Amherst Drops Marathon Match to Middlebury, 5-4

First-year Andrew Jung put in an amazing effort but suffered a tough loss in the No. 3 singles match.

AMHERST, MA – In a battle between two of the nation’s best men's tennis teams with the No. 1 seed in the upcoming NESCAC Championship on the line, Amherst College came out on the losing end of a 5-4 marathon thriller with Middlebury College.

The 2009 NESCAC Men’s Tennis Championship will be hosted by Williams College and is set to begin Friday, May 1 with a pair of first-round matches. Middlebury (17-2, 9-0 NESCAC) and Amherst (23-5, 6-1 NESCAC) will likely earn first-round byes as the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, respectively, and will begin their title runs Saturday in the semifinal round.

While fifth-ranked Amherst had its 10-match winning streak come to a halt, the sixth-ranked Panthers picked up their ninth consecutive victory. Middlebury also increased its winning streak over Amherst to 14 matches, as the Jeffs have not defeated the Panthers since the spring of 2001.

The five-hour match came down to Amherst first-year Andrew Jung (Battle Creek, MI) and Middlebury junior Alex Lee in an intense #3 singles showdown. Jung earned a 6-2 win in the first set and seemed to have the victory wrapped up for Amherst when he led 5-1 in the second-set tiebreaker, but Lee stormed from behind to tie things up at one set apiece.

With all other singles matches already in the books, all eyes were on Lee and Jung. Amherst’s young star jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the third set but soon found himself trailing four games to three. Despite battling severe leg cramps, Jung regained the lead by winning back-to-back games to take a 5-4 advantage, but Lee once again demonstrated his toughness by battling back to take a 6-5 lead. Both players fought long and hard enough to deserve a win, but it was Lee who played the role of hero by earning a 7-5 win in the third set.

Sunday’s match kicked off with Amherst’s top doubles pair of Zack Lerner (Sacrsdale, NY) and Moritz Koenig (Hamburg, Germany) upsetting Middlebury’s David Farah and Andrew Thomson, 8-2. The Lord Jeff duo entered the match ranked #4 in the Northeast, with the Panthers’ top pair holding on to the #1 ranking.

Lerner and Koenig gave the Jeffs some early momentum, but the Panthers would head into singles play with a 2-1 lead. In the #2 doubles match, Rich Bonfiglio teamed up with Lee to defeat Amherst’s Priit Gross (Tartu, Estonia) and Austin Chafetz (Rancho Palos Verdes, CA) by an 8-5 margin. In a very close #3 matchup, Conrad Olson and Andrew Peters earned a 9-7 win over Jung and fellow Amherst first-year Wes Waterman (Palm Beach Gardens, FL).

Chafetz quickly tied things up at 2-2 when he earned a 6-2, 6-2 win over Thomson at #2, but the Panthers regained the lead when Peters defeated Koenig, 6-3, 7-5 at #4. Amherst pushed right back to tie things up at 3-3 when Amherst’s Gross grabbed a 6-3, 7-5 victory over Peter Odell at #5.

In a showdown between the top two players in the Northeast, it was Olson who came out on top in the #1 singles match with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Amherst’s Lerner. Waterman once again tied the match with an impressive 6-1, 7-6 win over Derrick Angle at #6, and it was just minutes later that Lee came from behind in the second-set tiebreaker  to send his match with Jung into a third set.

As the top two teams in the NESCAC and two of the best in all of Division III, Amherst and Middlebury have a good chance of running into each other in the postseason. The Jeffs and Panthers have met in the conference semifinals in each of the past three years, also squaring off in the NCAA Tournament in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

#6 Middlebury def. #5 Amherst, 5-4
1) Zack Lerner/Moritz Koenig (A) def. David Farah/Andrew Thomson (M), 8-2
2) Andrew Lee/Rich Bonfiglio (M) def. Priit Gross/Austin Chafetz (A), 8-5
3) Conrad Olson/Andrew Peters (M) def. Andrew Jung/Wes Waterman (A), 9-7

1) Conrad Olson (M) def. Zack Lerner (A) 6-3, 6-4
2) Austin Chafetz (A) def. Andrew Thomson (M) 6-2, 6-2
3) Andrew Lee (M) def. Andrew Jung (A) [2-6], 7-6 (8), 7-5
4) Andrew Peters (M) def. Moritz Koenig (A) 6-3, 7-5
5) Priit Gross (A) def. Peter Odell (M) 6-3, 7-5
6) Wes Waterman (A) def. Derrick Angle (M) 6-1, 7-6 (3)

2009 NESCAC Championship
(All matches played at Williams College)
Friday, May 1 – 9 a.m.
No. 6 vs. No. 3
No. 5 vs. No. 4

Saturday, May 2 – 9 a.m.
Winner of No. 4/No. 5 vs. No. 1
Winner of No. 3/No. 6 vs. No. 2

Sunday, May 3 – 9 a.m.
Semifinal winners