Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Amherst Match and NESCAC Thoughts

Saturday’s NESCAC regular season finale between #4 ranked Amherst and #6 ranked Midd was all over D3 news as being the first battle in a war for the national title between the two conference powerhouses.

Trivia: what shot is Chris hitting?
After the smoke cleared, Amherst came away with the match, rocking us 9-0. As we have reflected back on this loss we have all agreed there wasn’t the same buzz and concentration amongst us as for the Emory match. When we arrived at the courts on the morning we played Emory, we all felt electricity in the air, and we responded wonderfully to that tension. However, upon arriving to Amherst College, all of us have agreed that we lacked the same sense of urgency. It’s important we’ve all acknowledged this subtle feeling, and we’ll use it to guide us into the final stages of the season.

We played Amherst close in many of the singles spots; Ari lost in a breaker for the 3rd that could have gone either way, Noah took a set off a talented player in a match that featured an age old matchup between the net rushing Solimano and the baseline shot-maker Noah. Even though Noah lost in the breaker for the 3rd, he proved he can play with the very best 2 players in the country.

Timo time
Timo’s backcourt ball striking propelled him to a 7-6, 5-2 lead before the match slowed down and his Amherst opponent grinded back for the win. Undoubtedly, this was a difficult loss for Timo, but if anyone told us Timo would find himself up a set and 5-2 against the defending national champions’ 6 player, we would be thrilled to be in such a position. With more experience, Timo will win this type of match in the future.  

Allen elevating
The purchasing of two HD pole mounted cameras has given us further insight into our doubles, as we have full clips of both 1 and 2 doubles. We plan to integrate the use of film examination into our ever-improving program going forward.

There is a noticed change in the winds surrounding Midd men’s tennis since we’ve returned from Saturday’s match. There is a noticed change to the intensity with which we’ve been approaching our work.

Mr. Smooth
With the regular season over, and the NESCAC tournament this weekend, our guys know it’s time for business to become even more focused, and our practice yesterday sent a clear message that we aren’t happy with the Amherst result. There was purpose in every ball we struck, impressive concentration, and furious force in our legs to position ourselves correctly for every shot.

Charlie- behind the scenes work.
Our physical conditioning has been slowly transforming us all season. The physical ability of our guys at this morning’s workout finally confirmed what has been in the works for a long time: we have officially traded in our PT Cruiser bodies for a fleet of roaring ’67 Ford Mustang muscle cars and Kawasaki street motorcycles. The NESCAC won’t know what to think when we roll up the garage door on Saturday with engines firing.

NESCAC Tournament Seedings:

11.     Amherst
22.     Middlebury
33.     Bowdoin
44.     Tufts
55.     Williams
66.     Trinity



Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Maine Roadtrip

This past weekend's road trip had the men's and women's teams joining forces in traveling to Maine as guests to 8th ranked Bowdoin and 20th ranked Bates. The panthers came to their first obstacle before reaching the court when our coach bus belched a cloud of black smoke and lost power. Luckily, Roger, our driver, coasted into a Rutland liquor store parking lot and everyone but Jackson, who was deep in sleep, deboarded to await the replacement bus.
Strategy is everything 

Like the champions we are, we rolled with the punches and finally arrived in Brunswick to face off against a very talented, but young, Bowdoin team. We started the match outdoors under a cloudless sky, however, extreme rain was predicted for later in the afternoon.

Our doubles was impressive to say the least; Ari and Noah put on yet another radical performance, winning 8-1 to chalk up our first point. Next off was Chris and Will who played perhaps their most complete match of the season in terms of consistency and returning quality. As the sky filled with rain clouds we looked to complete the sweep at 1 doubles where Peter and Palmer were gridlocked in a back and forth battle. But our panther nerve proved stronger as Bowdoin double faulted on match point to give us the doubles sweep, aka: the kiss of death.
Year of the BIG M

Bowdoin and Midd coaches decided to move the match indoors before the rains came, and it wasn’t long before we stomped out any hope for a Bowdoin comeback as Palmer and Ari both won convincingly to seal the match. We received post-clinch victories from Courtney, Will, and Noah. Hats off to Noah for handling a talented opponent who was playing at a high level.
To those who missed the memo: WDQ has arrived

Also on a high level has been Charlie’s management of the @middtennis Twitter feed, receiving input from Kyle, Timo, and Allen. Tune in for live match updates and ground level insight on everything MiddTennis.   

