CLAREMONT, Calif. -- The fourth-ranked Amherst Lord Jeffs staged a huge comeback in singles to beat the No. 8 Trinity (Texas) Tigers 5-3 Tuesday in the NCAA Division III Men's Tennis Championship semifinals.
Down 0-3 after doubles, Amherst captured five singles matches and advanced to Wednesday's team final at the Biszantz Family Tennis Center. Amherst (35-3) will take on the top-ranked host Claremont-M-S Stags for the title at 2 p.m. ET.
Amherst senior Joey Fritz and his partner Justin Reindel were the first to go down in doubles, losing the No. 1 slot 8-5 to Trinity's Paxton Deuel and Nico Moreno. The Tigers took Nos. 2 and 3 doubles, each by a tiebreaker score.But Fritz, from Cincinnati, put the Lord Jeffs on the board by winning No. 1 singles 7-5, 6-4 over Deuel. It turned out to be only one of two straight-set matches in the singles competition. The other was the clincher, at No. 4 singles, which gave Amherst the match as Anton Zykov beat Aaron Skinner 7-6 (8-6), 6-3.
"We were down 3-0, and I was really fired up," Fritz said of his singles match. "Our team fights really hard. I just hung in there, and the big points went my way."
Fritz was a key member of the Amherst team in 2011 when the Lord Jeffs captured the NCAA Championship. Amherst beat Emory 5-2- at Claremont. Starting Thursday, Fritz will compete in the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships (with Reindel).
Amherst, the runner-up in 2009 and 2010, dispatched sixth-ranked Emory 5-1 in Monday's quarterfinals. Last year, Amherst defeated Washington (Mo.) 5-2 to capture third place.
Trinity, which beat second-ranked Washington 5-1 in the quarters, advanced to the semifinals for the first time since 2000. The Tigers won the championship that season. Trinity (25-7) will play the No. 3 Middlebury Panthers for third place at 1 p.m. ET Wednesday.
Middlebury (21-4) gave CMS a run for the money, but the Stags prevailed 5-2 in the end.
CMS (31-1) is in a familiar spot, the NCAA Championship match. It will mark the second consecuitve time the Stags will play for the crown, and the fourth overall. The Williams Ephs beat CMS 5-2 in the 2013 final at Kalamazoo, Mich.
On Tuesday, the Stags held a 2-1 advantage after doubles, and won three of five completed singles matches. All of the victories were three-setters, including the clincher at No. 6 singles. Zhenya Pereverzin defeated Jackson Frons 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (7-2) to propel the Stags into the final.
"I saw a really tough and resilient team today, that wanted to battle to the very end," Stags coach Paul Settles said of his charges. "I've seen a better level before from my team. But, I would rather have a tough team going into the championship match, rather than a team with just raw talent."