May 26, 2010

OBERLIN, OH - The Amherst College men's tennis team simply won't quit.

With a 5-4 upset win over third-ranked Claremont-Mudd-Scripps College Wednesday afternoon, Amherst earned a spot in the national title match for the second time in as many years. The fifth-ranked Lord Jeffs will take on top-ranked Middlebury College Thursday at 1 p.m. at Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio.

Amherst needed to overcome a 3-0 deficit in Tuesday's quarterfinal win against a favored Emory squad, but the Lord Jeffs took two out of three doubles matches from Claremont to gain some breathing room. The Stags came back to take a 4-3 lead and held match point, but the Jeffs once again displayed their grit by storming back for the 5-4 result.

Moritz Koenig '11 (Hamburg, Germany) tied things at 4-4 by fending off five match points to win his third set in a marathon tiebreaker, and Wes Waterman '12 (Palm Beach Gardens, FL) sealed the deal to send the Jeffs into the finals for only the second time in program history.

Doubles play featured three lop-sided scores, with Amherst winning at No. 1 and No. 2. The Jeffs' top pair of Austin Chafetz '12 (Rancho Palos Verdes, CA) and Robby Sorrel '12 (Scarsdale, NY) defeated Robert Erani and Ronald Wu, 8-3, while Mark Kahan '13 (Unionville, CT) and Koenig earned an 8-4 win over Eric MacColl and Brandon Wei. In the No. 3 pairing, Waterman and Sean Doerfler '11 (Douglaston, NY) fell victim to Russell Brockett and Mikey Lim, 8-3.

Claremont would come back to tie the match at 3-3 after the first three singles matches ended. Chafetz continued to roll with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Erani at No. 1, marking his eighth consecutive singles victory of the season. The Stags won in straight sets at No. 2 and No. 5, however, with Lim knocking off Kahan and Alex Johnson defeating Doerfler.

The Stags took a 4-3 lead when Mac Cahill moved past Priit Gross '11 (Tartu, Estonia) in two sets at No. 6, and the Jeffs were down to their last game when Koenig went down 6-5 in his third set at No. 3. After playing the role of hero in Tuesday's quarterfinal match, Koenig once again came through for his team by forcing MacColl into a tiebreaker, eventually winning the critical third set with a 7-6 (11-9) score. Koenig trailed 6-1 in his tiebreaker but found a way to come from behind for the improbable win.

With the match knotted at 4-4, it all came down to Waterman and Brockett at No. 4. Amherst took the first set, 6-4, but Claremont had taken the second, 7-5. Holding a 5-2 advantage in the third set when Koenig wrapped up his match, Waterman put the nail in the coffin by winning the next game to give the Jeffs their 5-4 victory.

"It's great to compete with the elite teams that have been here for the past 10 years," head coach Chris Garner said after his team kept its miracle season alive. "These guys are true competitors, and they're having a great time."

Claremont moves to 22-5 and will take on Washington-St. Louis Thursday at noon in the consolation match, while the Lord Jeffs improve to 27-10. Thursday's 1 p.m. match between Amherst and Middlebury--a 5-4 winner over Washington in the semifinals--will feature live score updates. Middlebury defeated Amherst less than one month ago in the regular season meeting, 5-4. The Lord Jeffs defeated the Panthers in last year's national quarterfinals, 5-1.