The No.-3 ranked Emory University Women's Tennis team saw its quest to repeat as national champions thwarted on Wednesday as the Eagles fell to No.-4 ranked Williams College, 5-4, in the NCAA Division III National Championship at the Strang-Voges Tennis Center on the campus of The McCallie School in Chattanooga, TN.
The showdown between the two perennial Division III powers did not disappoint as the title match lasted over four and half hours and was decided by a three-set match at first singles featuring two of the top singles players in the country.
With the contest knotted at 4-4, it came down to the decisive match point on court one between juniors Bridget Harding and Juli Raventos. Harding got off to a strong start, taking the first set 6-1 but Raventos answered with a 6-3 second set win to force a winner-take-all third set. Raventos started fast, grabbing a 3-1 lead but Harding held serve to cut the deficit to 3-2. Unfortunately, that was as close as the Northport, NY native came as Raventos rattled off three straight points to seal the title for the Ephs.
Williams opened the match by swiping the first two doubles points to take a 2-0 advantage. At third doubles, Julia Cancio and Emily Zheng defeated seniors Paula Castro and Michelle DeMeo, 8-5. Cancio and Zheng broke a 3-3 tie in the match with three straight points en route to the 8-5 win.
At second doubles, senior Michelle Satterfield and sophomore Daniela Lopez battled back from a 5-0 deficit to cut Williams' Chloe Henderson and Hannah Atkinson lead to 5-4. However, the Ephs pair was able to win the final three points in the match to record the 8-4 victory.
Harding and senior Katarina Su regained some momentum with an outstanding hard-fought, come-from-behind win at first doubles to send Emory into singles action down by a point. Williams' Raventos and Linda Shin won two straight points to move in front 7-5 but Harding and Su answered with four consecutive points of their own, including saving four match points to earn the break at 7-7 before going on to win the match 9-7.
The Eagles and Ephs traded wins to begin singles play as Castro defeated Cancio 7-6 (2), 6-2 at sixth singles before Mia Gancayco topped senior Melissa Goodman at fifth singles, 6-3, 6-2.
Emory then saw back-to-back victories at third and fourth singles to take a 4-3 advantage heading into the final two matches. Lopez beat Atkinson on court three while Su knocked off Shin on court four. Both matches were decided by identical 6-4, 6-4 scores.
Williams saw a victory by Leah Bush over Satterfield at second singles, 7-6 (4), 6-2 which tied the score at 4-4 and put all eyes on court one where Raventos edged out Harding for the championship point.
Emory concludes the season with a 17-7 overall record whereas the Ephs finish the year at 20-4. The two programs have now combined to win 16 of the last 17 Division III National Championships.