Amherst Falls to Williams in National Title Match, 5-2; Jeffs End Impressive Season with 21-2 Record

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LAWRENCEVILLE, GA – The Amherst College women’s tennis team had its 21-match winning streak come to a heartbreaking halt Thursday afternoon with a 5-2 loss to archrival Williams College in the NCAA Division III Championship title match at the Collins Hill Athletic Club in Lawrenceville, Georgia.

The Lord Jeffs managed to take two of three doubles points from their archrival Ephs, but those would be the final points top-ranked Amherst (21-2) would score as second-ranked Williams (21-2) put in an exceptional performance in singles action.

Williams successfully defended its 2008 NCAA title to mark the program’s fourth national championship victory. Amherst falls to 1-3 all-time in NCAA title matches, with its lone victory coming in 1999 when the Jeffs defeated the Ephs, 5-2, for the crown. Amherst and Williams are now 2-2 against one another all-time in NCAA Championship play.

Amherst’s 21-2 record marks the second highest win total in program history. The Jeffs and Ephs each finish the season at a perfect 19-0 in matches outside of their rivalry, as the two teams split their season series, 2-2.

The first three meetings between Amherst and Williams this season resulted in three different outcomes in doubles play. The Ephs won all three doubles points when they earned a 6-3 win over the Jeffs on Oct. 11, but Amherst won two of three doubles points in an April matchup before Williams took two out of three in the NESCAC finals.

This time around it would be the Jeffs who once again had the edge in doubles play, with junior Brittany Berckes (Secaucus, NJ) and sophomore Natasha Brown (Woodland Hills, CA) earning an 8-3 win over Cary Gibson and Nicole Reich to mark their third victory over the Ephs’ top pair this year.

Just as impressive for Amherst were junior Jill Wexler (Beverly, MA) and first-year Laura Danzig (Allendale, NY), who cruised to an 8-2 win over Annie Hancock and Kristin Alotta in the #3 match. Salvaging a crucial point for Williams was the #2 pair of Grace Baljon and Taylor French, who picked up an impressive 8-1 victory over Amherst’s Mimi Bell (Cleveland, OH) and Anuja Ankola (Scarsdale, NY).

It was all Williams in singles competition as the Ephs picked up two-set victories in the first, third, fourth and fifth slots. Reich got things going with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Wexler at #3, and Lucy Marchese made it 3-2 when she defeated Laken King (Laurelton, NY) at #5. Both of the Eph victories avenged losses they had suffered in the NESCAC finals, as Wexler and King were unable to repeat their success that helped Amherst win the conference title.

The Ephs’ fourth and fifth points were separated by only seconds. Kristin Alotta knocked off Amherst’s Brown at #4 for the second time this season, and just moments later the match was sealed with a Williams victory at #1. When they last faced each other Berckes cruised to a 6-1, 6-2 win over Baljon to avenge a three-set loss back in April, but Baljon would take the season series with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Amherst’s top player on Thursday to give her team the national title.

The #6 match paired Amherst’s Bell with Hancock of Williams. Hancock had defeated Bell twice this season, but when play was suspended on Thursday Bell held a lead after she took the first set in a tiebreaker, 7-6 (8-6). Rounding out the singles matches were Amherst’s Carlissa King (Laurelton, NY) and Gibson at #2. When play was stopped, the players were tied at one set apiece, with King taking the first by a 6-3 margin and Gibson winning the second, 7-5.

For Amherst, the season will continue Friday for Berckes, Brown and Carlissa King. While Berckes and King will each compete for a national singles title, Berckes and Brown will attempt to give the Jeffs their third consecutive doubles crown. For schedules and a list of individual participants, visit the Amherst Championship Website.

#2 Williams (21-2) def. #1 Amherst (21-2), 5-2
(NCAA Division III Championship Finals)

Doubles
1. Brittany Berckes/Natasha Brown (A) def. Cary Gibson/Nicole Reich (W), 8-3
2. Grace Baljon/Taylor French (W) def. Mimi Bell/Anuja Ankola (A), 8-1
3. Jill Wexler/Laura Danzig (A) def. Annie Hancock/Kristin Alotta (W), 8-2

Singles
1. Grace Baljon (W) def. Brittany Berckes (A) 6-4, 6-3
2. Carlissa King (A) tied with Cary Gibson (W) 6-3, [5-7] (DNF)
3. Nicole Reich (W) def. Jill Wexler (A) 6-4, 6-3
4. Kristin Alotta (W) def. Natasha Brown (A) 7-5, 6-4
5. Lucy Marchese (W) def. Laken King (A) 6-4, 6-0
6. Mimi Bell (A) leads Annie Hancock (W) 7-6 (8-6) (DNF)