Sunday's match against Bates saw clear skies and a fiercely contested doubles point that Midd came out of leading 2-1. Peter and Palmer bested the region's top ranked doubles team who has also pioneered the use of the head fake while playing as the server's partner; Peter and Palmer never took the bait.

Midd again offered up a singles performance that, as coaches, we are extremely proud of. Up and down the lineup we competed like champions and are proving very tough to beat when it matters late in the set.

BIG M = big business
One notable singles matchup was at the top spot where Ari faced off against Pierre Planche, who was the only player to beat Ari during fall competition. Ari has been eager for a rematch and Sunday was his day. After a premature cheer by a young female in the crowd set off an early dispute, it became clear both players were ready to play hardball. But Ari did what he does best, making the match incredibly physical, turning it into an old-fashioned Mexican knife fight in the desert. Victory- Smolyar. 

The Panthers went on to take 5 out of 6 singles matches to finish the day with a 7-2 victory against one of the few remaining undefeated teams in the NESCAC.
Palmer taking a forehand side door

We’re beginning to show our best tennis late in the season and we have already been recognized by the DIII blog as one of the hotter teams in the country as we head into post-season play. Both coaches are thrilled with our progress thus far and know we can still reach new levels as we’re improving each time we take the court. We are grateful to be running with such an inspiring group who has the courage to attack this project head on!

Saturday we visit Amherst for our last regular season match and a NESCAC powerhouse showdown. Thanks for your continued support!


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Midd Vs Emory. The Rematch.

Big Day for Midd Tennis
It was just another day for any normal person in Midd Town as the sun rose over Middlebury College on Sunday, but for Panther Tennis battle lines had been drawn and we awoke to play host to second ranked Emory in a heavy weight bout between two of the nations premier teams.

With tremendous fan support, Midd got out of the gates hot in doubles, streaking out to early leads at 1 and 2, while Chris and Will traded blows against the Eagles at 3. About midway through the doubles an argument on court 2 set the tone for the rest of the day being a tooth and nail back alley brawl with neither team willing to give an inch.
Senior Celebration at 51 Main
Peter and Palmer played big boy take it or leave it doubles in their 8-3 knockout at 1 doubles. Palmer serves like John Isner and Pete watches the net like a pirate ready to plunder. Chris and Will competed well but fell just short to a tough team. That set up our glitzy shot makers, Ari and Noah, against Emory’s slow heifer like team at 2. The Midd fans on the sideline cheered and cheered and before long we took the match on yet another Ari double fist pumping shot gun forehand. When will opposing teams learn that Ari’s forehand hits like a Mayweather hook? BAM! Midd up 2-1 going into singles.

Hurricane season is back!
Before trying to describe the intensity and testiness of the singles, lets go into the history books to take a closer look at this Midd-Emory matchup. Last year’s matchup was a 5-4 barn burner won by Emory, filled with edgy antics, dubious line calls, and plenty of primal screams from both sides. Sunday’s match featured largely the same cast of characters so on court player relations were expected to be tense. Not to mention, Emory’s coach played on coach Hansen’s first national championship team, Midd assistant clinched an NCAA semi on Emory, and Emory assistant owns an ncaa singles title; If this match wasn’t aired live in every Vegas bookie booth then I don’t know what was.

