Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Tournament time!

Middlebury men’s tennis opened its bid for the 2015 NCAA title by hosting the first two rounds of the tournament here in Middlebury on Saturday and Sunday. The week of practice leading up to the tournament was focused, and on Friday we held a team meeting where we shared our appreciation for the program we all help to build and constantly refine; hearing everyone’s words was special in reinforcing that we are all contributing to create something we cherish.

Big M's all around

Despite the uplifting meeting, we suffered a setback when Ari badly sprained his ankle during the practice following the meeting. When Sue, the trainer, arrived on site with a golf cart to wheel Ari away, things did not look good for our number one singles player. Sue, after examining the ankle, said there was no way Ari would be playing on Sunday, the day we would most likely find ourselves up against Bowdoin for the chance to move on to the final site. However, there was one thing Sue the trainer didn’t take into consideration: THIS IS ARI SMOLYAR WE’RE TALKING ABOUT. Ari isn’t a human being- Ari comes from a planet deep in outer space where injuries simply don’t exist. As Ari would say, "I JUST DON'T GET INJURED!"

Midd handled a Nichols team that had a dream season in winning their conference for the first time and beating Ramapo in the first round. However, we proved too tough for the unranked squad.

This win set up the clash with Bowdoin we’ve been preparing for since the NCAA bracket was published a week ago. A large part of our training is making sure we’re fully prepared to mentally confront the challenges ahead of us. We spent significant time meeting before practice to visualize playing our style of confident tennis against Bowdoin.
Jack finding the heavy spot 

We began the match with wins at #1 and #2 doubles. Peter and Palmer stayed even with their opponents before pulling away late. This is something we’ve talked about- the best doubles teams in the world play a close set and then consistently raise their level when the time is right. Palmer's volley game has hit new levels and Peter's competitive mindset are only two of many highlights this duo brings to the court.




Ari and Noah also played a tightly contested match until Noah shifted into high gear, making some very impressive moves at the net to push their match in favor of the Panthers. Chris and Will competed hard but were outplayed this time by a tough 3rd team from Bowdoin. Not to spoil the suspense, but Will would have his revenge later in the match.

Singles got underway with Jackson and Kyle facing opponents who were playing their “A” games and had their backs up against the wall from the start. Kyle has performed wonderfully since making his debut in the singles and, as his game continues to grow, we’re confident he can win a match like that. 3-2 in favor of Bowdoin!

Home sweet home
Ari came up with a fantastic performance in beating Bowdoin’s top player in straight sets to even the match at 3-3. What an incredible effort on an ankle that was black, blue, and twisted up by the finish. This performance by Ari will surely go down in Panther folk-lore to be passed down for years to come.

Will, Noah, and Palmer each traded blows with their opponents before Noah beat Bowdoin’s #2 player, Noah Bragg, for the 3rd time this season. This matchup has become a personal favorite of mine to watch as each player specializes in speed and shot making ability which makes for one continuous highlight reel and, fortunately for Midd, Noah F just does it a bit better. Midd up 4-3.

Not long after Noah’s win, Will sealed the match with one of the most dominating service holds I’ve seen. He hit two forehand winners, which were set up by well-placed first serves. An unreturned serve set up match point, and Will ended the match with an overhead smash over the fence which Bob casually caught while watching from the top bank of courts. Game, set, match, Midd.

Will elevating when it matters
What was even more impressive than Will’s final service game, was his enthusiastic lunge stanced 3 pull lawnmower fist pump to celebrate. Will has committed himself to visualizing closing out pressure matches efficiently, and it’s no doubt his off-court efforts helped him here.

We are now in our final week of practice before our quarterfinal match against Trinity of Texas on Monday. This morning we logged our final morning conditioning session of the season; we ended the season long bi weekly workouts in true Panther fashion by attacking a challenging workout.

Stay tuned and follow us through each of our matches in Ohio as we aim for the ultimate pot of gold. Our group is growing more determined every day and, as coaches, it’s a joy to see our group peaking at just the right time.


*Year of the Big M*

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