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

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