Emory tied the match with a straight set win at 6 against Allen. Allen prolonged his match as best he could which was crucial in supporting Will, on the adjacent court, who won his match just as Allen lost, putting Midd up 3-2. Will displayed his ability to take balls on the rise, a skill that will take his higher and higher. Ari tightened the clamps on his skilled opponent who is one of the nation’s top players. Ari handled him in straight sets, making a statement to the world that he is the one calling the shots in D3 tennis- Midd up 4-2.
Attention D3: There's a new sheriff in town.
The remaining 3 matches all went to 3rd sets, with Midd needing just one to clinch the match. Emory battled hard and threw the kitchen sink at us; the Eagles won on court 3 against Palmer to get things to 4-3. Jackson was serving for his match at 5-2 in the second set before his opponent found a new gear to come back and take the set 7-6. Any normal being would be deflated by loosing grip on such an important match, but Jackson calmly regrouped, kept his eye on the prize, and blitzed his mouthy opponent 6-1 in the 3rd set. Snip snip, game, set, match MIDD!

Bring in the Ice-Man
Bonus kudos go out to Noah for winning 6-3 in the 3rd after the match was won against a player like Halpern, another accomplished D3 player.
More bonus kudos go out to Charlie, Jack, Courtney, Hamid, Timo, and Kyle for helping us through every step of the way.
Even more bonus kudos to (you guessed it) the parents of Midd Tennis for another great showing.
And, lastly, kudos to all the Midd students who came out to cheer.

Stay tuned as Midd travels to Maine this weekend to take on Bowdoin and Bates.  
Panther Tennis in its entirety 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

New York and Williams Roundup

Panther Fans,

The Panthers were on the road again last weekend, paying Skidmore and Hamilton College Saturday visits before rushing back to Midd to host Conn College on Sunday.

Jackson and the Lazer
Against Skidmore we came out slow in doubles and nearly got swept. However, thanks to a courageous comeback on court 3 by senior leader, Chris, and freshman Will, we found ourselves up 2-1 headed into singles. Chris and Will dug themselves out of a 2-7 deficit to win their match 9-7. Ari and Noah put on another impressive display at the 2 spot.

The singles was dominated by the Panthers; convincing victories from Jackson, Palmer, and Ari sealed the win for us.

Meanwhile, a second group loaded a van and pushed off for Hamilton College to play the doubles of our second dual match of the day while the first group put the finishing touches on Skidmore. The second group ran into some major navigational challenges and didn't arrive at Hamilton until the first group had finished their singles against Skidmore AND made the drive to Hamilton. Those involved are still scratching their heads how this was possible.

Nevertheless, we were in good form against Hamilton and their boisterous fans, winning 8-1.

The match against Conn College also displayed Panther power in a match which was a 9-0 boat race from the beginning.

Will listening closely
A few days of practice and the Panthers were ready for a rumble with Williams in Nelson arena just yesterday.  A large portion of our training as of late has been in building a higher rally tolerance and the ability to put more balls on the deck by making 100 in a row in practice. This training was evident against Williams as we simply were more solid than the Ephs at many positions. We started the outing with excellent doubles play at all 4 spots. Peter and Palmer played at the level we know they have together and dispatched a tough Williams team at the top spot. Their continued hard work has them sitting as one of the top teams in the NESCAC.

After a Midd doubles sweep, Ari and Noah blitzed their opponents in singles to hand us the 5-0 match win. We played out all other spots, seeing highlights from Timo, Kyle, and Jack. Timo's quite hard work and match discipline has turned him into one of the team's most improved players so far this season. Kyle's exhibition match showcased his impressive net playing ability and assured both coaches that he will be an integral part of our team's talent in coming years. Jack also put up an impressive fight against the top doubles player from Williams at the 8 spot.
Ari slashing

Midd finished up with an 8-1 drumming of Williams and now we quickly turn our focus to the next several days where we face Tufts on Friday and a talented Emory team on Sunday, which will hopefully be the start to outdoor tennis in Midd as temperatures near 60.

We hope to see many familiar faces this Saturday night at our senior celebration event at the 51 Main Restaurant. We will be celebrating the wonderful contributions of seniors Chris Frost, Peter Heidrich, and Courtney Mountifield. All are welcome to attend. Please email us for further details.

