The Campus’ Fall Sports Preview

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The Campus’ Fall Sports Preview

By Fritz Parker

Volleyball

Going into the 2014 season, the Middlebury volleyball team will have to reload after losing a pair of all-conference outside hitters as they look to improve upon their 18-7 mark from a year ago.

After winning the conference championship two years ago in 2012, Middlebury tumbled to sixth in the regular-season NESCAC standings in 2013, and fell to Amherst in the conference quarterfinals – a disappointing finish for a squad that was flush with senior talent.

With the departure of Megan Jarchow ’14 and Amy Hart ’14 – who combined for nearly 70 percent of the Panthers’ kills a year ago – Middlebury will look to Olivia Kolodka ’15, Melanie English ’17 and Lizzy Reed ’15 to bolster the attack in 2014. Hannah Blackburn ’17 and Kathryn Haderlein ’16 return as the Panthers’ top setters from last season, and their play will be crucial if Middlebury is to recover from the loss of Jarchow and Hart.

After a relatively easy early-season schedule, the Panthers travel to challenge a pair of perennial conference frontrunners in Williams and Amherst on the weekend of Oct. 3-4. With women’s volleyball looking to bolster their resume for postseason play, the regular-season finale at home against Tufts on Nov. 1 will also be an important opportunity.

Men’s Soccer

Filling a defensive unit formerly anchored by graduated seniors ranks among the top priorities for the men’s soccer team in the 2014 season.  Second team all-NESCAC honoree Graham Knisley ’14 was among the seven departing seniors, as was starting goalkeeper Ethan Collins ’14. Co-captain Willie Gevertz ’14.5 returns to the team after receiving a medical waiver for a fifth year of eligibility and will rejoin standout Deklan Robinson ’16 on the back line.

Fortunately for Middlebury, they return almost all of their offensive weapons. Every multiple goal-scorer returns for the 2014 season, including NESCAC Rookie of the Year and first team all-NESCAC selection Adam Glaser ’17.  Dan Skayne ’15 and Greg Conrad ’17, who netted five goals apiece last season, also return for the Panthers. 

Leading the team in the midfield will be co-Captains Harper Williams ’15 and Noah Goss-Woliner ’15, both of whom have started in that position for multiple years.

The men’s team looks to improve on last year’s 9-5-1 (5-4-1) season that ended in the NESCAC quarterfinals with a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Williams. Middlebury’s last conference championship came in 2010.

“We were young last year and almost broke through, and this year we’re looking to be really good,” Robinson said. “Winning the NESCAC is our goal, along with making the NCAA tournament.” 

The men dive right into a tough NESCAC schedule that includes a key trip to Williams on Oct. 1.  Their non-conference games are dispersed throughout the season and will include several mid-week games to complement the weekend conference competition.

Cross Country

After a successful 2013 season in which the men finished a program-best seventh in the NCAA and the women scored a podium spot in third, the Middlebury cross country teams look to continue as NESCAC and national powerhouses in 2014.

The women’s team boasts five of the six top returning runners in the NESCAC. Leading the charge will be track All-Americans Erzsie Nagy ’17 and Alison Maxwell ’15. The team is bolstered this year by the addition of Adrian Walsh ’16, a transfer from Hamilton who boasts an impressive resume of NCAA qualifications in cross country and track from the previous year. 

“We just need to stay healthy and continue doing what we have been doing,” Head Coach Nicole Wilkerson said.

On the men’s side, the team hopes to continue its surge towards top national finishes. The team will be led by Wilder Schaaf ’14.5 and Kevin Wood ’15, both of whom translated last year’s cross country success into impressive times on the track in the spring. Sebastian Matt ’16 also looks to be a player in both NESCAC and regional races for the Panthers. 

The Panthers play host to the NESCAC Championship this year on Nov. 1. The women look to defend their title on their home course while the men hope to regain the top spot in the conference from 2013 champion Williams.

Prior to NESCACs, key races on the schedule include the Purple Valley Classic hosted by Williams – also home of this years NCAA Regional meet – on Sept. 27 as well as the Open New England Championships at Franklin Park in Boston on Oct. 11, where the Panthers will be pitted against top Division-I talent.

Tennis

Though their primary competitive seasons are in the spring, the Middlebury men’s and women’s tennis teams will take the court this fall to build upon their strong seasons from last year.

The Panther men had an historic season a year ago, falling just short of both conference and national championships – both of which went to NESCAC rival Amherst. En route to the NCAA semifinals, Middlebury had four players selected as All-Americans, with Palmer Campbell ’16 being the sole member of that quartet to return in 2014. Campbell will be joined by second-team All-NESCAC selection Ari Smolyar ’16, Courtney Mountifield ’15 and Jackson Frons ’16 as the top players for the 2014 conference Coach of the Year, Bob Hansen.

On the women’s side, Middlebury returns a young, talented team that will be led by sophomore sensation Alexandra Fields ’17, last year’s national Rookie of the Year. With the added experience of NCAA quarterfinalist Ria Gerger ’16 and Kaysee Orozco ’17, the Panthers will have a great chance to surpass last year’s NESCAC semifinal appearance and contend for both a conference and national championship.

The competitive highlight of the fall for both the men and women is the ITA championship, which takes place in late September. Though secondary to the spring’s NCAA championship, the ITA will give the Panthers an opportunity to test themselves against top small-college competition and compete for accolades. The men will host an ITA regional on Sept. 26-28 while the women’s tournament will be held in Cambridge, Mass. on that same weekend.

