Men’s, Women’s Tennis Fall in NESCAC Semifinals

Playing at home in the first round of the NESCAC tournament, the men’s and women’s tennis teams advanced to the semifinals with victories over No. 9 Bowdoin and No. 13 Williams, respectively. In the second round the women lost a close match to Wesleyan while the men were routed 5-0.

Julia Lendel ’24 prepares for a forehand shot in a match. Wesleyan beat the women's tennis team in the NESCAC semifinals. Photo courtesy of Clarus Studios.

The men’s and women’s tennis teams began postseason play this past weekend. On Friday, May 6, the men opened with a 5-3 win over national No. 9 Bowdoin, while the women moved past No. 13 Williams with a 5-2 victory. Both teams were bounced from the tournament the next day, though. The men suffered a 5-0 defeat against national No. 4 and NESCAC top-seed Middlebury, who went on to win the tournament. The women came agonizingly close against \ No. 3 Wesleyan but ultimately lost a 5-4 heartbreaker to the Cardinals. Wesleyan also won the NESCAC title with another narrow victory the next day.

Men

Playing at home on Friday, the Mammoths began their NESCAC bid with a shaky showing in doubles play against the Polar Bears. Amherst’s top pairing, Sujit Chepuri ’25 and Damien Ruparel ’22, were off the court quickly, going down 8-3. The No. 2 duo, Harris Foulkes ’22 and Ed Opie ’25, were done just as quickly, but with the opposite outcome, picking up a breezy 8-2 win. In the longest doubles match of the day, the No. 3 pairing, Micah Elias ’24 and Kobe Ellenbogen ’25, pushed their matchup to a 7-7 deadlock and a tiebreaker, but ultimately lost to give Bowdoin a 2-1 lead heading into the singles matches.

The Mammoths entered the slate of six singles matches needing to win at least four in order to advance in the tournament. Playing at No. 4, Ellenbogen was first off the court, turning in a crushing 6-3, 6-2 win to even the score at 2-2. Willie Turchetta ’22 then suffered a 6-4, 6-3 defeat at the bottom of the ladder to give Bowdoin a one-point advantage. But the Mammoths bounced back, with Opie balancing the scales again with a 6-3, 7-5 victory. Avenging their doubles loss, Ruparel and Chepuri closed out the match for the Mammoths: Ruparel won a first-set tiebreaker before cruising to a 6-3 victory in the second; Chepuri lost the first set but came roaring back with 6-1 and 6-3 victories in the next two. The first-year’s win clinched the overall victory for the Mammoths, sending them through to the semifinals in Middletown, Connecticut, the next day.

The Mammoths found the next day’s matches against Middlebury, the No. 4 team in the nation, much more difficult. At the top of the doubles ladder, Ruparel and Chepuri failed to win a single game, going down 8-0 in another short doubles match. At No. 2, Foulkes and Opie quickly followed them with an 8-3 loss. Elias and Ellenbogen put up more of a fight, but they, too, ultimately fell 8-6. On the back of the three losses, the Mammoths needed a miracle in singles play — five wins out of the six matches — to advance. Only three players —Ruparel, Chepuri, and Turchetta — took the courts at first. Chepuri won just one game, falling 6-1, 6-0 to put the Panthers on the precipice of a sweep. Ruparel played the first set close but ultimately lost it 7-5. A 6-2 second-set loss sealed the Mammoths’ fate. Turchetta and Opie both split their first two sets but did not have the chance to finish their matches. Foulkes and Ellenbogen did not even take the court.

The Mammoths closed the season with a 11-8 record (6-4 in the NESCAC) and a No. 18 national ranking. The Mammoths will say goodbye to their three seniors: Foulkes, Ruparel, and Turchetta.

Women

The women’s team, having entered the tournament ranked at No. 9 in the nation, began their NESCAC tournament campaign with an afternoon matchup with rival Williams. In doubles play, the first court to clear was No. 2 doubles, which saw Anya Ramras ’22 and Amy Cui ’25 dispatch their opponents by an 8-6 margin. All three doubles matches were close, with both the one and three doubles matches going into tiebreakers. Amherst’s top duo, Deliala Friedman ’25 and Mia Kintiroglou ’25, took a 3-0 lead but ultimately lost 8-7. The match at three doubles followed the exact opposite pattern. The Ephs claimed an early 3-0 lead, but the Mammoths battled back to win the match in a tiebreaker. With the last doubles victory, Amherst carried a 2-1 lead into the singles portion of the match.

Calista Sha ’23, playing at No. 4 for the Mammoths, put the first points on the board with a comprehensive 6-2, 6-0 victory that stretched the lead to 3-1. The Ephs brought things closer with a victory at the No. 5 spot, but, four minutes later, Cui turned in a 6-0, 6-3 win to put the Mammoths one victory away from the semifinal. Playing in the No. 3 position, Friedman closed out the Mammoths’ most bitter rivals with a 6-1, 6-4 victory. The 5-3 win was the Mammoths’ third against the Ephs this season, and undoubtedly the most important, setting the team up for a semifinal meeting with No. 3 Wesleyan in Middletown the following day.

The Wesleyan match, a meeting of two of the top 10 teams in the nation, was one of the best of the season. The Mammoths secured all-important service breaks early on in all three doubles matches, gaining important early advantages. Wesleyan fought back, though, and forced tiebreakers in all three. Friedman and Kintiroglou held a 7-4 lead at one point in their match, but the Cardinals fought back to level the match at 7-7. In the tiebreaker, the Mammoths fought off three match points to level the score at 6-6. They had a match point of their own, but ultimately were unable to convert, before dropping the next two points to lose the tiebreaker 9-7. At two doubles, Ramras and Cui won their tiebreaker by a comfortable 7-3 score. But the Cardinals flipped the script at the bottom spot, beating the Mammoths’ duo of Sha and Lendel 7-3. Entering singles play, Wesleyan held a narrow one-point lead.

Wesleyan opened the six simultaneous singles matches with a quick win over Kintiroglou at No. 6 to make the score 3-1. Facing down the end of their season, the Mammoths righted the ship in a big way, posting wins in the next three matches to retake the lead. At No. 5, Ramras handled her opponent 7-5, 6-3. Playing at the third spot, Friedman won her first set 6-4, lost the second 4-6, then cruised to a 6-2 win in the third. Leading the ladder as a first-year, Cui battled back after winning just two games in the first set with two dominant sets, closing out her opponent 2-6, 6-3, 6-1. But as the Mammoths held a 4-3 lead, the momentum swung the other way. With their season on the line, the Cardinals got a win at No. 2 singles, leveling the score at 4-4. Everything was riding on Sha at No. 4 singles, but her Wesleyan opponent comfortably led that match the whole way; a 6-3, 6-2 win sealed the overall win, and a trip to the NESCAC championship match, for the Cardinals.

Though they fell short in their quest for NESCAC glory, the Mammoths’ season is not over. They have received an at-large bid to NCAA Division-III Nationals and will play either Baruch College or Skidmore College at home in the round of 32 on Saturday, May 14. No matter what happens, the team will graduate five seniors at the end of the month, saying goodbye to Jackie Bukzin ’22, Madeline Clinton ’22, Claire Evans ’22, Maggie Owensby ’22, and Ramras.