CLAREMONT, Calif. — For the third time in her career, Nancy Worley delivered the fifth and deciding point in an NCAA Tournament match, but this point may live forever in Eph tennis history as it lifted Williams past rival Amherst 5-4 for the NCAA title.
“This championship is truly a testament to the strength of the girls and the effort they have put into this team. They had heart, believed, and were incredibly dedicated to the program,” Williams coach Allison Swain said.
It is the Ephs fourth consecutive NCAA championship, tying them with Emory for most consecutive titles won and giving Williams a 6-5 lead against Emory for most NCAA titles overall.
Swain, who played doubles on the Ephs first NCAA title team in 2001, is now 20-0 as a coach in NCAA Tournament play, winning all four titles contested.
Worley would not relinquish any points from the baseline and forced Danzig into making key errors. In the tiebreaker the two split the first two points before Worley opened a 5-1 lead. Danzig won the next point to make it 5-2, but that was as close as she would get as Worley snapped off the last two points or the win.
As a freshman in 2010, Worley clinched a berth in the NCAA final with the last point against Chicago.
The way the Ephs exploded out of the gates to sweep the doubles, most in attendance never expected this match to come down to a third set tiebreak for the title.
But nothing in the Williams-Amherst rivarly comes easy.
Worley was down a set and trailing 4-1 in the second set when she rallied to win the second set 7-5. She won six of the last seven games of set two to force a third set. Worley again was forced to make a comeback in the third set when she fell behind 5-3 with Amherst’s Lauren Danzig serving for the match.
After the match, Swain praised the three doubles pairings for their phenomenal play.
“All year long, doubles has been our weakness and to put it together in the tournament and not drop a match is something I am proud of. The girls fought hard and I am inspired and impressed by their heart,” Swain said.
The Ephs went undefeated in doubles throughout the entire NCAA tournament.
Collecting the other singles victory for the Ephs was the only freshman in the Williams lineup. Kathleen Elkins, playing at the fourth singles spot, topped Gabby Devlin 6-4, 6-1 to help the Ephs to the title. Elkins’ win gave Williams a 4-3 lead.
The three seniors on the Williams team, Katie Freedman, Lucy Marchese, and Nikki Reich, end their career with four national championships.
“These girls mean so much to me. They were my first class and they are such tough competitors. Lucy has overcome so much with injuries and is playing the best tennis of her career, and Katie has displayed unparalleled leadership all year long. Katie was the assistant coach on the sidelines all tournament long and her guidance helped us win many matches,” Swain said.