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

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Panthers Staying Connected During the Pandemic and Appreciating Our Seniors

First and foremost, we hope this blog post finds everyone in our Middlebury Tennis Family safe, healthy, and well during this unprecedented pandemic. The vast influence of COVID-19 has forced all of us to adapt and make difficult adjustments in our daily lives. Despite the challenging circumstances, our Middlebury Tennis program has continued to demonstrate strength on many levels. Before highlighting our current group, want to thank everyone in our Middlebury Tennis Family who is braving the front lines of COVID-19, such as Drs. Eliot Jia ’10 and Andrew Lee ’10 who are currently helping to care for COVID-19 patients in Chicago and New York City respectively. We know there are certainly many more well deserved shout outs, and we want to express our gratitude for all those who are sacrificing right now for the benefit of others!

Team Unity
The current pandemic led to the cancellation of our competitive season right before our very first spring matches, and our players had to evacuate campus to return to their respective families. While COVID-19 caused the same outcome for so many student athletes this Spring, our team demonstrated unique and strong character in spite of the circumstances. At what turned out to be our final in-person team meeting before our players left campus, our team was able to discuss our extreme disappointment and also, we were able to help each other find perspective. Our players cited one of the key tenants of our team culture, our aspiration to operate at a championship level on a daily basis and found comfort in knowing that we positioned ourselves on that path. Our team had come together rapidly this season and demonstrated particularly close bonds, supportiveness, and a competitive fire for putting in work for the betterment of the team. Exemplifying our togetherness, our group continues to stay closely connected via group chats, Zoom, and more. In the classroom, we are also excelling at an incredible rate with an impressive cumulative team GPA of 3.68! Wow! 

Celebrating our Seniors
Most impressively, our senior team captains have continued to handle themselves with exceptional class in spite of their last season having been taken away from them. Their composure and leadership continue to benefit our team now, but also sets them up to be amazing contributors to whatever organizations and graduate programs they pursue next! We are still brainstorming the best possible ways in which we can properly honor our 2020 senior trio of Weston Brach, Aleks Samets, and Alex Vanezis in lieu of our annual senior night. More to come on that. For now, we will provide a couple of fun highlights about each of them.

Our three seniors holding the big trophy in 2018!
Weston Brach from Dover, MA has been an incredible contributor to our program on many levels. Weston has a bright spirit, philosophical disposition, and a passion for tennis that few can rival. Weston’s serve and volley style was incredibly fun to watch, and is a strength that few on our team could match. Not only as a senior captain, but throughout his career, Weston was always thinking about how he could improve and also what ideas and suggestions he had for his teammates. His selflessness and positivity endeared Weston to coaches and teammates alike. 

Weston mashing a serve on our home courts!
Aleks Samets from Ocean Township, NJ has been a wonderful ambassador for Middlebury Men’s Tennis. Aleks has a brilliant way of leading by example and his organization and efficiency were admired by both his coaches and teammates. He is both incredibly reliable and supportive. Aleks had special gifts on the doubles court, and few on our team could match his ability and athleticism to close on volleys in doubles. He also seems to have a knack for finding joy when we are working our hardest as a group, and he is never afraid to engage in good natured banter on and off the court.

Aleks ready to pounce on a volley!
Alex Vanezis from Frankfurt Germany was another uniquely gifted leader rounding out this year’s senior captains. Alex demonstrated an incredible degree of thoughtfulness about his own development and the team’s throughout his career. He was a player whose consistent improvements each season made him one of the most well-rounded players in our program on the court and resulted in his attainment of a Top 50 National Singles Ranking in the current ITA standings! He also set the tone for consistent hard work both on court and on the track throughout his career – so much so that we are thankful that our track coaches did not steal him from us!

Alex ready to rumble on his home courts!
Collectively, this group will go down as one of the most put together and well-rounded leadership teams in the history of Middlebury Men’s Tennis! Thank you for all you have done to support and improve our program. We look forward to each of you remaining a special part of our Middlebury Tennis Alumni family and are looking forward to watching where your respective paths take you in the future.

More Updates To Come
Along with everyone else, we are still in the midst of great uncertainty during this pandemic. We will continue to keep everyone updated relative to all things Middlebury Panther Tennis as the college navigates through this difficult time. Again, wishing everyone the very best during this time.

Stay safe and take care!

The Middlebury Men’s Tennis Coaching Staff