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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Bowdoin Men Defeat Middlebury for School's First Men's NCAA Championship in Any Sport; Emory Women Down Williams 5-4 for Seventh Team Title

©Colette Lewis 2016--
Kalamazoo, MI--

Playing in the program's first NCAA final, in warm and humid conditions, against an experienced team that had beaten them 5-1 less than three weeks ago, No. 4 seed Bowdoin had every reason to let the occasion overwhelm them.  But it was the Polar Bears who did the overwhelming, sweeping the doubles points and securing two straight-set singles matches to defeat No. 3 seed Middlebury 5-0 Wednesday at Kalamazoo College's Stowe Stadium.

After two exhausting 5-4 wins in the quarterfinals Monday against Johns Hopkins and the semifinals Tuesday against top seed Emory, Bowdoin would have been forgiven for getting off to a slow start, but they went up 6-3 on all three doubles courts and closed out all three with a minimum of fuss.

Bowdoin coach Conor Smith wasn't sure how to react to that start.

"It was weird, I think I was more uncomfortable today having the lead, does that make sense?" said Smith, whose team came back from a 3-0 deficit in doubles to beat Johns Hopkins and a 2-1 deficit against Emory. "I almost like playing from behind, so today was nerve-wracking, being up was very nerve-wracking."

Bowdoin took four first sets in singles, so Middlebury, who reached the final last year, had an uphill climb.  Tuesday's hero in the Emory victory, Luke Trinka, was the first off the court, with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Palmer Campbell, who had clinched Middlebury's 5-2 win over Chicago in the semifinals.  The fifth point looked like it would come from Gil Roddy at line 5, with Roddy up 4-2 over Hamid Derbani.  A break at love gave Roddy a 5-2 lead, a two-break cushion that comes in handy when serving out a championship.  In his first attempt, the sophomore from Massachusetts got to 40-30, but he didn't convert, when a mishit backhand from Derbani caught the far sideline.

"I kind of knew it was going to come down to my match when everyone starting filling up behind me," said Roddy, noticeably hoarse from all the vocal encouragement required in the past three days. "My match point, the shank backhand that landed on the line, it had to happen. Stuff like that has to happen. It was tough. His service game went by pretty quickly, I didn't put up much of a fight in that game, but coming out, at 5-4, that first point was everything."

In his second attempt to serve it out, Roddy put away an overhead, then got a backhand error from Derbani for 30-0.  On the next point, Roddy hit deft backhand volley that drew rousing cheers from the Bowdoin faithful.

"The stab backhand volley was just lucky," said Roddy. "I guessed right, I guess. I was just trying to make first serves in the last game and put pressure on him."

Roddy closed out the championship with a first serve when Derbani's return floated long, Bowdoin had the first men's sports national championship in school history.

Just beating Middlebury, let alone for a national championship, was memorable for Roddy.

"We haven't beaten them since I've been here, the last five times, they've beaten us, three last year, two this year," Roddy said. "But the stage, it's an equalizer. Everyone has the same nerves. They were in the finals last year, but it's a much different setting. This was our match, and we just thought about it that way, rather than it's Mid."

Smith said the 5-1 loss in the NESCAC conference final was in no way discouraging.

"That was close," said Smith, a recipient of the obligatory water and ice cooler shower after the match. "There were a lot of close singles matches and Mid played really good doubles, hit us in the mouth early a couple of weeks ago. The singles matches were all battles and it was closer and more competitive than the first time we played them when it was 5-4.  So it actually boosted our confidence, made us more ready for today."

Smith credited the relaxed attitude of his team for their performance today.

"The guys were so loose, and I'm not like that, I'm not loose at all," said Smith, in his fifth year at Bowdoin. "It's just the identity and persona of this team. They just have fun with everything, and we really needed that to be able to win today, to pull it off in these kind of circumstances and pressure."

Middlebury coach Bob Hansen credited Bowdoin for their performance, while he continued processing the loss.

