Winter Sports Preview

By Tom Clayton

Squash

After posting a successful 16-9 season last winter, the Middlebury men’s squash team looks to come back firing on all cylinders under the leadership of senior captains Spencer Hurst ’13 and Jay Dolan ’13. With the loss of number one player Valentin Quan ’12 and number seven Addi DiSesa ’12, the Panthers will rely on a large class of returning, seasoned players, along with the help of some younger players who will need to step up to fill the rest of the team’s spots.

The men will be led by the captains Hurst and Dolan as well as Parker Hurst ’14, who received second team All-NESCAC honors last year.

“The team is looking pretty good and ready for this upcoming season,” said co-captain Hurst. “We are well rounded, and only lost two players from last year.”

Coming off a 16-8 season, the Middlebury Women’s squash team looks to rely on a number of returning, seasoned players, and a number of new highly skilled freshman in order to fill the spots missing from last year’s graduating seniors, including number 1 player Eleina Laird ’12.

Abigail Jenkins ’14, who is currently abroad, will be returning this season, and will most likely be playing in the number one spot next year. Charlotte Dewey ’15 received second team All-NESCAC honors after finishing the season 16-3 in the #3 spot.

Under the leadership of captains Lindsay Becker ’13, and Molly Hubbard ’13, the Panthers will look towards other sophomore standouts such as Katie Dewey ’15 and Carter Makin ’15, along with several promising first-years.

Swimming and Diving

The women’s and men’s swimming and diving teams will look to improve on last year’s solid finishes as they hit the pool for the 2012-2013 season.

On the women’s side, the Panthers return seven NCAA qualifiers from last year’s fourth-place NESCAC squad. The NCAA-finalist 200-meter medley relay team of Andie Tibbets ’14, Jamie Hillas ’15, Maddy Berkman ’15 and Ann Carpenter ’15 is back from last year. Hillas was a national finalist in the 100-meter breaststroke a year ago. Middlebury also returns three legs of an honorable mention All-American 800-meter freestyle relay of Nora Daly ’13, Jen Friedlander ’13 and Courtney Haron ’15.

“On the women’s side, we definitely had a solid season last year,” said head coach Bob Rueppel. “We have very high goals for the women’s team. That’s a big reason I came here. I think the sky’s the limit.”

The men’s team will need to replace their top scorer from last year as they hope to improve on a seventh-place NESCAC finish. Diver Skylar Dallmeyer-Drennen ’14 is the team’s top returning scorer as the Panthers also return a pair of freestyle relay squads that scored in the conference a year ago. The men will also benefit from the return of Ian Mackay ’14, who won a pair of events at NESCACs in 2011 before sitting out last year with an injury.

“For the men we have very high goals,” said Rueppel. “I think we’re going to surprise some people this year.”

Middlebury’s swimmers open their season at Tufts and Connecticut College on Saturday, Nov. 17. The long season runs through NCAAs in late March.

“The first meet is to see where we are,” said Rueppel. “We started ten days ago in great shape, so I’m ecstatic over that starting point. It creates a great competitive atmosphere. We’ve bumped it up a little bit this year, and they’ve been great.”

Track and Field

The Middlebury men’s and women’s track and field teams open the winter season Jan. 13 in Hanover, N.H. at the Dartmouth Invitational.

The teams will participate in a series of meets around New England culminating in the the ECAC Championship beginning March 1 at New York Armory. A handful of Panthers should qualify for the National Championship at North Central College in Naperville, Ill. the following weekend in March.

A number of National Championship competitors return to the team this year, including high-jump All-American Grace Doering ’13, Lauren Pincus ’14 in the javelin and cross country star Addie Tousely ’13 in the 5,000.

On the men’s side Jack Davies ’13, last year’s top seed in the steeplechase, and Patrick Hebble ’13 in the 1,500, both come off a strong cross country season to run for the Panthers this winter.

Last year’s indoor track team set high expectations for the 2013 squad, breaking program and national records in a number of different areas including the men’s and women’s Distance Medlay Relay, the 400-meter dash and the 200-meter dash.

