This past weekend, the women’s tennis team (13-4, NESCAC 7-2) wrapped up a successful regular season with a win over Williams (6-9, NESCAC 3-5). The Polar Bears will meet the Ephs again this afternoon at 4:30 p.m. in the NESCAC Women’s Tennis Championship at Middlebury.
The NESCAC is among the most competitive leagues in DIII women’s tennis. Six NESCAC teams—Middlebury (15-1, NESCAC 8-0), Wesleyan (13-2, NESCAC 8-1), Amherst (11-4, NESCAC 5-3), Bowdoin, Tufts (8-8, NESCAC 5-4), and Williams—are ranked in the top ten of the Northeast DIII field. Bowdoin is entering the tournament seeded third.
“We were really excited because this is the highest we’ve ever been seeded in the NESCAC tournament,” said captain Tasha Christ ’20.
However, the competition this weekend will be fierce. The team’s primary focus is its rematch against Williams. Currently, Williams boasts a 5-0 record against Bowdoin in the past NESCAC championships.
“We were really fortunate to go up 2-1 [last weekend], but it just as easily could have been 2-1 for them, or even 3-0 for them,” said Christ. “But everyone did a really good job of competing. I think we out-competed them.”
The stakes are high for each competitor, whether she is competing individually or with a partner. Doubles matches, which occur at the beginning of each full competition, are important to set the tone. Early wins give the team momentum moving forward.
“[If you win doubles,] you go into your singles knowing exactly how many matches you need to win,” said Sarah Shadowens ’19.
The pressure to win early is amplified in tournament play. During the regular season, matches are played to completion, meaning all nine matches are seen through. At the NESCAC tournament, however, matches are only played to decision. Once one team wins the five out of nine matches, play is over. This places even more pressure on those early doubles matches.
But each round of the tournament is important, so the team tries to focus on what’s at hand.
“We’ve got to take it one at a time,” said Shadowens. “If you look ahead, you’re getting disrupted by something that’s not even here yet. It’s just Williams right now.”
Only teams seeded third through sixth will play in the first round on Friday. First and second seeds, Middlebury and Wesleyan, respectively, received first-round byes. Should Bowdoin down Williams this weekend, the Polar Bears would face Wesleyan in the semifinal round. Bowdoin has never played in the NESCAC final before.
Despite being a young team with three first years out of seven players, Bowdoin has had a strong season.
“We’ve all been really impressed with the freshmen the entire year,” said Christ. “They’ve competed so well. They have enough experience and success that I think of them as being equal members of the team.”
More importantly, the Polar Bears haven’t been phased by away games. The team boasts an impressive 6-1 away record, compared to a 3-3 home record and a 4-0 neutral court record.
“We’re just really excited,” said Christ. “It’s been a really great season so far, and we’re just getting started in the postseason. We’re excited to show all those teams how much we’ve improved.”