Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Return of the Champions!

Schwarz getting a Gatorade bath.
A weekend for the ages is in the books after a wonderful celebration of the accomplishments of the 2004 and 2010 NCAA National Championship teams. On Saturday and Sunday nearly 20 former Panther all-stars dusted off their racquets and took the courts in some light hearted, but highly competitive tennis. The weekend began with a round table discussion at which the current Panthers were fortunate enough to hear the former players share some stories about their respective runs to the national championship. Former coach Dave Schwarz (2000-2010) gave a wonderful recap of his time at Middlebury and discussed how the program grew from a team that was ranked low in the region during his first year, to a team that is consistently among the top 10 in the nation. (for more Midd Tennis history check out a web site recently made by Alex Johnston 14.5' http://sites.middlebury.edu/middtennishistory/) Also adding a mix of humorous and enlightening championship run stories were the older, and thus wiser alums, Brian Waldron '06, Stuart Brown '04, and Nate Edmunds '06 to name a few. After the pleasantries were over, the boys got down to business and laced up their shoes for some match play.
Former champions and current Panthers.

Highlights included a doubles battle where the nation's number one ranked team of Brantner Jones 14' and Palmer Campbell 16' took on a team that went 18-1 their senior year at #2 doubles: Conrad Olson ~'10 and Eliot Jia '10. The current Panther duo of Jones and Campbell escaped with an 8-6 victory, but Olson and Jia impressed onlookers with their sharp play...in a set filled with some high
Googs unloads on a forehand during the 04' title run.
quality shot making Justin 'Googs' Ingoglia '05 unleashed what may have been the shot of the day with a beautiful down the line running forehand that eluded Ari Smolyar 16'. Smolyar however, had the last laugh as he walked away with the 6-4 W...better known for his doubles prowess Andrew Thomson '10 impressed on the singles court as he raced out to a 2-0 lead before succumbing to the big-serving Alex Johnston 14.5' 4-6...Pat Knise '12 teamed with Jack Welch 16' to defeat the tandem of Mike Gillim '04 and Googs '05. Welch was later quoted as saying, “I wish I could serve like Googs.” Following the match Welch and Knise slapped forehands back and forth for about 20 minutes much to the crowds delight.
Schwarz said he would've have traded a can of tennis balls for Andrew Lee after his freshman year.
By Lee's senior year he was a singles and doubles All-American.
The duo of James Burke '14 and Zach Bruchmiller 14' managed to clip their former teammates Derrick “Dangle” Angle 12' and Eric “Eazy” Vehovec 12' 8-5. Vehovec (who currently holds a 1672 ATP singles ranking) was reportedly aced on four straight wide serves by Burke, however we are still awaiting video confirmation. In a post match interview Bruchmiller had high praise for the former Panthers, “Dangle was moving like an animal at net. Pulling a lot of signature drop volleys. Slapping a lot of backhands.”.
Andrew Thomson celebrates after a big Conrad Olson victory. Dangle (background) enjoys this immensely.
Nate Edmunds with the full extension on the backhand followthrough.
That's straight out of the textbook. 
Alex Scott 07' and Fil Marinkovic ~08' serve's frequently approached 120 MPH on the radar gun but they struggled in longer exchanges against the young, agile Panther team of Peter Heidrich 16' and Ari Smolyar 16'...in a matchup of a former #1 Panther team versus a current Panther #1 team Alex Johnston 14.5” and Andrew Lebovitz 14.5” took down Andrew Lee 10' and Andrew Thomson 10'. The point of the match occurred when Thomson hit a beautiful drop volley that Lebo somehow tracked down, only to have his meek reply smashed into his back. So while Lee and Thomson couldn't get the victory, at least they got some bacon...Lebo finished his first match and went straight to his second where he paired with assistant coach Max Sabel to defeat Will “Rudy” Oberrender 13' and Mile Malhame 11' 7-6(5) in what was the closest the alumni got to a victory all weekend...Jackson Frons 16' and Courtney Mountifield 15' played a close match against Nate Edmunds 06' and Kevin Bergesen 07'
Victory! Dog pile after Alex Scott clinches the 04' title.
The current Panther tandem emerged 8-5 but where impressed with the alumni. Post match Frons was heard saying, “I thought we'd walk all over them, but those guys can play.”...Former captain Stu Brown 04' and Googs 05' (how many matches did this guy play?) couldn't handle the strong play of Allen Jackson 16' and Chris Frost 15'Jackson was seen whiffing on a huge serve off of the Googs racquet. However he was quick to note that Googs doubled the next three points for the break.
Alex Scott unloads on a backhand (assuming he closes that racquet face soon)
Conrad's lovin' it.
All in the all the event was a great success with players and alumni bonding over the stories of past success and the dreams of whats to come. One current Panther remarked, “As a senior, things were put pretty solidly in perspective this weekend. While I have many memories from this team thus far, it would not feel complete without having it all come together with a national title. I want a spot at the table at the championship reunions, telling future players about the good times, the matches, and the sacrifice. I will do whatever it takes from here on out to get there, and I hope you all will join me.” Another noted, “The strength of the bond the 2004 guys have today and the passion behind the stories they told really had a strong impression on me. I was able to see first hand the individual and group effects of winning a national championship; the guys think about the experience to this day and it formed a connection between them forever. I want that.” 
Brian Waldron cutting a dirty slice. 
Eliot Jia just wants one more point!
A final Panther said the highlight of the weekend for him was, “...what Dave said to us on Sunday. He asked us, 'Could you win the National title if it was today? If not, then you need to figure out what to do to get there.' I loved that question because it turns that National Championship match into an entire season grind. What we do today is what wins the gold trophy two months from now.”

