Amherst began the fall by posting 8-1 wins over Trinity and Skidmore Colleges the weekend of Sept. 13. One of the top players, Tristan Hedrick ’05, was injured, requiring some temporary lineup changes. The team had no problem with the rearrangements, showing great depth while beating Wesleyan University 9-0 on Sept. 20.
On the weekend of Sept. 26, the Jeffs participated in the prestigious Omni ITA Tournament held at Bowdoin College. Rachel Holt ’05 led the Amherst contingent, placing second in the singles tournament after a phenomenal victory over Williams’ Stephanie Hall in the semis. Hedrick made it to the quarterfinals for singles, and, partnered with Holt, went to the doubles semifinals before losing. The Amherst pairing of Hadley Miller ’06 and Erin Murphy ’05 also made it to the doubles semis.
The following weekend the Jeffs braved all the elements, from rain to sun to wind to cold, to sweep Colby and Bowdoin Colleges without surrendering a single point. Holt felt the importance of the Bowdoin win. “They always come out gunning for us, and that decisive victory was sweet,” she said.
Last Friday Williams blemished Amherst’s previously undefeated record, but coach Jackie Bagwell was nonetheless pleased with her team’s performance. “I know we lost, but I loved how our team played,” she said.
Miller explained, “All of our matches were pretty close, even if it’s not reflected in the scores-we were all in there, we’ve just got to buckle down and win the big points.”
The doubles went out first. Captain Wallis Molchen ’04 and Kristen Raverta ’06 played third doubles, and in the words of Molchen “Stepped up … and beat the Omni champions [Courtney Bartlett and Julie Mallory]” 8-4. Unfortunately, their teammates struggled. “We let Williams get grooved on their returns and we were not aggressive enough,” explained Bagwell.
Holt added, “The key point in the match was definitely the doubles; losing two of three to a team with such a strong singles lineup is tough.” The number one pairing of Holt and Hedrick and the number two team of Murphy and Miller were both defeated. “The good news is that it is usually a lot easier to reverse doubles results than singles by putting a lot of time into it and focusing on the key aspects that need improvement,” Holt said.
The top three singles all posted important wins against difficult competition. “It was really impressive to watch,” said Bagwell. Holt repeated her satisfying Omni defeat of Williams’ Hall, made all the sweeter since Hall had been a huge challenge in the past, shutting out Holt last season. In the second set of the 7-6, 6-0 win “Hall just could not figure out what to do, as Rachel had an answer for everything she tried,” said Bagwell.
Hedrick played second singles, posting a 6-0, 6-1 victory, while Raverta was third, winning 6-1, 6-1. Bagwell said that both “destroyed their opponents. Tristan had been 0-2 against [Williams opponent] Julie Mallory so this was a big, big improvement.”
Although the other three singles players were defeated, Bagwell was happy with how they played. Molchen, playing fourth, lost in a difficult three-set match, 2-6, 6-2, 6-2.
Miller at fifth battled valiantly but was unable to match her opponent, and Katie Hudson ’07 also made Williams’ former number one player work hard for her 7-5, 6-1 win. Even in defeat, the Jeffs played well. Williams has four All-American seniors who have seen two national championships, but Amherst gave them a tough challenge, and will give them another one during Homecoming weekend.
Bagwell believes that her team is currently on an upward swing, headed toward its peak. “It has been so much fun watching people improve,” she said, “I hope it continues.” Miller agreed, “I think that the highlights are yet to come!”
Amherst will host the New England Championships Oct. 17-19. Each team enters its first through sixth singles players and first through third doubles teams. All the first singles play each other, as do second singles, all the way down, and a team earns points for each round that each player wins. Ultimately there are six singles champions, three doubles champions and one team champion.
“New Englands is always exciting since there are so many teams and it usually comes down to Williams-Amherst finals in most of the flights,” Molchen said.
The Jeffs are particularly looking forward to this championship as a fresh chance to defeat last week’s opponents. Holt cited her team’s past success at New Englands, adding, “It would be great if we could prove ourselves in it again and leave the fall season on a high note.”