May 28, 2010

By Shane Mettlen
Special to

FREDERCKSBURG, Va. - Williams College had to consider it a favorable draw when it saw the bracket for the women's NCAA Division III tennis championships at the University of Mary Washington.

Of course, after the way the Ephs dominated the competition it may not have mattered. Williams cruised past Emory 5-0 in the finals on Thursday to win its third NCAA title in a row and finished the season with a 23-3 record.

Two of those three regular-season losses came to Amherst, which wound up on the other side of the bracket from the Ephs. The other loss was to Division I James Madison.

Amherst also lost to Emory in the national semifinals, preventing a fourth meeting between the rivals from Massachusetts.

Earlier in the day, Amherst took the third-place trophy with a 5-2 victory against Chicago. Kendra Higgins, Chicago's No. 1 singles player picked up a win and then teamed with her doubles partner Chrissy Hu for a victory in the top doubles slot.

But Amherst had the strength in the rest of the lineup with Laura Danzig, Carlissa King, Jill Wexler, Natasha Brown and Laken King all picking up singles victories for the Lord Jeffs. Wexler and Brown and King and Richmond each teamed up for doubles victories.

FRESH FACE: Williams is loaded with veteran talent, including junior Nicole Reich who clinched the third national title of her career with a 6-4, 6-2 victory in No. 3 singles.

But the Ephs likely wouldn't have even been in the finals if not for the stellar play of a freshman. No. 5 singles player Nancy Worley secured a 5-4 victory for Williams in Wednesday's semifinal against Chicago.

Worley had done the same thing in the quarterfinals, battling back from a set down to pick up the deciding win in a 5-4 victory against Tufts.

"It's been crazy," Worley said. "We had some really close matches and two of them came down to me on the last court with the match tied 4-all. Really the only way that I won those two matches was because the entire team was there supporting me. Everybody plays for each other on this team."

SMOOTH SAILING: Williams coach Alison Swain has now won three NCAA championships in her three years coaching the Ephs. Thursday's title was the least expected, but it was also the easiest to come by.

Williams swept through Emory for a 5-0 victory, never really feeling threatened by the Eagles. The Ephs had more of a fight on their hands the previous two years.

In 2008, Williams battled to a 5-4 win over previously unbeaten Washington and Lee. Last year it was a little easier with the Ephs securing a 5-2 win over rival Amherst.

This year's championship marked the fifth in the program's history.