The players and coaches would like to extend one final thank you to all the alumni that took the time to return to campus this past weekend and we look forward to future alumni events.

-Coaches Hansen, Sabel, and McConnell

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

And We're Underway!

          Over the course of several Saturdays throughout the month of February the Panther's have laced up their shoes and faced one another in our weekly 'Blue and White' intra-squad matches. And as hard as we try to simulate the atmosphere of a match versus an opposing school, there is something about playing your own teammates that makes the experience feel slightly disingenuous. However, this past Saturday we finally got to face off against some real life competition. At 9 A.M. we opened our dual match season versus NESCAC conference foe Colby College and later in the afternoon we faced Brandeis. While both of these teams have been trending upward in the past few years we felt confident that given our depth we could play two completely different singles lineups, as well as several combinations of different doubles teams, in order to allow all 14 of our Panther stars an opportunity to shine. An opportunity they all capitalized on as every player was able to notch a win on opening day.
Preparing for battle!
            In the morning match, following what could quickly become a 2014 Panther tennis tradition, the playing of the national anthem before lineup introductions, our doubles teams took the court versus the Colby College Mules. Midd notched it's first point of the season not 30 minutes later when our #2 doubles teams of Brantner Jones and Palmer Campbell finished off their opponents 8-1. You know you have some doubles depth when the team currently ranked #1 in the country (Jones and Campbell) is playing at your #2 position. Courtney Mountifield and Jackson Frons were next on the board with an 8-2 victory at #3 doubles followed by a 8-3 win for Ari Smolyar and James Burke at #4 doubles. At the #1 doubles position the senior duo of Alex Johnston and Andrew Lebovitz faced a determined barren of freshman Mules and were unable to overcome some late serving struggles, making the score 2-1 in favor of Middlebury after doubles.
Brantner Jones and Palmer Campbell, currently ranked #1 in the country
            Much like his doubles performance Palmer Campbell needed only about 30 minutes to get the win at the #1 singles position when his opponent, down 0-3 to the hard hitting Campbell, rolled his ankle and retired from the match. Next off the court was the Bonesaw. Facing a talented Colby player senior Teddy Fitzgibbons was his usual self, tracking down balls and rarely missing en route to a 6-1, 6-2 victory at the #3 position. Minutes later Andrew Lebovitz clinched the match for the Panthers with a routine 6-1, 6-2 win at the #5 singles spot. Coach Hansen was particularly impressed with Lebovitz's work as he was able to rebound from a tough doubles loss to put together a virtuoso singles performance. And while it was never mentioned, we also suspect Coach Hansen was enamored with Lebovitz's play because of his tendency to chip and charge and serve and volley, something Coach Hansen remembers fondly from his glory days.
Bob's glory days?
 Chris Frost was next off with a dominating 6-0, 6-1 win at the #6 singles line. Frost, who is still kicking red clay off of his shoes after a fall abroad in Spain, as well as fellow junior Peter Heidrich have impressed everyone with how seamlessly they've integrated themselves into this years team, something that is not easy to do after spending several months in a foreign country. At the #2 singles position Courtney Mountifield was able to fend off a second set barrage as well as a match point in the deciding match tiebreak for a 7-6(0), 0-6, 11-9 victory. Last off the court was Zach Bruchmiller who overcame a tough first set tiebreak loss to pull out a 6-7(3), 6-4, 10-4 victory and the #4 position. The singles sweep gave the Panthers an 8-1 victory and moved our record to 1-0. After the match the boys grabbed a quick lunch, took a hour or two to rest up, and then were back at the courts for our 4 P.M. contest versus the Brandeis Judges.
