CARY, N.C. – Everyone in the Division III tennis world knew this would be a close match based on the two previous encounters between Bowdoin and Williams this spring with each team winning once.
In both of the two previous matches between Williams and Bowdoin this season the Ephs came out of doubles play with a 2-1 lead. On April 28th at Bowdoin that led to a 5-4 Eph victory and on May 5th in Williamstown it did not stop Bowdoin from winning 5-3.
Monday the first doubles match to come off the court was at number two, where the Eph tandem of Felix Sun and Matt Micheli downed Doug Caplan and Kyle Wolstencroft 8-4. Sun/Micheli broke a 1-1 tie with two consecutive wins to lead 3-1 before Caplan/Wolstencroft got one game back. Sun/Micheli then won the next three games to open up a 6-2 advantage on their way to the win.
Bowdoin evened the match when their pairing of Casey Grindlon and Chris Lord downed the Eph senior duo of Will Petrie and Kevin Shallcross 8-5. Down 4-1, Petrie and Shallcross rallied to get back in the match at 7-5 before succumbing.
At one doubles the Polar Bears’ team of Oscar Pena and Sam King broke on top 2-0 and then went up 4-1, before the Eph team of Trey Meter and Bryan Chow closed the deficit to 5-3. Meyer/Chow then won three of the next four games to tie the match at six all. Pena/King went up 7-6, then 8-7 and Meyer/Chow answered each Polar Bear with a win to force a tiebreak.
Pena/King gave the Polar Bears a 2-1 lead coming out of doubles play when they captured the tiebreaker 7-3 to win 9-8.
To advance to tomorrow’s semifinals round the Ephs needed to collect four singles wins, a feat they had not achieved versus Bowdoin in the two previous matches.
“It was a barn burner just as we expected it to be,” said Eph head coach Dan Greenberg. “We got off to a slow start in doubles, but we fought in every match. I told the guys being down 2-1 after doubles was not the worst thing in the world if they were willing to battle.”
“Bowdoin started off very strong and made it a true battle,” continued Greenberg.”We stayed in the match and fought and we were helped by a lot of great fan support.”
The Ephs opened singles play on a mission winning, five of the first six sets. Eph captain Will Petrie fashioned an impressive comeback to take his first set at six singles. Down 4-0 Petrie battled back to tie and then won the tiebreak (7-3) to capture the set 7-6.
Bryan Chow collected the Ephs’ second point with a straight set win over Noah Bragg, 6-4, 6-1.
The Polar Bears responded though with a win at four singles when Casey Grindlon downed Zach Weiss in straight sets, 6-3, 6-3.
Eph junior Felix Sun who has impressed all spring at singles evened the match at three when he won at two singles in straight sets against Sam King. Sun took the first set 6-3 and then won his match with a 7-5 win.
To claim the win Williams or Bowdoin needed to win two of the final three matches and Monday it would be the Ephs.
At six singles Will Petrie held a 4-2 lead in his second set when Sun evened the match. Petrie then proceeded to close out Kyle Wolstencroft with a 6-3 triumph, delivering the fourth point for the Ephs.
“Will as a senior captain really stepped up huge for us today,” stated Greenberg. “The energy and play across all six courts was unbelievable and it really felt like a team sport.”
At one singles with the match tied at three Bowdoin’s Oscar Pena edged Trey Meyer in the second set to even that match and at three singles Matt Micheli was trailing Chris Lord 1-0 in the third set. Micheli then caught fire, won the next six games and boosted the Ephs into the semifinals for the second year in a row and 11th time in the 18 years they have competed in the NCAA tournament.
The match at one singles was not played to determination, but when it ended Meyer held a 3-1 lead against Pena after they had split the first two sets.
With the win the Ephs improve to 18-2 on the year and advance to their second consecutive NCAA semifinals, where they will face Emory.
“We’re fired up to have won this match and we’re fired up to play Emory tomorrow,” Greenberg concluded.
Williams is now 34-2 all-time versus Bowdoin and they own a record of 9-0 versus the Polar Bears in the NCAA tournament.
All-time the Ephs are 49-17 (.742) in the NCAA tournament.