No. 6 Women’s Tennis Opens NESCAC Championship with First-Round Battle against No. 12 Amherst

MEDFORD, Mass. – When it comes to postseason matchups in any sport, depth becomes more vital than ever. 

That bodes well for the No. 6 Tufts University women's tennis team, as the entire Jumbos' roster rose to the occasion during the 2016-17 regular season, resulting in a 13-5 overall record and an impressive 6-3 mark in the deep and talented NESCAC Conference. 

Mina Karamercan went 10-4 at the No. 1 singles slot in the regular season.

The third-seeded Jumbos will open up their postseason journey at the 2017 NESCAC Championship on Friday at 1 p.m., as the squad will square off against sixth-seeded and No. 12 Amherst (6-8, 4-4 in NESCAC) during opening-round action at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. 

"I am most proud of how this team has worked together to support one another throughout the entire year," head coach Kate Bayard said. "The team has truly come to recognize and appreciate the amount of mental energy it takes to win tough matches. As a result of everyone's hard work, we have continued to improve throughout the year, and we are in a solid place heading into the NESCAC Championship." 

Both teams are definitely battle-tested heading into this first-round tilt, as all six teams that qualified for the conference tournament are ranked within the top-12 in the Oracle/Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Division III Women's Collegiate Tennis Rankings. 

Top-seeded and No. 2-ranked Middlebury (13-3, 8-0 in NESCAC) and second-seeded and No. 4-ranked Williams (13-4, 7-1 in NESCAC) earned first-round byes. Fourth-seeded and seventh-ranked Wesleyan (11-3, 5-3 in NESCAC) will face off against fifth-seeded and eighth-ranked Bowdoin (13-4, 5-3 in NESCAC) in the other first-round matchup on Friday at 1 p.m.

The winner of the first-round matchup between the Jumbos and Mammoths will suit up in semifinal-round action against Williams on Saturday at 1 p.m., and the team that comes away victorious between Wesleyan and Bowdoin will compete against Middlebury in the other semifinal matchup on Saturday at 1 p.m. The final of the event will be held on Sunday at 1 p.m.

The Jumbos defeated the Mammoths, 5-4, on April 19, which put an end to the Mammoths' 32-match winning streak against the Jumbos from 1992-2016 and marked the first time that the Jumbos were victorious over the Mammoths since a 5-4 win in 1991. The Jumbos took two out of three in doubles action on April 19, and then the teams split the six singles matches. Senior captain Conner Calabro clinched the match at the No. 6 singles slot, posting a 6-4, 6-2 win over junior captain Avery Wagman. 

The doubles flights also played a big role when the two teams faced off in the first round of the 2016 conference tournament, as Amherst took two out of three, ultimately edging Tufts, 5-4, in Lewiston, Maine, on May 6, 2016. 

"Going up after doubles will once again be key in our matchup against Amherst since the singles has the potential to be a battle all the way through, as it was last time," Bayard said. "In both singles and doubles, we will continue to build off of what we have learned from our most recent matches. We will continue to focus on making smart and high-percentage decisions on both the singles and doubles court. In addition, we will need to have the mentality that we have to earn the points we win and not give away free points on unforced errors. Ultimately, it is going to come down to how well we compete." 

All 14 Jumbos have been instrumental in the team's success, as every player competed on the court during the 2016-17 regular season. Sophomore Mina Karamercan led the charge, as she went 13-5 on the singles side, including 10-4 at the No. 1 slot. Junior Lauren Louks boasted an impressive 11-6 record on the singles side, while going 10-7 against top-caliber competition at the No. 1 and 2 doubles slots. 

Karamercan and Louks were named to the All-NESCAC First Team at the conclusion of the 2015-16 season, as Karamercan also garnered Rookie of the Year accolades from the conference office on May 12, 2016. Additionally, Louks and Karamercan earned 2016 ITA Division III All-American honors last season, with Louks earning the honor on the singles and doubles side, and Karamercan being recognized in doubles action. 

Louks and Karamercan suited up for the 2016 NCAA Division III Singles & Doubles Championships in May 2016, as Louks went 1-1 on the singles side, reaching the Round of 16, and the duo went 1-1 on the doubles side, qualifying for the quarterfinal round. The two standout athletes were the first Jumbos to qualify for the prestigious event since 2011.

The Jumbos, who have qualified for the NCAA Division III Tournament in 15 of the last 16 seasons, have also received strong performances during the 2017 season from Calabro (14-3 singles, 9-6 doubles), senior captain Alexa Meltzer (12-4 singles, 1-1 doubles), freshman Katherine Wiley (10-5 singles, 7-7 doubles), sophomore Otilia Popa (12-6 doubles), sophomore Tomo Iwasaki (10-6 doubles, 6-7 singles), sophomore Julia Keller (5-2 singles, 2-2 doubles), senior Chelsea Hayashi (4-0 singles), senior Jacqueline Baum (3-1 doubles) and junior Zoe Miller (1-0 singles). 

Freshman Eliza Brown was strong during the fall season, going 3-1 in doubles and 1-1 in singles, while senior Hannah Conroy went 2-0 in singles and 2-1 in doubles. Freshman Afua Ofori-Darko also saw some action during the fall semester of her rookie season.

The Jumbos, who posted a pair of four-match winning streaks during the spring, will be ready for another tough matchup against the Mammoths.

"Amherst is a very tough team, and I was pleased with how we played against them in April," Bayard said. "However, every match is a new match no matter who we are playing. I feel our schedule has prepared us to be ready for tough matches every time we go out there, and we are expecting a battle every time we go out there." 

Written by Trevor Wenners, Athletic Communications Intern