Thursday, November 12, 2020

Wrapping Fall Semester and Winter Outlook

We are long overdue for a full Midd Tennis Nation blog update and hope to bring you some fun and inspiring news about what our group has been up to this fall! With the influence of the COVID pandemic straining so many colleges and universities, we were incredibly grateful that Middlebury brought our student body back to campus this fall and has done so effectively and safely to this point. Even though many of the COVID protocols affected all aspects of college life, our team was incredibly tight knit and stayed together to navigate many of these new challenges. In fact, we feel this year our group developed an incredibly cohesive culture and was able to stay focused on one of our ultimate goals throughout the fall of exploring our mastery of the game of tennis. With these foundations in place, it comes as no surprise that our level of play was steadily on the rise throughout the fall. As a group, we decided not to pull back at all on the level of our training this semester. We trained six days a week throughout the fall as we always do, as our group wanted to ensure that we put in the necessary work each day to get the most out of our collective talent. To test our games as best we could, we created an intrasquad tournament (2 doubles tournaments and 1 singles tournament) played over the course of two weekends! 

Second year Aidan Harris preparing to track the ball with unparalleled speed!

Panther Tournament Results
Despite having a few players unavailable due to injury, the Panthers geared up to play singles and doubles tournaments against each other to test our mettle. Across two weekends, we played two doubles event and one singles tournament. While we did not want to publish the full results, we do want to acknowledge and celebrate our tournament champions!

First year Noah Laber demonstrated rapid improvement throughout the fall culminating in not only being our singles champion, but also winning one of the two doubles touranments alongside partner Robby Ward! Congrats Noah!

Second year Robby Ward captured both doubles tournament titles, partnering with Stan Morris and Noah Laber! Well done Robby!

Inspiring Leadership
We could not have had a productive fall season without the incredible leadership displayed by fourth year players Nate Eazor and Thorne Gregory. Their inclusive, kind, and consistent approach allowed them to fully integrate our group despite the challenges of not being able to gather in large groups (especially when students initially arrived). Moreover, Nate and Thorne stayed optimistic and steady, providing a positive example for their teammates throughout the semester. When speaking about the team this semester and appreciating his teammate's work ethic and dedication, Thorne said it well when he stated that, "You all [his teammates] make my job of being captain easy." The same is true for the coaching staff, in that the leadership displayed by Nate and Thorne made our jobs easier as well! We are incredibly fortunate to have these two helping us to steer the ship for our wonderful group. We know they will help to keep the momentum rolling no matter what the spring semester throws our way.

While these two have developed into incredible leaders over their four years, as you can see below, they do not seem to have aged a single day! Their headshots from their freshmen year are on the left and senior year on the right! Timeless!

Winter Outlook and Beyond
The college recently announced that all winter sports will not be able to compete in outside competitions and will be limited to practice and training as we were this fall. These are very difficult decisions that are not made lightly, and we appreciate that the college is placing the safety and education of our students first. Relative to spring sports, the college has stated the following message: "While we are not yet able to make a decision about spring athletics, we expect conditions to be similar to those of the current semester. We will make an announcement about NESCAC play at a later date. Even if there is not full NESCAC conference play, we will do everything we can to work toward limited regional play in the warmer months, as COVID-19 conditions allow." 

While it is heartbreaking to recognize that we still may not be back to full competition by the spring, we take confidence in our ability to adapt and keep our program moving forward as best we can. Our players are considering many options as we navigate different possible outcomes for the spring. We hold out some hope that with a vaccine or major positive changes in the national pandemic, we might be able to have a more full spring season. In the event that our ability to compete this spring is largely limited, many of our group may choose to take a gap semester or study remotely and are seeking options that allow them to be together (hopefully competing in tournaments in warm weather somewhere) even if not back with us on campus. As coaches, we view our role as supporting each of our players and their families in making a decision that helps them to have the very best four year college experience!

While we continue to navigate these uncertain times, we will stay focused one day at a time. The coaches recently wrapped up our on court work with the players, and met individually with each player to ensure we had a strong developmental plans in place to keep the momentum of our progress going during captain led training. 

Nobody epitomizes the consistent hard work and dedication of our group better than third year and future medical doctor Zach Hilty!

Sending our warmest wishes to you and your families from Middlebury!

Stay safe and take care! Go Midd!

