bye in the conference tournament as the No. 2 seed.

Amherst returns six of the seven players who competed in last year's NCAA title match.

Third-seeded Williams College upset Amherst in the tournament’s opening round, 5-3, but the Jeffs would get revenge only eight days later with a 5-2 victory against their archrivals in the Regional Finals of the NCAA Championship. Facing second-ranked Emory University in the national quarterfinals, Amherst was swept in doubles play but rallied to win five of the six remaining points, marking the first time since 2002 the Eagles did not advance to at least the semifinal round. The miraculous run continued the following day when the Jeffs once again came from behind for a 5-4 victory, this time upsetting third-ranked Claremont, but the road would end with a 5-1 loss to Middlebury in the title match.

Amherst finished the season with a 27-11 record and a No. 2 national ranking after going 28-7 the previous year. The Jeffs are 13-2 in their past 15 conference matches, as they have joined the upper echelon of the ultra-competitive NESCAC. Last year’s memorable season marked the end of the careers of Robert Abbey ’10, Dan Gonzalez ’10, Alex Kaufman ’10, Dan Kim ’10, Scott London ’10 and Priit Gross ’11.

Amherst’s Class of 2014 is highly touted, but it will be difficult for the newcomers to crack the starting lineup with the team’s top five players returning from last year’s national runner-up squad. Leading the veterans is lefty Austin Chafetz ’12, who at the end of last season was the fifth-ranked singles player in the country. Already a two-time All-NESCAC and All-America selection, Chafetz was named the ITA’s Northeast Rookie of the Year in 2009 and National Player to Watch in 2010. He has posted a 33-5 singles record in dual matches, including a 3-0 mark in the NCAA Tournament last year. Chafetz also won three matches in the national singles tournament as a sophomore, ending his season with a three-set loss in the semifinals.

While Chafetz has established himself as one of the best players in Division III, Mark Kahan ’13 was named the ITA National Rookie of the Year in 2010 as the 12th-ranked player in the country. Finishing with a 15-9 doubles record and an impressive 18-5 singles mark as the team’s #2 player, Kahan was one of only three first-years to earn All-NESCAC honors in 2010. Kahan was named to the All-America ranks after he advanced to the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Singles Tournament.

Moritz Koenig '11 was outstanding for Amherst in last year's NCAA Tournament.

Moritz Koenig ’11 stole headlines during last year’s NCAA Tournament run by winning a pair of crucial marathon matches against opponents from second-ranked Emory and third-ranked Claremont. He was the last man standing against Emory, winning the third set in a tiebreaker to seal the 5-4 win. The next day, Koenig trailed 6-1 in a third-set tiebreaker but fought off five match points en route to an improbable 11-9 win that tied the team score at 4-4. Playing in the team’s #3 hole, Koenig earned Second Team honors in both singles and doubles last year. In the final 2010 ITA rankings, Koenig rounded out the top 50 players in Division III.

Also looking to reclaim their spots in the singles lineup will be Wes Waterman ’12 and Sean Doerfler ’11, last year’s #4 and #5 players, respectively. Waterman went 16-7 in singles matches last year to follow up a dominant 2009 season that saw him go 17-2, including 4-0 in the NCAA Tournament. Doerfler has also been a regular in the lineup since his debut season, winning 12 of his 15 singles matches as a junior. Waterman and Doerfler also formed an outstanding duo as Amherst’s #3 doubles pairing last year, with their season concluding with an 8-4 win over Middlebury’s third doubles team in the NCAA finals.

Amherst’s entire doubles lineup returns, but there could be some shuffling this year with so many talented players competing for the top spots. Chafetz and Robby Sorrel ’12 were named to the All-NESCAC Second Team as Amherst’s #1 pairing, qualifying for the NCAA Doubles Tournament and finishing the season ranked #8 in Division III. Koenig and Kahan were also selected to the All-NESCAC Second Team as the Jeffs’ #2 pair, with Waterman and Doerfler rounding out the group.

Several other players have a significant amount of experience and this year will hope to earn a spot as a regular in Amherst’s singles and doubles lineups. Joining Koenig and Doerfler in the senior class are Tony Sheng ’11 and twin brothers Alex Gumport ’11 and Max Gumport ’11. Helping Chafetz, Waterman and Sorrel form a very deep junior class are Julian Camacho ’12, Chris Morrison ’12 and Jon Thaler ’12, with Sam Sperling ’12 and Andrew Jung ’12 also planning to join the team in the spring. Rounding out the returning players are Dan Keolasy ’13, Alex Kim ’13 and Will Rives ’13.

Sean Doerfler '11 posted a 12-3 record in singles matches last year.

Amherst is expected to be one of the deepest and most talented teams in Division III this year, but the fall season will not be the best indication of how the Lord Jeffs will fare in the spring. Amherst went 4-0 in its 2008-09 fall matches but only 2-2 last year against similar competition, with both seasons ending in the same fashion. The 2010-11 season will open with the three-day ITA Regional Championships, which are set to begin Friday, Sept. 24 at Williams College.

Select members of the team will then take part in the Dartmouth Invitational and Bates College’s Wallach Invitational in the first two weekends of October, with some Jeffs hitting the road for three dual matches in three days. Amherst will be put to the test against some of the nation’s top programs, traveling to take on #13 Johns Hopkins (Oct. 9), #8 Carnegie Mellon (Oct. 10) and #12 Kenyon (Oct. 11). When the ITA’s preseason rankings come out Nov. 4, Amherst could find itself holding strong in the top tier depending on how October’s dual matches turn out.

Joining the Lord Jeffs is Luis Rattenhuber ’12, who transfers from Division I San Diego State University. As a sophomore, Rattenhuber was the Aztecs’ #4 singles player and was part of their #2 doubles team. Head coach Chris Garner also welcomes a number of students who will try out for the team, including Matt Lerner ’13, Chris Dale ’14, Joe Fritz ’14, Eli Mlayer ’14, Justin Reindel ’14, Andrew Herrera ’14, Jaskaran Bains ’14, Varun Iyengar ’14, Philip Hendrix ’14 and Justin Hendrix ’14.