Panther Tennis Squads Unbeaten after Opening Weekend

By Andrew Rigas

By some miracle, the men’s and women’s tennis teams played outdoors on the first weekend of the spring season, a rarity in Vermont,  and they dominated. Both teams shut out Bates and Hamilton 9-0 on Saturday, March 12, to move to 2-0 in the NESCAC and overall. Nine different players for the men’s side earned at least one victory, while all eight healthy members of the women’s team won on Saturday, March 12.

The men’s team, which is ranked third in the nation, opened their season in the Duke Nelson Recreation Center against no. 22 Bates on Saturday morning. In doubles, the pairs of Noah Farrell ’18 and Ari Smolyar ’16, Palmer Campbell ’16 and Hamid Derbani ’18 and Will de Quant ’18 and Timo van der Geest ’18 won 8-5, 8-6 and 8-2 in first, second and third doubles, respectively.

In the only match where a Panther lost a set all day, no. 1 in the nation Noah Farrell ’18, competing in his first match since winning the singles national title in the fall, defeated no. 25 Josh Rosen 6-0, 3-6, 13-11. In other singles action, no. 24 Smolyar beat Chris Ellis 6-0, 6-4 in the second spot and Campbell, de Quant, Derbani and van der Geest also won in straight sets in third through sixth singles, in that order.

Later that morning, the Panthers moved outside to the Proctor tennis courts to face Hamilton, who had not won a match in the NESCAC since 2013. The same three doubles’ pairs defeated the Continentals. Farrell and Smolyar shut out their opponent 8-0 in first doubles, while Campbell and Derbani won 8-5 in the second slot and de Quant and van der Geest won 8-2 the third slot.

Head Coach Bob Hansen showcased his team’s depth, choosing to rest Farrell, Smolyar and de Quant and start Kyle Schlanger ’18, Peter Martin ’19 and Cole Sutton ’19. Schlanger, Martin and Sutton defeated their opponents, while Campbell, Derbani and van der Geest also took care of business in straight sets in the fourth, fifth and sixth spots respectively to cap off a perfect day and start to the season for Hansen’s squad.

“The team is gaining momemtum as we head out west for spring break,” said Campbell. “We look to avenge last year’s  loss in the NCAA final and knock off defending national champion Claremont-Mudd-Scripps.”

The sixth-ranked women’s team played both of its matches outdoors on Saturday, winning all 18 of its matches without losing a set. In doubles play of its first match against Hamilton, Ria Gerger ’16 and Kaysee Orozco ’17 won 8-3 in first doubles, Lily Bondy ’17 and Sadie Shackelford ’16 shut out their opponent 8-0 in the second slot and Molly Paradies ’19 and Christina Puccinelli ’19 conceded only one game in the third slot, winning their first collegiate doubles match together 8-1.

Singles play was even more one-sided as the Panthers outscored the Continentals 72-3 in total games won. Gerger did not concede a game at the top of the ladder, and Paradies and Shackelford followed suit, both winning 6-0, 6-0. On the second, third and fourth rungs of the ladder, Alexandra Fields ’17 (6-1, 6-0), Bondy (6-0, 6-1) and Puccinelli (6-1, 6-0) all only lost one game.

Middlebury handled Bates in a similar fashion later in the day. The Panthers only lost two games in all of their doubles matches combined, as the same pairings from the morning matches versus Hamilton brought in more victories. Bondy and Shackelford swept their opponent for the second straight match in the second slot, while Gerger and Orozsco won 8-1 in the first slot and Paradies and Puccinnelli did the same in the third slot.

All six Panthers won in straight sets in singles: Gerger (6-2, 6-0), Fields (6-3, 6-1), Puccinelli (6-3, 6-1), Paradies (6-1, 6-2), Lauren Amos ’16 (6-2, 6-3) and Orozco (6-0, 6-1).

“As a team, we have been putting in more hours than we ever have,” Gerger said. “If anything, our most noteworthy performance has been what has happened before match-day.

Both teams will host Wesleyan this upcoming Saturday, March 19. The Cardinals’ men’sc team is ranked 23rd nationally, while their women’s team is ranked 17th.