"We're a bit perplexed," said Hansen, who won seven team titles while at UC-Santa Cruz before taking over Middlebury five years ago. "We're still trying to digest it, still scratching our heads. We knew they were a good team, a well-coached team and I give them a lot of credit. They played hard, they played well and they were the better team today. We're still trying to find the perspective, but it's hard a way to end a season."

While Bowdoin was a newcomer to the Division III team finals scene, the women's championship was a battle between longtime rivals.  After losing to Williams 5-4 in the 2015 final in Mason, Ohio, Emory reversed the result in Kalamazoo, taking their second title in the last three years by that same 5-4 score.

As the score indicates, nothing would come easy for the Eagles. In the doubles, Williams was up a break on all three courts, and went on to expand their leads at lines 1 and 2.  But Emory's Paula Castro and Michelle Satterfield broke back to 4-4 in their match with Maya Hart and Giulia McDonell Nieto del Rio at line 3 then broke again for a 6-4 lead, and held on, giving Emory a much needed point.

"We needed to come out with one doubles point," Emory coach Amy Bryant said. "It was a match-changer, honestly. We felt we had the potential to do it no matter what, but it was quite a relief for me as a coach, getting that one doubles point."

In singles, Emory began asserting itself on the back three courts, although line 5 provided an important momentum shift for the Eagles. Williams' Hannah Atkinson served for the first set at 5-4 against Madison Gordon, but could not close, with Gordon taking the opening set 7-5, the fourth first set Emory would claim.

If Emory could close out those four matches, they would be champions, but keeping a team as talented as Williams out of a third set is a difficult task.  As soon as Emory tied the match with Castro's 6-3, 6-1 win over Julia Cancio at line 4, Williams reclaimed the lead, with Linda Shin defeating Beatrice Rosen 6-1, 6-0 at line 3 to make it 3-2 Williams.

In the space of just a few minutes, Katarina Su of Emory won 6-2, 6-2 over Leah Bush at line 6 for 3-3, and but the Ephs regained the lead with Juli Raventos' 6-1, 6-2 win over Bridget Harding at line 1.  But in the final two matches, at lines 5 and 2, Emory had taken the first sets, so Williams had to earn splits to extend the match.

Gordon was up 5-0 at line 5, having won nine straight games from Atkinson, while Satterfield had just broken Mia Gancayco for a 6-2, 5-3 lead at line 2.  Gordon closed out Atkinson for a 7-5, 6-0 win to make it 4-all, and Satterfield could end it with all the attention on Kalamazoo's George Acker court.

Satterfield, who kept the pressure off by making first serves in the final game, still fell behind 15-30 after a forehand error, but Gancayco missed a backhand wide in one of the pair's many lengthy points to make it 30-30. Satterfield didn't get tentative on the next point, putting away a forehand, so she stepped to the line with championship point on her racquet. Another first serve, and a forehand inches from the line proved too much for Gancayco, with Satterfield delivering the seventh NCAA team title for the Eagles.

"Once I knew it was down to me, I was just going to will myself to win," said the junior from Arizona, who played in both the 2014 and 2015 finals for the Eagles. "I was just telling myself that I am going to keep being aggressive, because if I'm going to win, I'm going to have to take it."

Satterfield did not instantly know that her last forehand would be a winner.

"Honestly, I hit it and I was like, she's going to get there, and I got ready for the next ball," said Satterfield, who had lost to Gancayco in three sets in Emory's 5-4 win over Williams earlier this year. "I didn't even process it until everyone ran on the court and I was suffocating."

For Bryant, seeing Satterfield on the court in that position was reassuring.

"I was completely confident in Michelle," said Bryant, who has now won six team titles in her 16 years at Emory. "Michelle's a great competitor and she has been since day one, so out of anyone on the team, that's the one person I would want in that position, so we were real fortunate it turned out that way. But she couldn't have done it without the support of her teammates; every other player who was out there competing fueled her performance. So it was a great day for all of us."

Although Bryant had her team focused in the present, the loss to Williams in last year's final did play a role.

