May 25, 2010

Courtesy of Amherst Athletics

OBERLIN, OH - In what was one of the most remarkable comeback efforts by any team in school history, Amherst College earned a 5-4 upset victory over second-ranked Emory University Tuesday afternoon in the NCAA Division III Men's Tennis Championship quarterfinal round.

Emory swept the doubles matches and had Amherst against the ropes in singles play, but the Lord Jeffs rallied to win five of the six remaining points to punch a ticket to the national semifinals for the second consecutive year. Moritz Koenig '11 (Hamburg, Germany) completed the miraculous comeback for Amherst, winning his third set in tiebreaking fashion to conclude what was nearly a five-hour marathon for the Jeffs and Eagles.

The Eagles end their season at 16-8, while the fifth-ranked Lord Jeffs improve to 26-10 and will take on third-ranked Claremont (22-4) Wednesday at 2 p.m. in the national semifinals. Claremont defeated 13th-ranked Trinity of Texas today (18-10), 5-2.

Amherst defeated archrival Williams College in the regional finals less than two weeks ago to keep the Ephs out of the national quarterfinals for the first time since 1996, but the Jeffs snapped an even more impressive streak Tuesday when they denied Emory a ninth consecutive appearance in the NCAA semifinals. The Eagles won the 2003 and 2006 national titles and had finished in at least third place each year since 2002.

The Jeffs fell into an early hole when Austin Chafetz '12 (Rancho Palos Verdes, CA) and Robby Sorrel '12 (Scarsdale, NY) suffered an 8-4 loss to Chris Jordan and Chris Goodwin in the top doubles match. Wes Waterman '12 (Palm Beach Gardens, FL) and Sean Doerfler '11 (Douglaston, NY) had a similar result in the third position, falling to Emory's Chris Redmond and Dillon Pottish by an 8-3 margin.

Amherst nearly pulled out a win in a back-and-forth No. 2 doubles match, but Koenig '11 and Mark Kahan '13 (Unionville, CT) lost a tiebreaker to David Caplan and Oliver Lopp, 9-8. Trailing 3-2, the Jeffs won the next two games and took leads of 4-3, 5-4, 6-5, 7-6 and 8-7, but the Eagles had an answer each time to prevent Amherst from pulling away. After tying the score at 8-8, Emory completed the doubles sweep by taking the tiebreaker. Koenig and Kahan had won seven of their past eight matches heading into this week.

With a comfortable 3-0 lead, the Eagles seemed to have yet another semifinal appearance in the bag when Waterman and Priit Gross '11 (Tartu, Estonia) each dropped their first sets and trailed 4-3 in the second. Things began to go Amherst's way, however, when Waterman (No. 4) and Gross (No. 6) each came back to take a 5-4 lead just as Doerfler finished his 6-3, 6-0 win over Lopp at No. 5. Doerfler's eighth consecutive victory gave the Jeffs their first point of the afternoon.

Gross and Waterman went on to win their second sets, as did Koenig, who had dropped his first to Noah Simonson at No. 3. Chafetz gave Amherst a second point by defeating Pottish in the top match, 7-5, 7-6, but Waterman ran out of gas and dropped his third set to give Emory a 4-2 lead.

Sean Doerfler '11 put Amherst on the board, improving to 8-0 in singles play since Apr. 1.

Kahan, who had won his first set at No. 2 but dropped his second, joined Koenig and Gross in taking a 1-0 lead in the third set to keep Amherst's hopes alive, but each Lord Jeff would need to pull out a win to complete the comeback. Victory suddenly seemed to be a reality for the Jeffs when Kahan cruised to a 6-0 win in his third set to make it a 4-3 match, while Gross and Koenig each took a 3-0 lead in the third set.

Gross tied things up at 4-4 when he defeated Caplan in the third set, 6-2, leaving all eyes on Koenig and Simonson on court three. Koenig jumped out to a 3-0 lead but would soon be in the midst of yet another back-and-forth affair, as Simonson erased deficits of 5-4 and 6-5 to force a tiebreaker. Koenig made sure Amherst's comeback effort was not wasted, overcoming his nail-biting setback in doubles play to keep the Jeffs' season alive with a thrilling three-set win that wrapped up a four-hour, 45-minute match.

"That match was a reflection of the guys we have on this team," head coach Chris Garner said after watching his squad pull off an upset in the national quarterfinals for the second time in as many years. "It was a reflection of the belief they have in one another, as well as of the support they provide each other. They saw each other fighting and realized that they weren't going to give the match away--Emory was going to have to take it."

Chafetz won his seventh straight match, Kahan improved to 9-2 in his past 11 singles bouts, and Doerfler moved his singles record to a perfect 8-0 since Apr. 1. In other quarterfinal action, top-ranked Middlebury (21-2) cruised to a 5-0 win over 11th-ranked North Carolina Wesleyan (18-2). The Panthers will face seventh-ranked Washington-St. Louis (20-4)--a 5-2 winner over eighth-ranked Carnegie Mellon (21-6)--in Wednesday's first semifinal match.

Wednesday's match between Amherst and Claremont will feature live score updates.

#5 Amherst College def. #2 Emory University, 5-4 NCAA Championship Quarterfinals (@ Oberlin College) Doubles 1. Chris Jordan/Chris Goodwin (E) def. Austin Chafetz/Robby Sorrel (A) 8-4 2. David Caplan/Oliver Lopp (E) def. Moritz Koenig/Mark Kahan (A) 9-8(1) 3. Chris Redmond/Dillon Pottish (E) def. Wes Waterman/Sean Doerfler (A) 8-3

Singles 1. Austin Chafetz (A) def. Dillon Pottish (E) 7-5, 7-6(3) (2nd) 2. Mark Kahan (A) def. Chris Goodwin (E) 6-3, [4-6], 6-0 (4th) 3. Moritz Koenig (A) def. Noah Simonson (E) [6-7(5)], 6-4, 7-6(4) (6th) 4. Colin Egan (E) def. Wes Waterman (A) 6-4, [4-6], 6-1 (3rd) 5. Sean Doerfler (A) def. Oliver Lopp (E) 6-3, 6-0 (1st) 6. Priit Gross (A) def. David Caplan (E) [2-6], 7-6(5), 6-2 (5th)