The Middlebury and Wesleyan women’s tennis teams may have only been separated by one spot in the ITA national rankings when they met in the Nelson Recreational Center on Saturday, March 19, but no. 7 Middlebury dominated no. 8 Wesleyan on the courts 7-2 to move to 3-0 in the NESCAC and overall.
Lauren Amos ’16 and Alexandra Fields ’17 won the first match of the day when they defeated Helen Klass-Warch and Dasha Dubinsky 8-4 in third doubles. Wesleyan’s doubles pairing of Eudice Chong, the top-ranked singles player in the nation, and Aashli Budhiraja tied the match at one by beating Ria Gerger ’16 and Kaysee Orozco ’17 8-4 in the first slot.
In the final doubles match, Lily Bondy ’17 and Sadie Shackelford ’16 prevailed over Victoria Yu and Nicole McCann 9-7.
First-ranked Chong won the first singles match 7-5, 6-2 over Gerger to tie the match at 2, but the Cardinals did not win after that.
Christina Puccinelli ’19 overcame Budhiraja 6-3, 7-5 in the fourth slot to put Middlebury ahead for good. Fields triumphed over Yu, who is ranked ninth nationally, in three sets 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 in the second slot.
“I was abroad in the fall so winning such a big match in the beginning of the season has been a huge confidence boost for me,” Fields said. “Although we both played great tennis, I think that I won the match because I wanted to win more than she did.”
In the third slot, Bondy came back after the surrendering the first set to defeat Klass-Warch 4-6, 6-3, 6-1. Molly Paradies ’19 and Amos overwhelmed their opponents in the fifth and sixth slots, winning 6-3, 6-2 and 6-0, 6-4, respectively.
The Panthers will return to the court on Friday, March 25, when the travel to play no. 28 Babson, before embarking on their spring break trip to California. Out west, the Panthers will play four times in five days, including matches against no. 3 Pomona-Pitzer and no. 5 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps.
The men’s tennis team, ranked third nationally, came from behind to defeat no. 9 Wesleyan in the Nelson Recreational Center on Saturday, March 19 and improve its record to 3-0 in the NESCAC and overall this spring. With their team down 4-3, Hamid Derbani ’17 and Timo van der Geest ’18 won the last two matches to secure a 5-4 victory for the Panthers.
The Panthers jumped ahead in doubles when Noah Farrell ’18 and Ari Smolyar ’16 defeated Zachary Brint and Greg Lyon 8-5 in first singles. However, Farrell and Smolyar did not face Wesleyan’s top two singles players, Steven Chen and Michael Liu. Chen and Liu narrowly beat Palmer Campbell ’16 and Derbani 8-6 in the second slot. Joachim Sampson and Sam Rudovsky also won 8-6, defeating van der Geest and William de Quant ’18, and the Cardinals led the match 2-1 entering singles play.
Campbell tied the match at 2 by making quick work of Tiago Eusebio 6-1, 6-2 in third singles. Farrell put Middlebury ahead 3-2 with a straight set victory of his own (6-4, 6-1) over Liu. The top-ranked singles player in the country had some trouble with Liu in first singles, who played with him early on, but took the match over at the end of the first set. Farrell played better as the match went on and wore Liu down, who grew frustrated with Farrell’s doggedness and ability to get to and return almost everything.
Samson answered right back for the Cardinals, handling de Quant 6-0, 7-5 in the fifth slot, and Chen, ranked no. 14 nationally but playing in the second slot, beat Smolyar after losing the first set 4-6, 6-4, 6-1. Smolyar was animated all match, at one point grasping at his face in anguish, as he struggled with his serve.
With his team’s back against the wall, Derbani overpowered Jake Roberts 6-2, 6-2 in the fourth slot, leaving the fate of the match in van der Geest’s hands. Van der Geest welcomed the challenge, overcoming a couple questionable calls by his opponent Dhruv Yadav to win the decisive match 6-2, 7-5 and seal the match for Middlebury. Van der Geest took a couple of games to get his feet under him in the first set, but once he did, he started to assert himself with consistent ground strokes and several impressive winners. Yadav regrouped in the second set, but van der Geest promptly denied any chance of a comeback and won the second set and the match.
“It was very exciting that I was able to clinch the match,” van der Geest said. “I was obviously nervous but felt like I dealt with it well. I learned that I need to improve moving up into the court so I will work on that this week.”
The Panthers will take the courts next in California, where they will play six matches in eight days over spring break. They will face multiple tests out west when they play no. 2 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, who beat them in the national championship last year, no. 8 Pomona-Pitzer and multiple Division I and II opponents.