While many talented runners return to the team, the Panthers will have to replace Margo Kramer ’12 and Michael Schmidt ’13 two of the most successful runners in program history.

Skiing

The Alpine and Nordic Ski Teams are expected to bring a lot of excitement to campus this winter, not only because they will be hosting the NCAA Championships from March 3-9 at the Snow Bowl, but also because they are coming into this season with a champion mindset.

The men’s Alpine Ski Team is spearheaded by all three members from last year’s Slalom National Champion Team, namely Hig Roberts ’14, Andrew McNealus ’13, and captain Bryan Shpall ’13. The team also will feature Dave Donaldson ’14, who could not compete last year as a transfer due to NCAA rules.

“Those four, and juniors Nick Bailey ’14 and Liam Mulhern ’14, will be contributors to the Middlebury team at Carnivals,” said assistant coach Abby Copland.

On the women’s side, the young, but experienced, Panthers are expected to make a splash in the league that features the best skiers in the country. Copland is confident that the roster, composed of largely underclassmen and led by sole senior and captain Christine Schozer ’13, will be able to bring their hard-earned experience from last season to the table. The Panthers will head west to the slopes over Thanksgiving to test out their crucial pre-snow conditioning work.

The Nordic skiers are eager to make this year the best they have had under seven-year head coach Andrew Gardner.

“The team is looking really strong,” said captain Hilary Rich ’13. “We have a lot of strong returning skiers (including 2 NCAA participants), as well as three new first-year men and five first-year women who are looking promising for this coming season.”

After extensive dry-land training this fall, both alpine teams will set out to West Yellowstone in Montana for Thanksgiving Break for some time on the snow and a chance to compete in their debut skate-sprint individual race.

Both the Alpine and Nordic Ski Teams will begin action during J-term, with the Alpine leading the way in the Vermont Carnival, January 11th and 12th.

Women’s Basketball

Middlebury will look to improve on a 2011-12 season that saw them unable to secure a win in NESCAC play, and finish with a record of 7-17 overall.  After leading her team to 11 NESCAC or ECAC tournaments in her first 14 seasons, head coach Noreen Pecsok looks to return to her winning tradition. One of the key aspects Middlebury will look to improve from last year is its defense. Last season the Panthers were outscored by their opponents by 192 total points, which averaged to 63.5 points per game for opponents to Middlebury’s 55.5.

“We are looking to improve our consistency this year and our overall team play,” Pecsok said.  “I think there will be a measurable improvement in our defensive intensity.”

Despite losing three players from last season including key rebounders, the Panthers return with a strong starting lineup including last year’s leading scorer, tri-captin Tracy Borsinger ’13, who finished with a field goal average of .398, accounting for 238 of the team’s overall tally of 1331 points.

In addition to challenging her players everyday in practice to keep improving, Pecsok is also looking for her team to build a good reputation on and off the court.

“Our goal this year is to be competitive every time we step on the floor,” she said. “To be team oriented in everything that we do and to represent Middlebury, the athletic department and ourselves in the best way possible.”

The Panthers start their season this Saturday Nov. 17 against the University of Massachusetts-Boston in the Tip-Off Classic at Simmons College.

Men’s Basketball

The fourth-ranked Middlebury men’s basketball team tips off its season this weekend at Lebanon Valley College. The Panthers, who finished the 2011-12 season 26-4, return 14 members of last year’s team including four of five starters. The team’s biggest challenge, however, will be replacing 2012 Regional Player of the Year, Ryan Sharry ’12, who led the team in points, rebounds and blocks last season.

“It will take a full team effort to fill [Sharry’s] role,” co-captain Peter Lynch ’13 said. “Some people are going to have to take more shots and hopefully convert at the rate he was able to, some people are going to have to get a rebound or two more a game and some people are going to have to bring the same passion to the game.”

The Panthers will rely on the combined play of Lynch and juniors James Jensen ’14 and Jack Roberts ’14 to fill out a deep, but largely unproven front court. Chris Churchill ’15 and first-year big man Matt Daley ’16 will provide the team with size and depth off the bench as well.