Lebo channeling his inner panther. Ready to pounce!
            Johnston and Lebovitz, eager to overcome their morning loss, were first off the court against the Judges en route to an 8-2 victory at the #1 position. Brandeis quickly evened the score at 1-1 after Mountifield and Frons struggled to find their rhythm in an 8-2 loss at the #3 position. Jones and Campbell swung the momentum back in the direction of the Panthers with a routine 8-4 win at the #2 position. And Chris Frost and Jack Welch added a Panther bonus point with an 8-4 win at the #4 spot. Once again ahead 2-1 going into singles the Panthers rolled out an entirely new singles lineup who, like their morning counterparts, were looking for the singles sweep. At the #1 position Johnston found himself down 0-3 before reeling off 12 of the next 15 games for a 7-5, 6-1 victory. Next off was Ari Smolyar who fended off a second set counterattack from his opponent for the 6-0, 6-3 win at the #3 singles line. Jackson Frons clinched the match just a few minutes later with a 6-0, 6-4 win at the #4 singles spot. Allen Jackson one upped Alex Johnston's turnaround by dropping the first three games and then winning 12 of the next 13 for a solid 6-3, 6-1 win at the #5 spot and Peter Heidrich wrapped up the singles sweep with a 6-1, 6-2 win at #6 singles. The solid singles play gave the Panther's their second 8-1 victory of the day and moved our record to 2-0.
The Bonesaw was his usual rock solid self in singles.
            Overall the coaches were very satisfied with the quality of play. In particular we were impressed with our depth and how it manifested itself with dominating performances at the bottom of the singles lineup. Easy wins by Frons, Jackson, Heidrich, Lebovitz, and Frost demonstrated this exemplary play. And while there are certainly things we need to continue to get better at on the singles court, we were pleased with the way things have started. While we weren't quite as successful on the doubles court we learned a lot of things that will make us better going forward. In addition our #2 team looked very sharp and our #1 team did a great job of staying level headed and rebounding from a tough morning loss.
2004 NCAA National Championship Team
            The Panther men won't play their next NCAA dual match until we head south to Atlanta for spring break, however we'll still lace them up this Saturday in a match against former Middlebury all-stars. This upcoming weekend is the 'Return of the Champions' weekend with members of the 2004 as well as the 2010 NCAA National Championship teams returning to campus for a celebration of their accomplishments. They will also try to show they still have something in the tank as the former champions will put together a team to battle the current Panthers. They've even enlisted the aide of former Middlebury Men's coach Dave Schwarz to try and help guide them to victory. And while we won't know how sharp the old Panthers look until they step on the court the word on the street is that former co-captain Andrew Thomson is taking a month long break from competitive bass fishing (where he has become highly ranked in Southern California) to ensure ample on court preparation. We look forward to seeing some former champions and having a blast this weekend!

2010 NCAA National Championship Team
-Coaches Hansen, Sabel, and McConnell