Tuesday, October 22, 2013

2013 Fall Recap

With the ultimate goal of a 2014 team National Championship come spring time, the Middlebury Men's Tennis program laid the groundwork for a special spring season with a very solid fall performance. Over the course of 4 events we came away with 67 singles match wins, 29 doubles match wins, 6 individual tournament flight championships, 6 additional tournament flight finalists, an ITA Doubles National Championship, and 2 new All-Americans. However, the thing that has impressed us coaches the most has nothing to do with statistics or numbers, but instead with our intangible growth. On one of the first days of practice the team met with renowned sports psychologist Jerry Lynch and established 14 core cultural values and 10 pillars of competition.

Middlebury Men's Tennis. 14.5 Strong! (with Allen's brother Nathan in the bottom of the photo)
These values and pillars have everything to with tennis, but a proper application and understanding of them also transcends the court and can help our boys succeed not just as athletes, but as people. This thought of developing not just good tennis players, but good people is near and dear to the heart of all of us, but particularly Coach Hansen. In addition, with no freshman to bring up to speed we feel we are already levels ahead of where we finished last year and we continue to work on improving every single day.

One of our two new stellar assistant coaches Charles McConnell councils Palmer and Brantner.
Johno unloads on a forehand.
With the fall season wrapping up, our last day of practice is October 31st, we thought it was a good time to highlight some of the fantastic individual performances we've seen over the fall. Now we certainly won't provide an exhaustive list because that list would simply be too long, we will note a few special moments for each of the guys.

After a slow start and an early round exit in both singles and doubles at the Middlebury Invitational, returning singles All-American Alex 'Johno' Johnston continued to improve throughout the fall. He won a few rounds in the ITA Regional event before dominating the Wallach Invitational hosted by Bates College. Johno won the A flight singles without dropping a set and had a great run to the finals of A flight doubles with partner Andrew 'Lebo' Lebovitz.

Lebo, in addition to his great run at the Wallach Invitational, picked up a couple of gritty wins in the C flight singles of the Middlebury Invitational before falling in the semi-finals. Lebo and Johno also had a crucial doubles victory over the Georgetown #2 team. There win in doubles allowed us to stay in the match where we were able to win 4 of the 6 singles for a 5-4 Middlebury win.

Johno and Lebo make big moves at the ITA Regional.

While the origins of the nickname remain mysterious Teddy 'Bonesaw' Fitzgibbons certainly remains a cold-blooded killer on the tennis court. The Bonesaw started his fall hot and ended it sizzling. In the Midd Invite he had a brilliant 1-6, 6-3, 10-7 win over a talented Tufts player to win the A singles flight. While he struggled a bit during the ITA Regional event, he picked his play back up at the Brown Hidden Dual with a big singles win and ended his fall on a tear at the Wallach Invitational. He made a stellar run to finals of the A flight singles before falling to Johno, and teamed with young-gun Allen 'LaZer' Jackson to win the B flight of the doubles.

The Bonesaw's new offensive weapons have been on display throughout the fall.  
B-Jones was feeling his forehand this fall. 
Speaking of stellar runs, Brantner Jones had one for the ages with an unbelievable ITA Regional Event. While his play at the Midd Invite or Brown Hidden Dual was certainly not up to his lofty standards, even Mr. Jones could smile about his ITA performance. In the second round of singles Brantner fought off match points against a tremendously talented freshman from Trinity before knocking off top-seeded Joey Fritz in the Round of 16. He fell in the quarterfinals of the singles but more than made up for his disappointment by making a run to the finals of the doubles with partner Palmer Campbell. Though Brantner and Palmer fell 10-7 in a super tiebreak they still managed to punch their ticket to Small College Nationals in Fort Myers, Florida when the Amherst team who won the tournament opted not to go the event. In Fort Myers Palmer and Brantner won all 3 rounds without dropping a set to crown themselves ITA National Champions. They continued their run winning a round of the Super Bowl (beating the top Jr. College team in the country) before falling in the finals.

Up 5-2 and rolling!
James 'Small Cat' Burke continued to play solid tennis throughout the fall and ended the season with a fine performance at the Wallach Invitational. In singles he made a run to the semi-finals of the D flight before falling to a strong Amherst player. In doubles, Burke and Jack Welch used their monster forehands to advance the semi-finals of B flight doubles before falling to a pair of Lord Jeffs.

