Kris Herman 1

Williams College softball will chase a spot in the NCAA tournament this weekend. 

Sixty-two Division III softball teams will play for the right to win an NCAA championship. If Williams College is to get to Salem, Va., the road will begin in Medford.

That’s where the Ephs and six of their NESCAC partners are headed this weekend as Tufts hosts the NESCAC Tournament. The winner of this eight-team, single-elimination tournament, will earn the conference’s automatic bid to the D-III Tournament.

In order for Hall of Fame coach Kris Herman, she of the 800 career victories, and her team to reach the NCAA’s once again, will have to navigate the choppy waters of the NESCAC Tournament.

The NESCAC Tournament alternates between the East and West Divisions, so this year, East champion Tufts will host.

The Jumbos will play the West’s No. 4 team in Wesleyan in Friday’s 2:30 p.m. first game. When that game ends, West champion Amherst will play the East’s No. 4 team in Bowdoin. Amherst’s head coach is no stranger to Berkshire County. Jessica Johnson was a multi-sport athlete at Mount Greylock and played on four Western Mass. Division II championship teams.

On Saturday, the other four teams will begin play. Middlebury, the No. 2 team from the West, will play East No. 3 Colby at 9:30 a.m. Williams, the No. 3 team in the West, will play East No. 2 Trinity at noon.

The winner of the Tufts-Wesleyan game will then play the winner of the Middlebury-Colby game. The Williams-Trinity winner will play the Amherst-Bowdoin winner in the final game of the day.

The championship game is set for Sunday at 10 a.m.

Williams has made it to the last seven NESCAC championship games, winning three straight titles from 2016-2018. Tufts has won 12 NESCAC titles and Williams is second with six.

A NESCAC tourney title would guarantee the Ephs their 10th appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Williams has won five regional championships and two super regional titles.

The NESCAC champion and the rest of Division III will find out on Monday afternoon who will fit into the 62-team bracket.

The championship finals will be May 26-31 in Salem, Va.

NESCAC tennisBoth Williams teams earned their way into the tournament, and both teams will be on the road for this weekend’s tournament action.

Both the men and women will play at Wesleyan or Amherst, under a new format. The top eight teams based on regular-season, round-robin NESCAC play have earned their way into the tournament. Quarterfinal play will be held Friday at Wesleyan or Amherst, with the semifinals and finals all at Wesleyan.

Men’s tennis was quite the challenge to seed. Williams, Middlebury and Tufts all finished 9-1 in conference play and after six rounds of tiebreakers were used, the three schools were still tied. According to NESCAC, “a random action was used” to seed the schools, so Middlebury ended up as the No. 1 seed, followed by Tufts and Williams.

The Williams men will head to Wesleyan for a match against the host Cardinals, the No. 6 seed in the men’s field. The other quarterfinal in Middletown, Conn., features second-seeded Tufts and No. 7 Colby. Williams is looking to win its second-ever NESCAC title. The Ephs were seeded second in 2013 and beat top seed Amherst.

The other quarterfinal matches will be played at Amherst. There, top-seed Middlebury will play No. 8 Trinity, while fourth-seeded Bowdoin will take on No. 5 Amherst.

The lowest remaining seed will play the highest remaining seed in one of two Saturday semifinals, with the final on Sunday.

The Williams women will undergo the same tournament schedule, but the Ephs will be heading to Amherst. The No. 5 Ephs will play No. 4 Amherst, a team Williams has lost to twice in this school year.

“The team is so excited,” Eph head coach Anik Cepeda said in a release. “We’re peaking competitively at the right time and we get another crack at Amherst on their home turf? It’s too good to be true. We’re a completely new team than when we first started our season. We have a greater sense of urgency, excitement, and appreciation for overcoming challenges. We’ve also improved competitively.

“The players are making more disciplined decisions, choosing the right balls and the right targets, and overall have been embracing a mindset and game plan that’s more imposing and confident.”

Williams had a run of four consecutive NESCAC championships end when Wesleyan won the title in 2019.

The other quarterfinal round at Amherst will feature No. 3 Tufts and No. 6 Bowdoin. At Wesleyan, the top-seeded Cardinals will play No. 8 Bates, while seventh-seeded Colby will play No. 2 Middlebury.

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com or

413-496-6253.

Sportswriter-Columnist

Howard Herman is a sports columnist at The Berkshire Eagle. The dean of full-time sportswriters in Western Mass., he has been with the Eagle since 1988, and is a member of the New England Baseball and Basketball Hall of Fame.