CLAREMONT, Calif. — Amherst overcame a 3-1 deficit to earn a 5-3 win against Emory Wednesday afternoon in the NCAA Division III Championship semifinal round. The Lord Jeffs will take on archrival Williams Thursday at 1 p.m. ET for the 2011 national title.
Top-ranked Amherst (20-2) had been 1-6 against Emory all-time in the NCAA Tournament — including a 5-4 loss in last year’s national semifinals — but the Lord Jeffs put in an outstanding performance in singles play to earn their second trip to the title match in the past three years. The third-ranked Eagles drop to 22-5 and will take on Chicago in Thursday’s consolation.
Emory’s Zahra Dawson and Jordan Wylie got things going in doubles with an 8-4 win against Natasha Brown and Laura Danzig at number two, but the remaining matches would go down to the wire. The Lord Jeff duo of Jordan Brewer and Gabby Devlin held a 7-5 lead in the top spot, but Gabrielle Clark and Lorne McManigle would battle back to take the next three points. Amherst tied things up at 8-8, but the Eagles completed their comeback with a 9-8 (7-4) tie-breaking win.
Needing to salvage a point, the Lord Jeffs turned to Mimi Bell ’11 and Caroline Richman ’13, who found themselves serving with a 7-6 deficit. After knotting the score at 7-7, the Amherst pair broke Emory’s next serve to take an 8-7 advantage. The Eagles fought off three match points and nearly forced a tiebreaker, but Bell and Richman held on for the pivotal 9-7 victory.
The singles session belonged to the Lord Jeffs, who won the first set in five of the six matches to suddenly take control. The Eagles pushed their lead to 3-1 when Clark defeated Brewer at number one by a score of 6-2, 6-3, but that would be Emory’s final point.
Devlin was the first Lord Jeff to cut into the deficit, as she continued her spectacular week with a 6-3, 6-3 win against Dawson at number four. Richman then made it a 3-3 contest with her 6-4, 6-2 victory against Malavik Padmanabhan in the fifth slot, and Danzig soon gave the Jeffs the lead when she broke Wylie to wrap up a 6-4, 6-4 win at number two.
As Danzig was handing the lead over to the Jeffs, Amherst’s Carlissa King was building a comfortable cushion in the third set and Brown was just about to begin her third frame. Both seniors were fighting to keep their title hopes alive, but it was King who would beat her classmate to the punch and put her team into Thursday’s finals. McManigle chopped King’s 4-0 lead down to 4-3, but the Amherst veteran regained composure and finished off the 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 win at number three. When play was stopped, Brown held a 3-2 lead over Lindsay Reidenbach in the third set at number six.
Thursday will mark Amherst’s fifth appearance in the NCAA finals, as the Jeffs have a chance to capture the program’s second national title (1999). Amherst and Williams are 2-2 against one another in NCAA Tournament play, with the Jeffs winning the rivalry matchup in the 1999 finals before the Ephs returned the favor in 2009. Amherst has already defeated Williams twice this season, but the Ephs most recently claimed the 2011 NESCAC title with a 5-3 win against their rivals.