Men's Tennis Set For Second Championship Run
Contact: Ben Badua
Luis Rattenhuber '13 went 14-6 in first singles for the Lord Jeffs last season.
Determined to make the most of their 2010-11 campaign, the Lord Jeffs raced out to a 17-0 mark to open the season before suffering their first loss of the year on Mar. 26 against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. Amherst responded to their first setback by rattling off 12-straight wins, knocking off then-top-ranked Middlebury in its regular season finale on Apr. 30.
The Lord Jeffs then cruised to their first NESCAC Championship since 1992, handily defeating both Bowdoin and archrival Williams, 5-0. Amherst carried its dominance into the NCAA Tournament, sweeping Roger Williams University, The College of New Jersey and Trinity University (TX) in its first three matches.
With Williams once again standing in the way, Amherst bore down and eliminated its Williamstown counterpart with a decisive 5-1 decision to earn the program's third NCAA Championship appearance. Not to be denied after runner-up finishes in 2009 and 2010, the Lord Jeffs finished what they started, ousting Emory University by a score of 5-2 to secure the program's first-ever national title, while finishing the year with a remarkable 36-1 record.
"The most enjoyable moment for me was to see how excited they were after accomplishing their goal of winning a national championship," said head coach Chris Garner, the NESCAC's 2011 Coach of the Year. "Obviously a lot more goes into the season than wins and losses, but it was really nice to see their reaction to winning it all. It was fun to be a part of their overall enjoyment and experience."
KEY LOSSES/RETURNING PLAYERS
Should Amherst hope to duplicate last season's success, it must do so without the help of five graduated seniors from last year's championship squad, including ITA All-America and All-NESCAC honoree Moritz Koenig. In addition to advancing to the NCAA Doubles Tournament semifinals with Wes Waterman '12, Koenig served as one of the squad's emotional leaders, leading by example and helping to set the team's tone.
"Moritz is going to be a big loss," Garner said. "He was one of the hardest workers on the team for four years. He really brought a culture to the team, as far as someone who consistently cared and took a lot of pride in his involvement with the squad, and hopefully there will be other guys to step up and replace that meaning he brought to the program."
Despite Koenig's loss, Amherst does return all six of its singles starters from last year's national championship match with Emory, including All-American honorees Luis Rattenhuber '13, Mark Kahan '13, Austin Chafetz '12 and Waterman.
Austin Chafetz '12 went 12-1 in singles and 11-4 in doubles play last season
Rattenhuber was stellar in his role as the Lord Jeffs' top singles player a year ago, compiling a 14-6 overall record. Equally as impressive as a doubles player, the Munich, Germany native posted an 11-4 mark with Chafetz, advancing to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Doubles Tournament.
Chafetz, who earned a 6-1, 6-0 victory in the NCAA Championship match against Emory, went 12-1 in singles action last season, while Kahan posted a 22-4 overall singles mark, including a 5-0 record during the Lord Jeffs' NCAA Tournament run.
"I think a lot of things have to fall into place in order to be one of the best teams out there," Garner said. "Just because you have really good players doesn't mean you're always going to be a really good team. If the guys work hard and they're passionate about their experience, I know they'll be competitive with the teams they'll face this year."
Also returning from last season's NCAA Championship lineup are Andrew Jung '12, Joey Fritz '14 and Chris Dale '14. Jung went 11-1 during singles play last season with a 9-2 doubles mark, while Fritz finished 13-7 as a first-year singles player with a 10-3 doubles record. Dale enjoyed an equally impressive first season in Purple and White, quietly putting together an unblemished 11-0 singles mark in fourth through sixth singles action, and a 14-2 doubles record that included an 8-4 third doubles win with Kahan over Emory in the national title match.
Also among those looking to make an impact this season are Robby Sorrel '12, Julian Camacho '12 and Justin Reindel '14. Sorrel went 10-1 in 2010-11 doubles play, including an 8-0 record playing alongside Dale, while Reindel posted a 19-3 singles ledger and 12-2 doubles slate. Camacho made the most of his appearances, finishing 8-4 in singles and 5-2 in doubles action.
"We're just trying to create an environment where every guy on the team is having a great athletic experience," Garner said. "I hope that everyone is involved and eager to be on the team, and hopefully they're out there trying to make each other better. As long as they're using their time athletically to work hard, improve and push each other, I think the guys can be a competitive team this year."
Amherst opens its fall season with the ITA Regional Tournament hosted by Williams College on Sept. 23-25. The Lord Jeffs will then square off with Johns Hopkins University on Oct. 8 before facing Carnegie Mellon University on Oct. 9. Amherst closes out its fall dual match schedule against in-state rival Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Oct. 15.
"My expectations and goals are not necessarily based on winning and losing," Garner said. "My main concern is whether our guys are getting a valuable experience here at Amherst, and as long as they're getting that I feel like we'll have a good season, wherever it winds up."