Deep Senior Class to Lead Six-Time Defending NESCAC Champs

Amherst’s national dominance under head coach Jackie Bagwell continued as the Lord Jeffs were ranked between No. 1 and No. 3 in Division III throughout the 2009-10 season. Amherst began the year with a 6-3 win over Williams and got off to an 11-1 start, losing only to NAIA powerhouse Concordia in the opening month of the spring season. The Ephs got revenge with a 6-3 result that knocked Amherst out of the top spot, but the Jeffs responded by winning their next six matches en route to their sixth consecutive outright NESCAC title. Amherst blanked Williams in the championship match, 5-0, to mark the fifth time in as many years the Ephs lost in the finals.

2010 NESCAC Champs
Amherst won its sixth consecutive outright NESCAC title last year.

Earning the top seed in the NCAA Tournament, Amherst hosted and breezed through the regional rounds to advance to the national quarterfinals for the 15th time in 16 years. After shutting out 10th-ranked Carnegie Mellon to mark the program’s 10th appearance in the semifinals, fourth-ranked Emory University halted Amherst’s run at a national title for the sixth time. The 2010 season would end on a high note, however, with the Jeffs rebounding for a 5-2 win over third-ranked Chicago in the consolation match. Amherst finished the year at 21-3 and improved its NCAA Tournament record to 36-18.

Amherst saw the collegiate careers of Brittany Berckes ’10, Jill Wexler ’10, Christina Martinez ’10 and Jennifer Ouyang ’10 come to a close. Regulars in the team’s lineup since 2006, Wexler and Berckes each put together an impressive career as part of a class that went 76-12 in dual matches and won four NESCAC titles. Notably, Berckes was a two-time NCAA doubles champion with Alicia Menezes ’08, posting a 48-22 singles record and 57-23 doubles mark in dual match play during her four years. In addition to being recognized countless times for her success on the court, Berckes earned prestigious Academic All-America honors as a senior.

The loss of Berckes will result in a new face atop Amherst’s singles lineup, and Coach Bagwell hopes one of her veteran players will step up to take on that role. Leading candidates are Laura Danzig ’12 and Carlissa King ’11, who last year played at #2 and #3, respectively. King is a two-time All-NESCAC selection in singles play, qualifying for the NCAA Singles Tournament as a sophomore. Finishing last season as the ITA’s 18th-ranked player in the Northeast, King boasts a 37-5 career singles record, including a 15-1 mark a year ago.

Danzig enjoyed a breakout sophomore season in which she earned All-NESCAC First Team honors in both singles and doubles. During a dominant stretch late in the 2009-10 season, Danzig earned four impressive wins over regionally-ranked opponents in a span of only 20 days. She qualified for the NCAA Singles and Doubles Tournaments and finished the year ranked No. 20 in Division III. Danzig is 33-9 all-time in doubles matches, and last season went 15-2 in singles competition. 

Carlissa King
Carlissa King '11 went 15-1 in singles matches last year.
(Photo by Julie Wredge at

Also returning to the lineup are Natasha Brown ’11 and Laken King ’11, who for the past three years have formed an outstanding base at the bottom of Amherst’s singles ladder. Brown is a two-time All-NESCAC selection in doubles, winning 18 of last year’s 20 matches to bring her career record to 43-17. Her career singles record of 48-6 is even more dominant, as Brown went 18-0 as a first-year, 17-4 as a sophomore and 13-2 a year ago.  Laken’s career in singles play is virtually identical to Brown’s, as she is 48-5 thanks to season records of 15-1, 19-2 and 14-2.

Mimi Bell ’11 also brings significant experience to the senior class, as she played a vital role in leading Amherst to the 2009 NCAA title match. In addition to going 14-7 in doubles matches during a breakout sophomore season, she won 14 of her 17 singles bouts as the team’s #6 player. Rounding out the deep senior class are Danielle Erb ’11, Jennifer Kim ’11 and Charlotte Wilinsky ’11.

Joining Danzig in the junior class are Alison Fornell ’12, Ashley McCall ’12 and Kim Snyder ’12, who will help to fill the void left by Berckes and Wexler. Highlighting the sophomores is Caroline Richman ’13, who won all eight of her singles matches and went 19-4 in doubles play as a first-year. Also making their collegiate debuts last year were Priyanka Kumar ’13, Sarah Nyirjesy ’13 and Kate Paul ’13, who each went 1-0 in singles and doubles.

The team’s doubles lineup will need some remodeling, as Danzig and Brown each lost their partner to graduation. Carlissa King and Richman played together in the #3 spot last year and went 14-3, including a 6-1 record in the postseason. With so many players returning outstanding doubles records, the Jeffs have a number of promising options.

Coach Bagwell begins her 20th year at Amherst with an incredible 285-53 record (.843) in dual matches, leaving her within reach of the 300-win milestone. The Jeffs have not lost more than four matches in any of the past seven seasons, posting a 117-22 mark (.842) during that stretch. Replacing Berckes won’t be easy, but this year’s seniors make up one of the most dominant classes in program history and should carry the team far.

Joining the Lord Jeffs are Jordan Brewer ’14, Gabby Devlin ’14, Jen Newman ’14, Lauren Slutsky ’14, Zoe Pangalos ’14, Isabel Camacho ’14, Alex Budd ’14 and Maggie Seaver ’14, who make up the most promising recruiting class in Division III according to The 2010-11 season kicks off Friday, Sept. 17 with the three-day ITA Championships at Babson College. Amherst will host Williams Saturday, Oct. 2, for the rivals’ usual fall showdown.