Such matches are often lose-lose situations. The higher-ranked team should win, so victory merely maintains the team’s record and comes without any real reward. “We had everything to lose and nothing to gain,” said Head Coach Peter Robson. However, Amherst came away with four wins over rivals Franklin and Marshall, Bates, Bowdoin and Colby Colleges to prove that the team’s number 11 national ranking is well-deserved.
The morning of Feb. 7 began with a 5-4 win over 14th-ranked Bowdoin. The Polar Bears edged the Jeffs in the first, third, fifth and sixth spots, but Amherst held on for the win.
First-year Auloke Mathur won handily in the second spot, winning his first game 10-8 before going on to trounce Polar Bear Jon Crowell in the next two games, 9-1 and 9-4. Nick Haslett ’06 glowed in the fourth slot for Amherst. After dropping his first game he won three straight and took his match.
In the hardest-fought Amherst victory of the Bowdoin match, Amherst rookie Peter Hatfield defeated Zach Linhart in five games (3-9, 9-0, 9-3, 3-9, 9-5). Also winning their matches were co-captain Brian Lawrence ’05 in the eighth spot (10-8, 9-4, 9-3) and Stuart Landesberg ’07 in the ninth spot, who won by default.
The second match of the day was the toughest of the weekend. Amherst faced Bates, fresh off of an easy 7-2 victory over Franklin and Marshall. However, the Jeffs rose to the challenge to win by a comfortable 6-3 margin.
All six Amherst victories came in hard fought matches that went four or five games. Junior Michael Strong nearly picked up his first individual victory of the day on the first court, but with the match tied up at 2-2 he lost the final game to Ben Schippers and ultimately fell 2-3. Mathur negated the loss with his second win of the day, a four-game victory in which he persevered after dropping the second game (9-3, 9-10, 9-3, 9-1).
Gifford Sommerkamp ’05 and Haslett won in the third and fourth spots, respectively. Sommerkamp’s victory came in four games (9-0, 5-9, 9-4, 9-4), while Haslett managed to quelch a late-match surge by his opponent to win in five (9-3, 9-7, 5-9, 1-9, 10-9).
In his second marathon match of the day in the seventh spot, Hatfield pulled out a five-game win (9-7, 8-10, 9-2, 5-9, 10-9). He was one of five Amherst players to have perfect records on the day-Lawrence, Landesberg, Mathur and Haslett were the others.
The following morning Amherst came away with another 6-3 win, this time over 12th-ranked Franklin and Marshall. Though Strong, Mathur and Sommerkamp lost in the top three spots, the final six players on the ladder came through for Amherst. Haslett, Tyler Mixter ’06, Asad Haque ’04, Hatfield, Lawrence and Landesberg won in the fourth through ninth spots, all in only three- or four-game matches.
“Everyone stepped up,” said Robson. “Even the guys who lost at the top of the ladder, they played very well.”
For the final match of the afternoon, the Jeffs got a chance to breathe with a 9-0 victory over the Colby White Mules. Eight Jeffs won in three games, while Hatfield came away with a four-game victory. He and Haslett were the sole Jeffs to go undefeated for the weekend.
“It was a big team effort this weekend, they really played well as a team,” said Robson.
Amherst returns to action on Valentine’s Day for the Little Three Championship in Williamstown. A victory over ninth-ranked Williams College would put Amherst in the top 10 in the nation.