James ropes a forehand.
While Zach Bruchmiller spent most of his weekends this fall in Boston preparing for the LSAT, and thus missing most of our fall competitions, he still was out grinding on the practice court and moving his game in the right direction. After he took the test in early October he was able to make it out to our last event, the Wallach Invite, where he won a round in singles and doubles. Despite not doing as well as he may have liked Zach knows that if he buckles down and puts the work in he could have a special spring.

Although he spent a good chunk of the fall studying, Zach still found time to obliterate some tennis balls. 

The self proclaimed 'fab five'.
Courtney's ability to change pace and spin is uncanny.
Though he has been the only member of his class on campus this semester (Peter Heidrich and Chris Frost are both abroad, and apparently loving it) Courtney Mountifield has certainly been pulling his weight. One of our more consistent performers throughout the fall Courtney simply never had a bad event. He made the finals of the B flight at the Midd Invite, won two rounds (including the demolition of an Amherst line-up player) before losing to the eventual champion at the ITA Regional, won 2 of his 3 matches against Division I competition at the Brown Hidden Dual, and made the semi-finals of the singles A flight at the Wallach Invite. As coaches there's nothing like knowing you have a guy who is going to show up to play.

And his ability to drive the ball has improved tremendously. 
If there was a team popularity contest there is no doubt that Jack Welch would win in a landslide. No one can quite put their finger on it, but everybody wants to be like Welch. And with the way Jack has been improving in the last few months, everyone is going to want his forehand soon too. In addition to his congeniality Welch had a very solid fall. Because of odd numbers Welch paired with a Tufts player and made the finals of B flight doubles at the Midd Invite, quite a feat if you ask me. In addition he made a run to the semis of B fight doubles with partner James Burke at the Wallach Invite where he also won a round of singles.

Welch lines up a slice. 
Ari Smolyar continues to be a rock solid presence at the bottom half of the singles lineup. He started off hot with a run to the finals of C flight singles at the Midd Invite before falling to a tough Wesleyan opponent. He took out his frustration a few weeks later when he went 3-0 against Division I opponents at the Brown Hidden Dual. He capped off his season at the Wallach Invite with a strong showing in B flight singles where he made it to the semis before losing to the eventual champion in 2 tight sets.

Ari unloading on a forehand. 
With their first round win in Fort Myers florida Palmer Campbell and Brantner Jones also achieved All-American status. While Brantner was a two-time All-American his sophomore year, Palmer achieved this special recognition for the first time and it is thus noteworthy. In addition to his aforementioned run in Fort Myers, Palmer began the season by winning the B flight singles at the Midd Invite. He set the bar even higher the next weekend by playing fantastic singles and making it all the way to the semi-finals of the ITA Regional before losing in 3 close sets to a strong Eph.

Palmer fights off a backhand in the ITA Regional. 
Allen 'LaZer' Jackson continues to work his tail off, and as often happens when one works very hard, results begin to show. Though he wasn't satisfied with his performance through much of the fall, he finally got the strong showing he desired after he won both of his flights at the Wallach Invite. In singles Lazer tore through the draw without dropping a set in route to a C flight championship, and in doubles he paired with Teddy to win a difficult B flight doubles title.

Lazer doing what he does best, hitting the ball big. 
Jackson 'J-Fro' Frons played levels better than he did all of last season and picked up some tremendous wins along the way. At the Midd Invite Frons made it the semis of B flight singles before falling to Courtney in a tight match. He backed up his solid showing by taking out two Division I opponents at the Brown Hidden Dual, including a crazy talent from Dartmouth College, and finished his fall season by making a run to the semis of the B flight at the Wallach Invite.

J-Fro ready to serve in front of our brand new Midd Tennis windscreens. 
In addition to a great effort from all the players the coaching brain trust also wanted to give a big thank you to all the support we received from the parents throughout the fall season. Everywhere we went, be it Providence, Rhode Island, Lewiston, Maine, or our home courts here in Middlebury we had great parental turn out, something we really, really appreciate. And while us coaches have to take our foot of the accelerator as the fall tennis season officially ends we know our guys are going to keep pushing forward, improving everyday, and preparing themselves to compete for the 2014 National Championship.

Coach Hansen and the other new assistant Max Sabel. 