While the Panthers’ front court will look very different from seasons past, the Middlebury backcourt — the deepest and most talented group in the NESCAC — returns all three starters from last year, including two-year captain Nolan Thompson ’13 and gives the team an opportunity to play a faster brand of basketball this season.

“The biggest difference from last year is we are really focusing on getting out and pushing the ball and putting pressure on our opponents,” said Lynch. “If we can run and score a couple more layups each game it will give us a whole different dynamic for defenses to focus on.”

Friday, Nov. 16 and Saturday Nov. 17 the Panthers will face their first test in the four-team tournament that features the College of Staten Island, a Sweet 16 team a year ago.

“This weekend will be a tremendous opportunity for our program to begin our 2012-13 campaign,” said assistant coach Alex Popp. “All four [teams] in the tournament are capable of playing in March this season.”

 Women’s Hockey

The women’s ice hockey team opens the season on Friday, Nov. 16 and Saturday, Nov. 17 with a two-game series against Colby. The following weekend the Panthers host Amherst, Elmira and Plattsburgh in the Panther/Cardinal Classic.

The team returns a number of talented players from the 2011-12 team that won the NESCAC championship before falling in the NCAA quarterfinals to finish with a 21-4-3 record.

“We have worked hard this fall and are really looking forward to starting games this weekend,” said tri-captain Heather Marrison ’13. “Not only do we have a lot of impact returners, we also have a strong freshman class that will help us out greatly this season.”

Lauren Greer ’13, a second-team All-American last year, led the team in scoring with 29 points, and in penalty minutes with 21. Her 71 career points lead a crowded field of returning scorers., which includes sophomore standout Hannah Bielawski ’15 who finished second on the team in points last season and Sarah Ugalde ’14, the Panthers’ top goal-scorer with 14 goals during the 2011-12 campaign. While Greer, Bielawski and Ugalde headline the Panthers’ attack, virtually all of the Panthers offense from last season – the top eight scorers, and 14 of the top 16 – return to the ice this year.

Middlebury also returns its top netminder, Annabelle Jones ’15, who handled the bulk of the time between the posts last season, finishing with a .930 save percentage and a 1.44 goals-against average in 22 games.

Men’s Hockey

While it finished with a record of 14-10-3, last year’s Middlebury men’s hockey team proved to be anything but predictable. In the throes of a woeful stretch in January that saw them allow 24 goals in six games (including one 7-0 and a pair of 5-0 losses,) the Panthers then rebounded to win seven of their final nine games and came within one goal of the NESCAC championship.

Head coach Bill Beaney commented on his team’s resiliency.

“I thought that we were in stormy waters at the beginning of last year,” said Beaney. “We were playing the best hockey of any team in the NESCAC down the stretch. We outplayed Amherst in the title game and I thought we deserved to win.”

From a personnel standpoint, the Panthers will need to fill the offensive void left by the graduation of the top-three scorers from a year ago: Charlie Strauss ’12 (24 points), Charles Nerbak ’12 (20 points) and Martin Drolet ’12 (19 points.)

However, captain Chris Steele ’13 is confident in his team’s ability to compete.

“Although we lost some firepower up front, we are confident that we will get a lot more contribution from the returnees,” said Steele. “There is also a great opportunity for some of the first-years to contribute offensively to make up for loss of a some key seniors from last years team.”

Beaney also suggested that several first-years could see significant ice time as the Panthers travel to Colby and Bowdoin this weekend, Nov. 16 and 17.

“I am thrilled with the first-year’s contribution,” said Beaney. “The upperclassmen also have reached out and let the younger guys get acclimated to Middlebury and to college hockey.” The coach, set to begin his 26th year behind the bench, also pointed to Tom Freyre ’14 and captain Trevor Pollock ’13 as important pieces going forward.

Steele and fellow captain Mathieu Castonguay ’13 will anchor a back line in front of goaltenders Dan Fullam ’15, Nick BonDurant ’14 and Liam Moorfield-Yee ’16.

DAMON HATHEWAY, LOK SZE LEUNG, ALEX MORRIS, FRITZ PARKER, OWEN TEACH, and GABE WEISSMANN contributed to this report.

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