CARY, N.C. — Amherst’s Laura Danzig and Gabby Devlin capped off an amazing season with a three-set win in the finals of the NCAA doubles tournament Saturday afternoon at Cary Tennis Park.
The thrilling victory came less than three hours after Amherst claimed the men’s doubles championship, as each program ended its season on a high note.
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This marks the second consecutive national doubles championship for Devlin, who teamed up with Jordan Brewer to win the 2011 crown as a first-year. Amherst has been the last school standing in the doubles tournament in four of the past six years, as Alicia Menezes and Brittany Berckes won back-to-back titles in 2007 and 2008.
It was an impressive performance from the Lord Jeffs, who were unseeded in the 16-team tournament. After knocking off the top-ranked pair from the West region, Danzig and Devlin avenged their two losses to Emory’s Gabrielle Clark and Zahra Dawson, who had defeated the Amherst duo twice in dual match play earlier this year.
Danzig is no stranger to standing out in doubles competition, as she teamed up with Brewer to win three tournaments during the fall slate before joining Devlin in mid-April. As the top-ranked tandem in the Northeast, Danzig and Devlin put together a 10-4 record in dual matches en route to All-NESCAC honors.
After posting a straight-set win on Thursday and another on Friday, Danzig and Devlin ran into a tough opponent in Claremont’s Kristin Lim and Jessie Huang, the top-ranked team in the West. The first set would be the most exciting of the match, as Lim and Huang forced a tiebreaker after overcoming deficits of 5-4 and 6-5. Claremont was in control down the stretch, taking a 5-1 lead into the changeover en route to a 7-3 final.
The rest of the match belonged to the Lord Jeffs, who didn’t drop a single game in the middle set. Claremont jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the third frame, but Amherst rallied and earned its way into the finals with a 6-1 win.
Standing in the way of the championship trophy were Clark and Dawson, who defeated the Jeffs by a score of 8-5 during the regular season and 8-3 on Tuesday in the national semifinals. The Emory duo seemed to have Amherst’s number in Saturday’s first set, overcoming a 4-2 deficit to win the opening game, 6-4.
Amherst pushed right back by dominating the second set, pulling away from a 1-1 deadlock by winning the next five games for a 6-1 final. The Jeffs then gained what appeared to be a comfortable 5-1 lead in the third frame, but Emory came roaring back to tie things up at five games apiece. Amherst went back ahead by holding the Eagles without a single point in the 11th game, but Clark and Dawson held serve to pull even at 6-6.
The Lord Jeffs took a 3-0 lead in the tiebreaker when Devlin caught Dawson leaning and placed a beautiful return down the line, as Amherst held a 4-2 advantage at the changeover. Another beautiful shot by Devlin brought the score to 5-2, and the Jeffs came within one point of victory on an Emory return that went long. After the Eagles got a point back, the match came to a close when Clark pushed a shot into the net for the 7-3 finish.
This marks the first time in the 31-year history of the NCAA tennis championships that a school has captured both the men’s and women’s national doubles titles in the same year. Amherst’s four doubles crowns on the women’s side are the second most in Division III, as only Pomona-Pitzer has claimed more (1988, 1990, 1991, 1992, 2000).