Saturday, June 1, 2019

End of Season Wrap-Up: Panthers Fought With Heart To Finish Year as NESCAC Champions and NCAA Final Four Team

In our program at Middlebury, we are proud of the fact that we set ambitious goals including our ultimate aim of competing for an NCAA team title. As our team gradually played better and better all season long, we really became a force during the postseason. After winning the NESCAC title and then winning our first three NCAA tournament matches including a second win over Wesleyan in the elite eight, we had confidence that we were a dangerous team for anyone in the country to face. Unfortunately, we came out on the short end of a hard fought 5-3 loss to Emory in the final four. We put ourselves in position to win the match after winning 4 of 6 first sets in singles play, but came up just short. While never easy to digest, the coaching staff felt that we earned the right to feel disappointed because we had worked our way toward becoming a team that was playing well enough to make a run at winning another NCAA title. We want to thank our players for their incredible efforts and passion, as we felt incredibly fortunate to be able to coach this wonderful group of young men. It was a season that our seniors should be proud of, and we look forward to taking our momentum at the end of the season into next year!

Our 2019 senior captains! We will miss this incredible group, but look
forward to watching how they pursue their passions post college!

Wesleyan Elite Eight Match Highlights
In our first match at Kalamazoo, the Panthers came out hungry. We knew we would have to play well to come out on top in this rubber match against Wesleyan. Even though our doubles play did not go as well as hoped at the top two doubles positions, our super sophomores Eazor and Xiao posted an 8-4 win at #3 doubles securing one doubles point for the Panthers. It was a cold and windy Midwest day with difficult playing conditions, and we were down 1-2 on the overall team score heading into singles play. With little margin the error, our team showed their grit and love for playing in the postseason. Cuba, Farrell, and Eazor all posted impressive straight set victories against tough opponents, putting the Panthers just one point away from securing the match. Both Guo and Morris with battling in close matches, when Xiao clinched our final four berth with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over an opponent he had lost to just a couple of weeks prior. Another impressive team victory for the Panthers. Read the match recap here

Team photo before our Elite Eight match with our honorary captain Izy!

Emory Final Four Match Highlights
Even though doubles play again appeared to be our Achilles heel, Farrell/Vanezis put on an incredibly impressive display of tennis beating one of the best #2 doubles teams in the country 8-3 to keep the Panthers in it. Despite being down 1-2, the Panthers knew that we were in striking distance given our current level of singles play. True to form, the Panthers won four out of six first sets and set a path to victory. Leading the way for the Panthers as they have done so many times during their careers, our top two singles players and senior captains, Lubomir Cuba and Noah Farrell, both secured victories for the Panthers in what turned out to be their final college matches. However, it was not quite enough on this day. Credit to Emory for playing a great match, and their level of play showed the very next day when they went on to win the tournament. Their win showed how close we had come to being a championship team, something our boys should be incredibly proud of. Full match recap is here

The coaching staff helping our seniors celebrate their graduation day!

End of Year Appreciation!
As this will be our final blog post of the year, the coaching staff wants to extend our gratitude toward so many key individuals that help our program to operate optimally! We want to begin by thanking our incredible Middlebury College Athletic support staff, in particular Erin Quinn (Athletic Director), Rachel Eldredge (Team Athletic Trainer), Dain McKee (Assistant Director of Athletic Communication), Rachel Kahan (Women’s Tennis Head Coach), and Rob Barr (Women’s Tennis Assistant Coach). Each of you helps to make our team better and our job as coaches much more fun! We also want to express our thanks to all of the Middlebury Tennis Nation. It is a true pleasure for us to receive so many messages and support from our alumni, family, and friends.

Of course, we would be remiss if we did not thank our VIP team parents! It is amazing to see how much love and support you bring to our program, and we take pride in sharing all of our team’s accomplishments with you. Thanks again for all you do to support our group!

Thanks again for your support and for sharing in our journey this season!

The Middlebury Men’s Tennis Coaching Staff