Saturday, April 8, 2017

Panthers conclusion in Texas

Welcome to Texas

Panther Family,

Before I introduce our matchups for this upcoming weekend I would like to do a recap on what was an outstanding spring break trip for the men of Midd. If you are looking for specific scores against our eight opponents during our trip please check our Middlebury College Athletics website. What I would like to do instead is try and tell the story of our spring break as it unfolded, pointing out the highlights that we experienced along the way.

It was a Thursday afternoon, the day before our morning flight to Austin, and we were getting in a routine team practice. Things were going pretty smooth, little frustrations here and there (typical for guys prior to competition), but nothing too serious. Suddenly one of our key members went down to the ground, clearly grabbing his ankle. Lubo had rolled his ankle a month prior, but had been on the mend and was feeling pretty strong at this point in the season. He rolled it again, not as bad as the first time, but enough to question how much he would be able to play over the break. He handled it like a champ and began doing everything he needed to do to get ready as quickly as possible. We had seven division 3 matches to play, including the top two teams in the country; we had our work cut out for us to say the least.

The next day at 4am we were on our way to the airport. Those days of travel can be a bit of a blur, most guys sleep deprived and catching naps whenever possible. We arrived in the afternoon, nine players and two coaches, welcomed by the warm weather of Austin, Texas. A brief hit, a quick team meeting, and we were off to bed. Our first match of the trip was against UT Dallas the very next day, and playing pretty well the boys notched an 8-1 victory. With Lubo out of the lineup we moved Hamid and Kyle up to #1 doubles and put sophomore Peter Martin in at #2 doubles with junior Will de Quant. Freshman Alex Vanezis stepped into the #6 singles position, with everybody else moving up a spot in Lubo’s absence.

The next day was to be against a talented SouthWestern in the morning and #20 UT Tyler that afternoon. Sitting senior Hamid Derbani after doubles against SouthWestern gave opportunity for another freshman in Weston Brach to step up in singles. Weston played a fantastic match with a 6-3, 6-1 victory in his first dual match appearance. The Panthers took down the #2 and #3 doubles matches and five of the six singles matches to finish the match with a 7-2 victory. I would also like to mention some strong singles wins from Cole Sutton and doubles wins by Cole and freshman Alex Samets in the extra matches we played throughout the day. After Jersey Mike’s and a short break in the shade it was go-time again. UT Tyler was a tough team, but with a dominant doubles effort we clearly set the tone on what we might accomplish over the break. Kyle and Hamid played a fantastic match (8-2 victory) after a couple previous losses in prior matches, Peter stole the show at #2 doubles with Will (8-5 victory), and Allen and Timo dominated the #3 spot with a score of 8-3. We won three of the six singles (losing the other three in super T’s), concluding our match with a 6-3 victory. On suggestion from one of the coaches we headed to some Texas BBQ on our way home. The guy at the counter suggested 7 lbs. of BBQ for the 13 of us, we ate closer to 10…very impressive gents.

Whatup Mr. Roddick

The next morning was against our toughest opponent yet in #19 Gustavus Adolophus. After going down 2-1 with losses at #2 and #3 doubles (GAC always playing strong doubles), we were facing our first serious test of the season going into singles. Watching how our boys responded was incredible as we won all six first sets and ended up winning all six singles matches. Highlights included Will de Quant beating the #3 player in the country, Allen Jackson’s dominating effort at #5, and freshman Alex Vanezis who gave his opponent his only loss of the break.

Tuesday night we went to bed with four D3 victories, one D2 loss, and our three toughest matches ahead of us to be played over the next four days (#16 Trinity University, #1 Emory University, and #2 Claremont Colleges). Lubo’s ankle had recovered quickly and he decided to play against TU, with a little help from a famous Bob Hansen tape job and an ankle brace. Our doubles matches against Trinity Wednesday afternoon were a fight from start to finish, but as we are continuing notice, our boys are getting pretty good at rising to the occasion. We ended up sweeping the doubles, including a 1-6 comeback from Will and Lubo against the #2 doubles team in the country. Kyle, Timo, and Allen all won in straight sets to clinch the team victory, while Will ended up pulling out a close three-setter. Lubo and Hamid lost their matches, giving us a 7-2 overall victory as we headed back to Austin for the matches we had all been waiting for.

Our match against #1 Emory University was an absolute war, start to finish, with huge swings of momentum throughout. What was most impressive was not only how well the boys performed, but the resiliency they showed in riding the swings of momentum throughout the day. We jumped off to an early lead playing great doubles from Will/Lubo and Hamid/Kyle, putting the Panthers up 2-0. Allen/Timo lost a close match at #3 after almost turning the match around, we were up 2-1 going into singles. First sets were won from Lubo, Kyle, and Timo, while Will, Hamid, and Allen lost theirs. Lubo played extremely solid and smart beating the #1 player in the country in straight sets, avenging a previous loss, to put us up 3-1. Kyle grinded out his match while Allen lost a close fight, now the match was 4-2 with three singles remaining. Hamid, Will, and Timo, were in third sets, dog fights that went the distance. The clinching point came from Will at #2 singles, winning his match 7-2 in the third set tie-breaker over a very tough opponent. Hamid went on to also win his match 7-2 in the third set tie-breaker while Timo lost his match 6-2 in the third. The boys were elated, and rightfully so, it was a great win that they absolutely deserved after the effort they had put forth.

We had one match left to play on our break, #2 CMS of California. It had been many years since the panthers had staged a victory over the Stags, but momentum and belief was on our side going into that Saturday battle. Again the panthers came out firing winning at #1 and #2 doubles while losing at #3. We were up 2-1 again going into singles against one of the toughest singles lineups we would face. Every Midd player went out and started to work their respective spot, getting on their opponents from the start as the panthers won five of the six first sets. As we go deeper into the match the rain clouds begin to show. Two massive victories came from Lubo and Timo at #1 and #5 singles. Lubo showed once again his toughness with a straight set victory, while Timo fought from down in the second to get it to a tie-breaker. In the second set tie-breaker Timo hit five clean winners and two forcing shots to win with a 7-0 tie-break score. Allen lost against a strong player at #6, and as the rain hit we were up 4-2 with three matches remaining. Hamid was in the first game of the third set, Will was up 3-0 in the third set, while Kyle was serving at 5-4 second set for the match. Two very long hours later we were warming up indoors for the conclusion of our match. Rain delay time is pretty strange, you want to stay focused on what’s ahead, but not press as the waiting piece can feel like forever.

Kyle Schlanger serving for the match was a sight to see. The game was never ending, all players surrounding the court as they screamed after every point. With incredible toughness and grit, Kyle pulled out the marathon game and clinched the win for the Panthers. Hamid stopped his match due to an aggravated injury, while Will went on to dominate his third set with a 6-1 score. And there it was, an incredible spring break had come to an end. We coaches were so proud of our boys, how they handled continuous adversity throughout the trip, and how every player contributed in our overall teams success. Back on the plane and back to work, nothing had changed, except for the fact that he had made a huge step in the right direction.

This morning we play top 10 Williams College followed by Tufts tomorrow afternoon. Please keep updated with our progress via twitter, facebook, and Instagram, and as always huge thanks for your continued support.


Middlebury Men's Coaching Staff

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