Men’s Tennis Downs Conference Rival Bates

By Lok Sze Leung

The Middlebury men’s tennis team opened its season by fending off three teams at home this past weekend, including NESCAC foe and no. 12 Bates College. The depth of the Panther squad came into play once again, as it remained dominant in the lower part of the singles and doubles lineups. This crucial win over the Bobcats might prove to be useful at the end of the season in NCAA selection, as it did last year.

On Saturday, Middlebury’s bench strength was on full display. The men scored a complete 9-0 sweep against SUNY Oneonta. All the players won their matches in a convincing manner.

Senior captain Will Oberrender ’13 and Chris Frost ’15 stormed to an 8-0 win at no. 1 doubles. First-years Allen Jackson ’16, Ari Smolyar ’16 and Jackson Frons ’16 came out on top with relative ease in their debut performances, combining to lose only seven out of 36 games. Sophomore Courtney Mountifield ’15 had a seesaw first set but capped a 6-4, 6-0 verdict at no. 3. Frost and junior James Burke ’14 did not encounter any problems at the fifth and sixth spots in singles play.

Later that day, the top half of the team went up against unranked Brandeis University.

The squad pulled out a 2-1 lead after the doubles contests. The duo of Brantner Jones ’14 and Palmer Campbell ’16 wasted little time and won their match 8-2 at no. 3 doubles. While the lefty-righty pair of Andrew Lebovitz ’14 and Teddy Fitzgibbons ’14 battled to a lengthy 8-6 victory at no. 2, the top pair of Alex Johnston ’14 and captain Spencer Lunghino ’13 fell by the same score in a close margin to the talented Judges.

In singles play, the Panthers only dropped one set and had straight-set victories across the board. The matches were closer than it seemed on paper, however, especially in the upper lineup. Johnston displayed his mental toughness and ability to handle pressure with his win in the third-set super-tiebreaker at the top spot. Jones, returning from abroad, relied on his fight and squeezed out a tight 6-4, 6-4 victory. With his aggressive baseline play, Campbell came away with the score of 6-1, 6-4 in his first dual match appearance.

Sunday’s clash with Bates College proved to be less tricky than previously anticipated, as their no. 1 player Rob Crampton was absent due to sickness. Crampton was last year’s NCAA singles semi-finalist.

The Middlebury men showed no mercy, proceeding to a 7-2 decision. The two losses came from Johnston/Lunghino in a competitive matchup and Campbell at no. 3 singles against Pierre Planch, an on-fire Bobcat. The scores of the two matches were 6-8 and 4-6, 4-6 respectively.

Later, both Johnston and Lunghino bounced back in singles play. Lunghino, with his powerful serve and forehand, took down his opponent in the no. 4 spot swiftly. Johnston faced Matt Bettles, the crafty lefty. Relying on his simple, yet effective tactic of attacking his opponent’s backhand, Johnston snatched the win with a tiebreaker in the second set.

At no. 2 singles, Jones rallied to a 7-5, 6-2 conquest by breaking down his rival’s confidence early on. In the bottom of the lineup, the “top-heavy” Bobcat squad was no comparison to the Panthers. The one-two punch of baseliners Fitzgibbons and classmate Zach Bruchmiller ’14 dropped only five out of a total of 24 games at the no. 5 and no. 6 spots.

Although senior captain Alec Parower ’13 was sidelined due to sickness, he was happy with how the weekend turned out.

“We competed really hard regardless of how well we were playing, which is a great starting point,” he said. “We have some work to do before our trip to California, but the opening weekend was a great start.”

The Middlebury men will return to action in less than two weeks’ time during a spring break to California.

The team will look to take up the physical and mental challenge of playing ten matches in the span of six days. High points of the trip will include matches against 11th place UC Santa Cruz, 17th place Redlands, 16th place Pomona-Pitzer, and fourth-place Claremont-Mudd-Scripps.

Last year’s trip to California proved successful for the team with wins again Pomona and Concordia, losing only 6-3 at Claremont.