The Middlebury Men’s Tennis Coaching Staff

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Summer COVID-19 Update for Panther Tennis and Outlook on the Fall

We hope this update finds our Middlebury Tennis Family navigating the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic as smoothly as possible. We our keeping our fingers crossed that everyone has been able to stay safe during these uncertain times.

One of the many ways in which this summer has been different is that we have expanded our team communication during the summer, as using videoconferencing tools such as Zoom has become a new normal. For us coaches, there is no better day than those we get to see the faces of our current group of young men as we stay connected and gradually learn more of what to expect in the coming months. In this blog update, we will share the latest announcement about fall sports at Middlebury, provide a link to a team highlight video created by our own team and was led by rising senior captain Throne Gregory ’21, and then discuss a social cause dear to the heart of one of our rising sophomores Andrew Mueller ’23.

Middlebury College Statement on Fall Athletics
First, we want to express our gratitude and enthusiasm for the prospect that we will have our team back together on campus this Fall. After having last spring abruptly cut short, we have been deprived of the magic that happens when we are able to be together in person and working towards our collective goals. That being said, life at Middlebury College academically, athletically, and socially will be far from business as usual. The college has taken tremendous efforts to detail a return to campus that will prioritize the safety of our students, faculty, and staff (click here to read more).

Recently, the NESCAC conference announced that we will not have formal NESCAC competition during the Fall. However, as each member school of the NESCAC still makes independent choices, Middlebury has continued to take the approach that we will remain open to the possibility of limited competition in the Fall if it is deemed to be safe. We expect that the majority of our Fall season will emphasize tennis practice as well as physical and mental skills training. We will look to be as creative and adaptable as possible to maximize the athletic experience of our players! You can read the most recent announcement about fall athletics at Middlebury by clicking here.

Team Hype Video (group effort led by rising captain Thorne Gregory ’21)
One really fun summer project we tasked each of our current players with is creating a highlight video of their own play that they can use both as motivation and as a tool for visualizing the style of tennis that sets their game up for success. It was a treat to see how our guys could use our PlaySight technology and their own creativity to result in a really cool outcome. Leading the charge and helping his teammates navigate the process, Adam Guo ’21 had a lot of fun blending practice and match highlights (click here to check it out).

For the larger team project, Thorne Gregory ’21 integrated the work of many of our team members and took the lead to create our version of a Middlebury Men's Tennis hype video! No doubt it gets us fired up every time! Click here to enjoy the result!

Such a fun project creating highlight videos led by our players!

Opportunity to Support Cause Inspired by Our Own Andrew Mueller '23
As coaches, we feel one of our most important aims is to empower the passion that our young men demonstrate both inside and outside the confines of a tennis court. Rising sophomore Andrew Mueller ’23, inspired by his circuitous travels back to his home country of Guatemala, is championing a great cause and created a GoFundMe page aimed at helping Guatemalans who have been particularly hard hit by the current pandemic. The nonprofit organization is called From Houses to Homes and is building houses for the less fortunate, creating a free community school, and opening a small medical clinic that serves the low-income, rural, and indigenous people of Guatemala. We invite you to directly support his efforts at the link below or to help us spread the word by sharing the link with others.

Here is a summary of Andrew’s story, that he has written:

“After an endless quarantine in the United States, I finally made the long 36-hour journey home to Antigua, Guatemala. With the airport shut down, I was forced to cross the border by foot from Mexico to Guatemala to make it in time for a 6pm curfew. As I made my way through the country, I was disheartened by families waving white flags as symbols of utter surrender. For the many Guatemalans who already struggle to buy food every day, unemployment due to the virus is making feeding one’s family much more difficult, if not impossible. The virus has halted the country and left families with no other choice than hoping that their white flag will get them their next meal.

I was presented with the opportunity support a local nonprofit Houses to Homes. Due to the pandemic, the organization is now launching a fundraiser for both a new COVID-19 relief grocery delivery program and direct support for their school, escuela Kemna-Oj. The school is continuing learning remotely through distributed worksheets and books.

Any donation is incredibly impactful to many families and I thank you in advance for your generosity. Feel free to share this GoFundMe to any other friends or family who may be passionate about this cause. Feel free to reach out to me personally if you have any question.”

Stay safe and take care! Go Midd!

The Middlebury Men’s Tennis Coaching Staff