"I think the motivation from last year fueled our entire season," said Bryant, who acknowledged that it felt good to come out on top against Williams, who had won the title seven of the past eight years. "And then once we got here, it's like, focus on today, that's it. Nothing else matters, the rivalry, none of that stuff mattered today. The only thing that mattered was the ball in front of us."

Williams coach Alison Swain had said she was expecting an amazing match with Emory after Tuesday's semifinal win over Bowdoin, and she got it.

"It was definitely an exciting match," said Swain, in her ninth year at Williams. "I'm really proud of our team. I know they're disappointed in this moment, but to get here is a huge accomplishment and to do it year after year and handle the pressure of the legacy of Williams tennis so well is really phenomenal credit to them. Credit to Emory. They're a great team, really talented this year and they played really well in the singles. I know it's an awesome, exciting moment for them, and I'm really proud of our team for everything we've put together this season."

The Division III individual tournament begins Thursday with first and second round matches at Stowe Stadium and Western Michigan University.  Juli Raventos of Williams and Noah Farrell of Middlebury are the top seeds in singles.  Links to the draws can be found at the Kalamazoo college tournament central page.

NCAA Division III Men’s Team Championship
#4 Bowdoin 5, #3 Middlebury 0
May 25, 2016
Kalamazoo College

1. Luke Tercek/Luke Trinka (BOW-M) def. Palmer Campbell/Hamid Derbani (MIDDMT) 8-4
2. Jerry Jiang/Kyle Wolfe (BOW-M) def. Noah Farrell/Ari Smolyar (MIDDMT) 8-3
3. Gil Roddy/Grant Urken (BOW-M) def. William de Quant/Kyle Schlanger (MIDDMT) 8-4
Order of finish: 2, 1, 3

1. Noah Farrell (MIDDMT) vs. Luke Tercek (BOW-M) 6-2, 2-6, 1-3, unfinished
2. Ari Smolyar (MIDDMT) vs. Kyle Wolfe (BOW-M) 6-7(7), 2-4, unfinished
3. Luke Trinka (BOW-M) def. Palmer Campbell (MIDDMT) 6-2, 6-3
4. William de Quant (MIDDMT) vs. Jerry Jiang (BOW-M) 7-5, 5-3, unfinished
5. Gil Roddy (BOW-M) def. Hamid Derbani (MIDDMT) 6-4, 6-4
6. Kyle Schlanger (MIDDMT) vs. Grant Urken (BOW-M) 6-7(4), 6-4, 1-1, unfinished
Order of finish: 3, 5

Match Notes
Bowdoin 20-3; National ranking #4
Middlebury 20-3; National ranking #3
NCAA Division III Women’s Team Championship
#1 Emory University 5, #2 Williams 4

1. Juli Raventos/Linda Shin (WILLIAMS) def. Anna Fuhr/Madison Gordon (EUW) 8-2
2. Hannah Atkinson/Julia Cancio (WILLIAMS) def. Bridget Harding/Katarina Su (EUW) 8-3
3. Paula Castro/Michelle Satterfield (EUW) def. Maya Hart/G. McDonnell Nieto (WILLIAMS) 8-5
Order of finish: 1, 2, 3

1. Juli Raventos (WILLIAMS) def. Bridget Harding (EUW) 6-1, 6-2
2. Michelle Satterfield (EUW) def. Mia Gancayco (WILLIAMS) 6-2, 6-3
3. Linda Shin (WILLIAMS) def. Beatrice Rosen (EUW) 6-1, 6-0
4. Paula Castro (EUW) def. Julia Cancio (WILLIAMS) 6-3, 6-1
5. Madison Gordon (EUW) def. Hannah Atkinson (WILLIAMS) 7-5, 6-0
6. Katarina Su (EUW) def. Leah Bush (WILLIAMS) 6-2, 6-2
Order of finish: 4, 3, 6, 1, 5, 2

Match Notes
Williams 22-4; National ranking #2
Emory University 28-5; National ranking #1