Loaded with star power throughout the lineup, the top-ranked women’s tennis team enters the spring season with Div. III national title aspirations.
“Our goal is to win a national championship this season,” said senior Natasha Brown. “It’s been our mindset from the beginning of the fall, and the spring is when we are going to make it happen.”
The Jeffs romped past Div. III competition in the fall, and established themselves as the leading favorites for the national championship. At the ITA regional championships in Sept., the premier tournament for New England Div. III schools, the Jeffs dominated the competition. First-year Jordan Brewer steamrolled all of her opponents—without dropping a set—to win the singles championship. Brewer later teamed up with Gabby Devlin ’14 to clinch the doubles title, defeating another Amherst tandem — Brown and Laura Danzig ’12 in the final.
“In the fall we really had the opportunity to see the talent on the team, and now we can win it all,” Brown said. Later in the fall season, the Jeffs narrowly defeated Williams in a home dual match, pulling out a 5-4 victory against (what was then) the top-ranked team in the country. The Jeffs overpowered Williams—three-time defending national champions—to send a message to their fierce archrival.
In the doubles round, Brewer and Devlin throttled the Ephs’ top pair by an 8-1 margin, while Jen Newman ’14 and Mimi Bell ’11 won 8-4 in the No. 3 spot, giving Amherst a 2-1 lead heading into the six singles matches. Williams and Amherst split the singles round 3-3, as Brewer (No. 1), Carlissa King ’11 (No. 4) and Devlin (No. 6) won their respective matches. Williams and Amherst will battle again on Apr. 17 this spring, but these two powerful rivals could very well meet each other in the NESCAC Championships or NCAA Tournament.
The Jeffs are planning to travel to Florida over spring break for extensive tennis training. Besides the warm weather, the trip will also provide the Jeffs with experience playing in outdoor weather, where other variables such as wind direction and sunlight come into play. The team will also play several matches against tough Div. I competition, taking on schools like Lynn University (in Boca Raton) and Barry University (in Miami). In previous years, the women’s team journeyed to California for spring break, but switched to Florida this year to compete against better opposition.
“In California, where we played other Div. III teams, the matches weren’t tough enough. We really want to push ourselves in the beginning to train and get us mentally prepared for the spring season,” Brown said.
The men’s tennis team will roll into the spring season after a 3-0 fall record. The doubles finals of the ITA Regional Tennis Championships featured two Lord Jeff pairs. Moritz Koenig ’11 and Wes Waterman ’12 defeated No. 3-ranked teammates Mark Kahan ’13 and Luis Rattenhuber ’13 9-8 after taking out pairs from Middlebury, MIT, Williams, and the top-seeded pair from Brandeis. This was the first time in 10 years that the Jeffs had won either the doubles or singles title at the ITA tournament. The Jeffs opened the dual meet season with three matches in three days in mid-October. They began with a 7-2 win over Johns Hopkins, and went on to beat Carnegie Mellon 9-0 and Kenyon 6-3. The number two duo of Kahan and Rattenhuber was undefeated for the weekend.
The Jeffs return their top five players from last year’s national runner-up team, and are a favorite to take the national title this season. Austin Chafetz ’12, Kahan, Koenig, Waterman and Sean Doerfler ’11 will be looking to hold on to their spots in the singles lineup. Chafetz was named the ITA’s Northeast Rookie of the Year in 2009 and National Player to Watch in 2010, while Kahan was named ITA’s National Rookie of the Year in 2010. That returning talent will be complemented by freshmen Joey Fritz and Justin Reindel, who competed in the fall dual matches at the number three and six spots, respectively. Fritz won two of his three matches in the fall and Reindel was undefeated. They also teamed up as the Jeffs No. 3 doubles pair, and won two of three matches.
The Jeffs also return their entire doubles lineup. Last season’s No. 1 doubles pair of Chafetz and Robby Sorrel ’12 earned all-NESCAC Second Team Honors and finished the 2009-10 season ranked eighth in Div. III. The Jeffs’ incredibly strong lineup and depth should take them far this season.
With the outdoor tennis courts still covered with snow, the Jeffs have had to practice indoors over the past few weeks. The players are often forced to train on the ultra-fast rubber surface in the Cage where groundstrokes can be difficult. The team will head to Southern California for spring break, where they’ll have the chance to practice outdoors and compete in numerous matches against some new opponents.
The Jeffs are currently ranked second behind last year’s champion Middlebury, which lost its top two doubles pairs. While their fall record is promising, it may not be a reliable indication of how the Jeffs will do in the spring. They ended the past two seasons as runner-up, despite having a 4-0 fall record in 2008-09 and a 2-2 record last year.
Note: Brenton Arnaboldi wrote the women’s preview and Carlyn Robertson wrote the men’s preview.