WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. – Junior Lauren Louks was the hero on Friday for the third-seeded Tufts University women's tennis team, as she posted a match-clinching performance during No. 2 singles, propelling the No. 6-ranked Jumbos to a 5-1 triumph over sixth-seeded Amherst during the first round of the NESCAC Championship in Williamstown, Massachusetts.
|Katherine Wiley hit the ground running on the singles side.|
The Jumbos (14-5, 6-3 in NESCAC), who avenged their 5-4 setback to the Mammoths in the first round of the 2016 conference tournament, will now compete in the semifinals of the NESCAC Championship for the first time since the 2010-11 season, as the squad will take on second-seeded and No. 4 Williams (13-4, 7-1 in NESCAC) on Saturday at 1 p.m.
The No. 12 Mammoths (6-9, 4-4 in NESCAC) reached the final of the conference tournament in 10 consecutive seasons, ranging from 2006-15, as the squad has won nine NESCAC Championships.
The other semifinal matchup on Saturday will feature top-seeded and No. 2 Middlebury (13-3, 8-0 in NESCAC) against fifth-seeded and No. 8 Bowdoin (14-4, 5-3 in NESCAC) at 1 p.m. The Polar Bears defeated fourth-seeded and No. 7 Wesleyan (Conn.), 5-3, in the other first-round matchup on Friday.
The Jumbos have now won back-to-back matches against the Mammoths, as they defeated visiting Amherst in a 5-4 thriller on April 19. Prior to that mid-April matchup, the Mammoths were riding a 32-match winning streak against the Jumbos, ranging from 1992-2016.
When these two top-caliber programs square off against each other, the doubles competition always plays a pivotal role and Friday was no different. The Jumbos cruised out to a 3-0 lead during doubles action, as all three doubles teams pulled out hard-fought victories.
In high-intensity matchups like this one, the leaders need to step up. That was not a problem at all for senior captains Alexa Meltzer and Conner Calabro, as the dynamic duo set the tone with an 8-6 triumph over senior captains Claire Carpenter and Megan Adamo at the No. 3 flight.
Sophomore standouts Tomo Iwasaki and Otilia Popa extended the momentum for the Jumbos, downing junior captain Avery Wagman and freshman Anya Ivenitsky, 9-7, at the second slot. Louks and sophomore Mina Karamercan held their ground at the No. 1 slot, besting sophomore Kelsey Chen and freshman Camille Smukler, 8-6.
Freshman Katherine Wiley performed well beyond her years all season long and nothing changed on the big stage, as she opened up singles action with a straight-set win, 6-3, 6-1, against sophomore Camilla Trapness at the fourth slot.
The Mammoths stayed alive at the top slot, as Smukler defeated Karamercan, 7-5, 6-4. Louks did not let the Mammoths build any momentum off the victory, as she posted a three-set victory, 6-1, 1-6, 7-5, at the second slot, punching the Jumbos' ticket to their fifth semifinal appearance in the conference tournament, dating back to the 2007-08 season.
The Jumbos will look to reach the title match for the first time since the conference went to the new postseason format in 2006. The Jumbos have a tall task on Saturday, as Williams has won seven conference titles, including the last two in 2015 and 2016. The visiting Jumbos fell short, 7-2, to the Ephs in regular-season action on April 29.
The winners of the semifinal-round matches on Saturday will meet in the final on Sunday at 1 p.m. in Williamstown, Massachusetts.
Written by Trevor Wenners, Athletic Communications Intern