Stay tuned for more updates!

Go Midd!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Spring Break Adventure

Go time
Art of Zen
The Panthers are back in Middlebury after a week long sun soaked binge of matches in the Los Angeles area. First off, the support by the parents in attendance through out the week was absolutely phenomenal. A huge thanks goes out to the Frons family, Frost family, Ms. Hatherley, and Ms. Heidrich, Ms Smolyar for supplying the team with drinks, snacks, and treating us all to several excellent post match dinners. 

The Panther Pack flew into LAX, spent several hours dealing with a low budget van rental agency's blunders, and then was off to the Pomona practice courts to get our first taste of outdoor tennis since the fall. 

We opened our spring break campaign against Chapman and, still finding our outdoor legs, fell behind 2-1 after doubles. The Panthers singles players came out with hard hats on and shook off any remaining jitters about playing outdoors in a great effort to turn the match around and win 6-3. Meanwhile, a 2nd panther group was up 3-0 after doubles across town against Biola University: fantastic wins from Will and Kyle sealed the match for Midd. As the sun set on our first day of matches in LA, senior Chris Frost put the finishing touches on his match. Under the lights, Jack Welch was locked in a match of trench warfare, trading groundstrokes with a Spanish dirtballer. After a tactical change to use his nuke forehand from inside the baseline, Jack closed the door on his opponent, winning 10-7 in the breaker, and sending us back to the hotel in high spirits. 

nay Sunday we notched two 9-0 victories against Whittier and Pacific. Our doubles came through in both matches and the singles effort was highlighted by Timo Van der Geest winning against a talented serve and volley player 6-1, 7-6 from Pacific. Another high note was freshman, Kyle Schlanger, displaying a dizzying array of shot variety in dispatching his Whittier opponent 6-1, 6-2.
Team from outer space

 Monday was a battle against the Bannana Slugs from UC Santa Cruz, pitting Midd coaches against their former Slug dynasty. The Slugs surged out to a 2-1 lead, however, Midd got crucial wins from Allen Jackson and Jackson Frons, at the 6 and 4 spots to swing the match in favor of the big cats. The Panthers came away with 5 of 6 singles matches, sending the Slugs back to Santa Cruz with little doubt about who the bosses are.

Tuesday Tuesday night set the table for an instant classic against the new kids on the block, Pomona, who is having the best season in program history. Again finding ourselves down 2-1 after doubles, we notched quick victories by Ari and Palmer at the 1 and 3 spots. Pomona, however, finished the match strongest, winning at the 4 and 6 spots to take the decision. Courtney struggled but found a way to win at 5 singles in our 4-5 loss.  Nonetheless, we left with heads high, learning what areas we needed to improve upon. 

Wednesday Wednesday night served up another instant classic against a fiery Redlands team and their unruly fans. The match reached a climax with the score 4-3 in favor of Midd and with Noah and Palmer deep into their 3rd sets. Palmer came back from a 4-1 deficit to clinch the match for us in an amazing effort. In what was one of the more bizarre on court disputes I've ever seen, Noah got told by the umpire during a change over that he wasn't allowed to use the bathroom because he had used the toilet an "unreasonable amount" already. An argument ensued between coaches and umpires with the end result being Noah heading to the bathroom again after the point of him having a small bladder had been made. He returned to the court revitalized and finished off his Redlands opponent with several winners. 

After a day off, we took the court against CMS in a rematch of last year's national semi-final. CMS came out on top 7-2, but not without several highlights for the panthers. Palmer and Pete took down one of the nations top teams in Dorn/Wood 8-6, going the whole match without being broken. In singles, Palmer took care of his opponent with syle and grace, winning in straight sets while Ari, Noah and Courtney all pushed their opponents to third sets.

The Panthers saddle up again this weekend in hitting the road for Skidmore and Hamilton College across the lake in New York, before returning to Midd to play host to Conn College on Sunday

Over and out sportsfans. 

Preparing the troops