Football

The Middlebury football team had a historic season a year ago, splitting the NESCAC crown – their first since 2007 – with Wesleyan and Amherst as they finished the year 7-1. If the Panthers are going to play at that same level this fall, the first order of business for NESCAC Coach of the Year Bob Ritter will be to replace record-setting quarterback McCallum Foote ’14, a two-time NESCAC Offensive Player of the Year who racked up over 8,000 passing yards and 77 touchdowns during his time in blue.

The task of replacing Foote under center will likely fall to Matt Milano ’16, who will be buoyed by the return of the NESCAC’s most prolific receiving duo in Matt Minno ’16 and Brendan Rankowitz ’15, who combined for 1,200 yards receiving in 2013. The offensive line will be anchored by guard Blake Shapskinsky ’15, while Joey Zelkowitz ’17 figures to see an increased role in the offense as a running back who can catch the ball out of the backfield.

Middlebury returns the cornerstone of their defense in middle linebacker Tim Patricia ’16, who recorded a team-best 78 tackles last season. Safety Matt Benedict ’15 and corner Nate Leedy ’17 return for a Panther secondary that held opponents to a stingy 5.5 yards per pass attempt a season ago. Michael Dola ’15 returns as the conference’s premier specialist.

The Panthers will face a stiff test in their season opener with a home matchup against Wesleyan on Sept. 20. Middlebury’s home date with Amherst on Oct. 4 and visit to Trinity on Oct. 25 should go a long way towards determining which team will be conference champion in 2014.

Women’s Soccer

After a stellar season last year in which the Middlebury women’s soccer team won the NESCAC championship and made a historic run to the NCAA final four in San Antonio, the Panthers look to return with a young, yet deep squad and to replicate last season’s success.

The Panthers will look to their seniors and underclassmen players step up in the places of some key players, including two All-American selections, who have graduated. Goalkeeper Elizabeth Foody ’14, center back Lindsay Kingston ’14 and 2013 NESCAC Player of the Year Julia Favorito ’14 are some of the strong players will not be returning.

Captains Katlyn Casey ’15, Sophie Kligler ’15, Hannah Robinson ’16 and Moria Sloan ’15, along with fellow seniors Carter Talgo ’15, Molly Parizeau ’15, Claire Nishioka ’15 and Ali Omsberg ’15, will lead the squad. They will be supported by a number of skilled underclassmen including forwards Krystina Reynolds ’17 and Adrianna Gildner ’17, Amanda Haik ’17 at center back, Katherine Hobbs ’17 at the center holding midfield position and Kate Reinmuth ’17 in goal.

The Panthers’ schedule will be difficult this year in the ever-competitive NESCAC with perennial powerhouses Williams and Amherst looking to take the conference crown away from Middlebury.

It will be difficult for Middlebury to improve upon last year’s historic 17-2-3 season, but the Panthers appear to have the personnel to do so in 2014.

Field Hockey

Coming off a season in which they mounted a late comeback to defeat Bowdoin for the program’s second consecutive NESCAC title, the Middlebury field hockey team will rely heavily on their offensive experience as they launch their defense of the conference crown in 2014.

Midfielder Cat Fowler ’15 returns as the reigning NESCAC Player of the Year for the Panthers and will look to replicate her team-best 52 points in 2013. Offensive stalwarts Bridget Instrum ’16 and Pam Schulman ’17 combined for another 52 points a year ago and will be key contributors up front this season. Alyssa Dimaio ’15 is a four-year starter and a multi-dimensioned threat in the midfield for Middlebury.

On the defensive end, the Panthers will have to reload after losing a pair of all-conference players to graduation. Jillian Green ’16 and Shannon Hutteman ’16 – along with a cohort of underclassmen – will anchor the defense, while Emily Knapp ’15 returns as the starter in goal for Middlebury.

A late-season question mark for this team will be their ability to overcome a string of disappointing finishes in the NCAA tournament. Despite being ranked in the top two spots in the nation entering the postseason during each of the last two seasons, the Panthers have not advanced past the quarterfinals since their championship-game appearance in 2011, the current seniors’ first year in the program.

Entering the year with a number-five national ranking, the Panthers should face stiff competition this season from Bowdoin, Tufts and Amherst – all of whom appear in the national top 10.

Golf

The men’s and women’s golf teams arrived at Middlebury a few days early to start their campaigns for a successful fall in 2014. 

After a tremendous 2013-2014 season, the men’s team hopes to continue their dominance of the four-team NESCAC and to continue to have a presence at the spring’s NCAA championships. Even though the team will play without its two captains from last year, three of the five players who competed at nationals are returning. 

John Louie ’15 – the spring 2014 NESCAC Player of the Year – is part of that group and will add tremendous value to the success of the team. Another formidable force is Eric Laorr ’15, who recorded the Panthers’ best score at NCAAs and who nearly qualified for the national individual tournament. 

The women’s team had a down season last year, so their intent is to regain their best form. Many of the same competitors will be returning for the Panthers, with the exception of Monica Chow ’16, who will be abroad during the fall. 

Returning seniors and captains Jordan Glatt ’15 and Michelle Peng ’15 look to shoot consistently low scores for Middlebury. The Panthers suffered in 2013-2014 from a lack of consistency and will look to Theodora Yoch ’17 and first-years Kathy Fortin ’18 and Hope Matthews ’18 to provide much-needed depth that could bolster their overall team finishes this fall.

The Panthers open their fall in a tournament at NYU on Sept. 13, which will be a good test for the team to see where they need to improve.  

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