Beavers Earn First NCAA Tournament Berth With First Conference Crown Since 2003
BABSON PARK, Mass.—Trailing after doubles for the first time all season and behind 4-1 after the completion of the first two singles matches, third-seeded Babson College staged an improbable rally, winning the final four matches to stun top-seeded MIT, 5-4, in the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Women's Tennis Tournament finals on Sunday afternoon at Farwell Courts.
Babson (14-3), which claimed its first conference title since 2003, earned the program's first bid to the NCAA Tournament with the victory. MIT, which had won 28 straight matches against league foes, finishes the fall at 10-1.
The Engineers, who led 2-1 after doubles, got on the board first as sophomore Krystal Lai (Irvine, Calif.) and first-year Dora Tzeng (Fremont, Calif.) defeated the Beavers' duo of senior Alexis Ferraro (Coral Gables, Fla.) and junior Tori Paolino (East Orleans, Mass.), 8-5, at number three. Senior Michelle Dutt (Gurnee, Ill.) and first-year Sonya Das (Arden Hills, Minn.) followed with an 8-6 win over first-years Kylie Kam (Honolulu, Hawaii) and Jenny Quenard (St.-Legier, Switzerland) at number two before senior Alex Freeman (Medfield, Mass.) and first-year Yagmur Akgul (Istanbul, Turkey) got the Green and White on the board with a hard-fought 9-8 (7-4) victory over MIT's tandem of junior Victoria Tam (Rolling Hills Estates, Calif.) and sophomore Elysa Kohrs (Half Moon Bay, Calif.) at number one.
First-year Cindy Liu (Claremont, Calif.) gave the Engineers their first singles point with a 6-0, 6-1 triumph over Ferraro at number five. Tzeng followed with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Babson first-year Claire Foster (Orange, Conn.) at number six to get within one point of MIT's third straight conference crown.
The Beavers responded though, as Akgul recorded a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Kohrs at number one. Paolino then defeated MIT sophomore Wendi Kong (Cupertino, Calif.), 7-5, 6-4, at number four to cut the deficit to 4-3 in the match with the final two flights both going to a decisive third set.
Freeman, who was selected as the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, lost the first set to Tam at number two singles, but dropped just one game over the final two sets en route to a 5-7, 6-1, 6-0 victory that evened the match at 4-4. On the adjacent court, Quenard and Das traded blows for over two hours in an epic battle at number three.
After splitting the first two sets, Quenard broke Das to level the final set at 4-4. Both players held serve over the next three games before Quenard helped the Green and White finish off the comeback with a break in the final game for a 6-4, 2-6, 7-5 win.
Babson, which became the first team seeded third or lower to win the NEWMAC Tournament, is now 2-0 all-time in the title match.
MATCH NOTES: The Beavers, who defeated MIT for the first time since 2009, are now 2-0 all-time against the Engineers in the NEWMAC finals...Akgul, who won her 21st singles match of the fall on Sunday, tied Daniela Hofer for the most victories in a season by any Babson player since 1994...Freeman and Akgul also tied for the most wins by anyone in doubles since 1994 with their 19th of the year...the Beavers' 14 victories this fall are just two short of the program record for wins in a season and are the most in the fall portion of the schedule since 1983.