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James Hill | | May 21, 2014

DIII WTEN: Amherst battles way to final against Emory

  Amherst led 3-0 before falling behind 4-3, but took the final two matches to win.

CLAREMONT, Calif. -- The second-ranked Amherst Jeffs denied the Williams Ephs a women's record seventh consecutive NCAA championship with a hard-fought 5-4 semifinals victory Tuesday night at the Biszantz Family Tennis Center.

Amherst (22-3) meets the top-ranked Emory Eagles for the title at 6 p.m. ET Wednesday. Emory (27-2) defeated the No. 4 Johns Hopkins Blue Jays 5-1 in the other semifinal matchup. Johns Hopkins (24-2) takes on No. 3 Williams (22-3) for third place at 5 p.m.

Tuesday's semifinal match between the Jeffs and Ephs started with Amherst taking a 3-0 lead after doubles. Then, Williams won Nos. 1, 3, 4 and 5 singles to take a 4-3 lead. After winning No. 6 singles, Amherst tied it at 4-4, and the outcome came down to the No. 2 line.

Linda Shin of Williams won the first set 7-6, and Gabby Devlin of Amherst evened it by winning the second set 6-3. Devlin prevailed in the third stanza tiebreaker 9-7, with a large contingent focused on the proceedings.

"Terrifying," said Devlin with a smile, when asked what it was like to have the entire stadium watching. "I kept looking at the scoreboard, and I knew it was going to play out. But the support of my teammates, and the men's team (which rallied from an 0-3 deficit to beat Trinity 5-3 in the semifinals) was amazing."

Earlier this month, Amherst was a 5-1 winner over Williams at the New England Small College Athletic Conference Championship at Brunswick, Maine;

Last year, Williams defeated Emory 5-2 in the championship match at Kalamazoo, Mich. The Ephs tied an NCAA record -- held by Stanford -- for most consecutive championships. Amherst won third place by shutting out Claremont-M-S (this year's host) by a score of 5-0.

Emory is the holder of five national championships, including four in a row from 2003-2006. Amherst claimed the national crown in 1999.

The Eagles won two of three doubles matches in the semis. Nos. 4 and 6 singles went to Emory, followed by the clinching No. 1 line won by Gabrielle Clark 6-3, 6-1 over Amanda Austi.

"It felt awesome to clinch," said Clark, who won the NCAA singles title in 2012, becoming the first African-American woman to take the coveted championship. "I was really proud of my teammates in stepping up. Everyone fights. It's [the championship match], it's not who's the No. 1 seed. It's about who shows up that day."

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