Coach Hansen, Coach Sabel, and Coach McConnell

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Spring Break Wrapup

The Middlebury Men’s Tennis Team recently returned home following a successful spring break trip on the west coast. The Panthers played ten matches in six days, racking up an 8-2 record.

A 5-4 loss to Ventura Community College by Midd’s second team and an 8-1 loss to number one ranked Claremont were the only two hiccups during the trip for the Panthers.  

Freshman Palmer Campbell and Junior Brantner Jones
There were more than a few highlights from the trip. A dramatic come from behind win at the number twelve ranked University of Redlands was one of the most thrilling finishes of the week. Trailing 4-2 in the match with three matches on court, the Panthers fought back for a 5-4 victory capped by Zach Bruchmiller’s third set come back victory at number six singles.

Please visit our facebook group page (search middlebury men’s tennis) for a complete listing of the matches played along with a number of great pictures taken by Mr. Brian Frons.

We would like to extend a very special and heartfelt thank you to all the families of MiddTennis that made this spring break trip so incredible. Mark and Pang Frost, Bob and Jane Oberrender
, Dave and Emily Lunghino, Boyd and Lou Bruchmiller, Theresa Heidrich, Brian and Jeanine Frons all joined us out west and made the trip much more enjoyable through their support, kindness and generosity.

As we hit the main stretch of our conference season, both coaches and players alike are beyond thrilled with the trajectory of the team right now. Please visit the middlebury website http://www.middlebury.edu/athletics/sports/menstennis for more info regarding the men’s team schedule and results. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Gearing Up for Spring Break

Dear Midd Panther Tennis Family and Friends,

We are leaving later today for our Spring Break Trip filled with excitement, motivation and drive.  While the academic workload has been crushing leading up to this trip, our men seem up to the challenge and excited about the many challenges we will face on our trip.  Because of our depth and wanting to test ourselves deeply early in the season we have a brutal schedule of 10 matches in six days!  Many will call it unwise but Adam and I have a great deal of confidence in our courage, strength and conviction and are eager to put our character to the test.

New NCAA Championship Banners at Nelson Indoor Courts
We had a couple of last minute changes to the schedule as we replaced our scheduled match with Biola University with Ventura Community College.  This will actually be a far better match as Ventura is one of the top Junior Colleges in the state and has a number of foreign players in addition to top American juniors.  The match is scheduled for 2:00pm on the Ventura campus.  The other change is our match with Pacific University on March 25th has been move to noon on the Pomona Pitzer courts. 

We are all very excited about the new banner project here on our home indoor courts in the Nelson Arena.   Thanks to all of your for your amazing support of Panther Tennis as we continue to do everything possible to enhance the experience of our amazing student athletes!

Hope you are able to follow our progress on the web or via twitter as we move through this challenging schedule!

Very best wishes, Coaches Hansen and Kent and the men of Panther Tennis

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Opening Weekend Wrapup

Senior Captain Spencer Lunghino

The Middlebury Men’s Tennis Team got their 2013 Spring Season off on the right foot this past weekend. With three matches in two days, the Panthers stayed busy on Saturday and Sunday en route to a 3-0 start to the season. The weekend’s play was highlighted by a Sunday afternoon 7-2 victory over Bates College, who came into the weekend ranked number twelve in the nation.

Every member of this year’s squad was able to play a match this weekend, and all recorded a Panther victory!   Saturday afternoon the Panthers squared off against both SUNY – Oneonta and Brandeis. Middlebury utilized their deep roster against SUNY – Oneonta, playing members of the team not currently in the top six rotation in route to a 9-0 victory. Later that afternoon, the top players squared off against Brandeis, notching an 8-1 victory. The weekend’s action was capped off with a Sunday afternoon 7-2 win over Bates College. After losing at number one doubles, Midd took five of the six singles matches on their way to the victory.

Adam and I were very pleased with the way we competed from top to bottom as we consistently brought strong energy and focus.  We were able to learn a great deal about our strengths as well as areas that still need attention.

With a weekend off from competition, the Panthers are looking to move their training forward with a full week of practice and a possible intersquad match this weekend. The team will fly to California for our annual spring trip departing on March 22. With ten matches in six days, the trip should be a great test for the Panthers. The schedule over spring break is not only high volume, but also includes of a number of highly nationally ranked teams.

Thanks to all the parents, family and fans that were able to join us for our opening weekend.  It was a pleasure to see you and share some great Panther tennis as we opened our season.