Amherst Defeats Chicago in NCAA Semifinals, 5-4; Jeffs to Face Williams Thursday for National Title

Sophomore Carlissa King earned the fifth and deciding point for Amherst on Wednesday.
LAWRENCEVILLE, GA – The Amherst College women’s tennis team earned a 5-4 victory over the University of Chicago Wednesday afternoon in the NCAA Division III Championship Semifinals at the Collins Hill Athletic Club in Lawrenceville, Georgia. The Lord Jeffs will take on archrival Williams College Thursday at 1 p.m. for the national title.

Before top-ranked Amherst (21-1) takes on second-ranked Williams (20-2) in the title match, third-ranked Emory University (21-5) will face fourth-ranked Chicago (16-5) in the consolation match at 9 a.m. Both matches will feature live updates on the Amherst Championship Website.

In what was Amherst’s first ever meeting with Chicago in the postseason, it was sophomore Carlissa King (Laurelton, NY) who earned the fifth and deciding point that sent the Lord Jeffs into the national finals for the fourth time in program history.

Amherst is 1-2 all-time in NCAA title matches, with their lone championship coming in 1999 when the Jeffs defeated Williams for the crown, 5-2. Amherst also defeated Williams in the 2004 semifinals, just one year after the Ephs earned a 5-4 victory over the Jeffs in the consolation match.

The last time Amherst played for the national title was 2007, when the Jeffs suffered a 5-2 loss to Washington & Lee. The Jeffs also finished as the runners-up in 2004 when they were defeated by Emory in the finals, 5-0.

Williams—the defending national champion—will be making its sixth appearance in the NCAA Championship finals. The Ephs won the title in 2001, 2002 and 2008, and were the runners-up in 1994 and 1999.

The Jeffs and Ephs are each 19-0 in matches outside of their rivalry this season. After Williams earned a 6-3 win over Amherst on Oct. 11, the Jeffs responded with a 5-4 victory on Apr. 18 before they defeated their archrivals in the NESCAC title match, 5-4.

The Jeffs increased their winning streak to 21 matches to mark the program’s second highest win total, as Amherst went 20-0 in 1999 and 22-5 in 2001 in head coach Jackie Bagwell’s other 20-win seasons.

Amherst needed to play from behind Wednesday against Chicago as the Maroons took two out of three doubles points. Picking up the big win for the Jeffs were junior Jill Wexler (Beverly, MA) and first-year Laura Danzig (Allendale, NY), who defeated Carmen VacaGuzman and Tiffany Nguyen in the #3 match, 8-4.

Falling at #1 doubles were junior Brittany Berckes (Secaucus, NJ) and sophomore Natasha Brown (Woodland Hills, CA), who dropped an 8-6 result to Kendra Higgins and Chrissy Hu. Sophomore Mimi Bell (Cleveland, OH) and senior Anuja Ankola (Scarsdale, NY) were handed an 8-2 loss in the #2 matchup by Jennifer Kung and Vindya Dayananda.

Brown tied things up for Amherst with a convincing 6-2, 6-0 win over Hu in the fourth singles match, and the teams alternated wins to tie the score at 3-3 and 4-4. With the match on the line, King played well under pressure to earn a two-set victory over Kung, 7-5, 6-4.

Accounting for Amherst’s other singles victories were Laken King (Laurelton, NY) and Bell at #5 and #6, respectively. Laken King handed Dayananda a 6-4, 6-4 loss, while Bell earned a 6-1, 7-5 win over Nguyen. Berckes gave Higgins a good fight in the top matchup, but Chicago pulled out the 6-1, [3-6], 6-2 victory. After picking up the big win in doubles play, Wexler fell to VacaGuzman in the #3 slot, 6-3, 6-4.

#1 Amherst (21-1) def. #4 Chicago (16-5), 5-4
(NCAA Division III Championship Semifinals)

1. Kendra Higgins/Chrissy Hu (C) def. Brittany Berckes/Natasha Brown (A), 8-6
2. Jennifer Kung/Vindya Dayananda (C) def. Mimi Bell/Anuja Ankola (A), 8-2
3. Jill Wexler/Laura Danzig (A) def. Carmen VacaGuzman/Tiffany Nguyen (C), 8-4

1. Kendra Higgins (C) def. Brittany Berckes (A) 6-1, [3-6], 6-2
2. Carlissa King (A) def. Jennifer Kung (C) 7-5, 6-4
3. Carmen VacaGuzman (C) def. Jill Wexler (A) 6-3, 6-4
4. Natasha Brown (A) def. Chrissy Hu (C) 6-2, 6-0
5. Laken King (A) def. Vindya Dayananda (C) 6-4, 6-4
6. Mimi Bell (A) def. Tiffany Nguyen (C) 6-1, 7-5