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James Hill | | May 18, 2014

Hill: Host Claremont-M-S tries for elusive title

  Claremont-M-S won the championship in 1981 when the winner was determined based on a points system.

CLAREMONT, Calif. -- The top-ranked Claremont-M-S Stags will host the NCAA Division III Men’s Tennis Championships starting Monday at the Biszantz Family Tennis Center.

C-M-S (29-1) meets the No. 7 Johns Hopkins Blue Jays (20-4) in the quarterfinals at noon ET. The third-ranked Middlebury Panthers (20-3) take on the No. 9 Case Western Reserve Spartans (17-7), also at noon. The second wave of matches begins at 3 p.m. ET as the fourth-ranked Amherst Lord Jeffs (33-3) play the No. 6 Emory Eagles (19-6). The No. 2 Washington (Mo.) Bears (21-2) are paired with the eighth-ranked Trinity (Texas) Tigers (24-6).

The team tournament continues until Wednesday, with the championship and third-place matches on the docket. The singles and doubles event is slated for Thursday through Saturday.

The four-time champion Williams Ephs beat Claremont-M-S 5-2 in last year’s title match at Kalamazoo, Michigan. It marked the Ephs' first championship match since 2002. Amherst defeated Washington (Mo.) 5-2 for third place.

Claremont has been runner-up on six occasions, and won the championship in 1981. A points system was used to determine the outcome of the national championship.

Stags coach Paul Settles is in his 11th season at the C-M-S helm. After leading his team to the finals last season, the Intercollegiate Tennis Association named Settles the National Coach of the Year.

“This is one of the best teams I have coached,” Settles said. “We’ve relied on our depth up and down the lineup, and consistently strong doubles play. However, when you get to this stage of the tournament, each of the other seven teams can also say the same things. We’re excited and privileged to be playing for the title on our own courts.”

Williams was knocked out of contention in the third round by Middlebury, as the Panthers won the matchup 5-2. Middlebury has won two national championships, in 2004 and '10.

Emory holds the most championships of the field, with three national crowns, in 2003, '06, and '12. In addition to Claremont, three other teams have captured one title each: Amherst (2011), Washington (Mo.) ('08), and Trinity (Texas) ('00).

“The final eight men’s teams are as strong as they have ever been in the tournament’s history,” Settles said. “I am certain that the quality and depth of the field will yield very close matches in each of the final three rounds.”

Adam Putterman of Washington (Mo.) won the 2013 men’s singles championship, while Emory’s Elliot Kahler and Ian Wagner claimed the doubles. None has returned for this year’s tournament.

The 32-singles draw and 16-team doubles pairings will be announced Wednesday.