Panthers Win Every Set on Saturday


Michael Borenstein

Skylar Schossberger ’20 lines up her backhand on Saturday, when she won all three of her matches, two in doubles with Katie Hughes ’20 and one in singles. Head coach Rachel Kahan looks on, as she begins her career as coach of Middlebury. She became Mike Morgan’s assistant coach in 2016, then took over as interim coach last summer when Morgan left for Pomona Pitzer. Kahan was named head coach earlier this month, four days before the spring season started.


The No. 4 women’s tennis team opened its 2018 home season on Saturday, March 17, and protected the Nelson Recreation Center courts by shutting out both Colby and St. Lawrence 9–0. Every player on the roster contributed at least one win as the Panthers completely overmatched the Mules and Saints, surrendering only 21 games in their two matches.

In the first match on Saturday, Middlebury faced off with Colby, its second Nescac foe of the season. The Mules entered the match with a 3–0, including a 1–0 mark in the Nescac after defeating Hamilton.

But the Mules stood little chance against the Panthers from the beginning, as Middlebury took all three of the doubles points. In the No. 1 slot, Katie Hughes ’20 and Skylar Schossberger ’20 beat the Venditti twins 8–1. In the second spot, Christina Puccinelli ’19 and Heather Boehm ’20 held Callie Nesbitt and Jessica Tsai scoreless, and Molly Paradies ’19 and Ann Martin Skelly ’21 won 8–3 over Emily Dyckman and Isha Banerjee in third doubles. Emily Bian got Middlebury going in singles, defeating Jamie Pine 6–2, 6–2 in the sixth slot.

Middlebury sealed its victory over Colby when Puccinelli shut out her opponent in the second slot. And the Panthers continued its dominance by winning each of the last four singles matches to capture a 9–0 victory over the Mules.

Hughes beat Lydia Venditti 6–1, 6–2 at No. 1, Catherine Blazye ’20 defeated Nesbitt 6–1, 6–0 at No. 3, and Paradies capped off Middlebury’s shutout by dispatching Dyckman 6–1, 6–0, at No. 5.

Middlebury’s dominance on Saturday did not lend itself to competitive excitement, but the Panthers know how important every match is, even those against lesser opponents.

“We view the matches against Colby and St. Lawrence like we would any other match weekend,” said Boehm. “We make sure to stay focused because, with a double header that can take up to eight hours on the court, if you lose focus for a second, your opponent can come back out of nowhere.

“We can use these matches to work on our eye control and focus during long days like these. We also use them to work on new projects and patterns we aren’t usually comfortable with. To us, these matches are no different from the NCAA postseason, and we try to take something away from every win.”

Middlebury’s second match of the double header began the same way, as the Panthers swept doubles again. In second doubles, Maddi Stow ’20 and Blazye paired up this time to defeat Caroline Reilly and Katherine Apt 8–1. Puccinelli and Boehm moved down to the third spot to shut out their opponents. And Hughes and Schossberger paired up again to win 8–3 over Emily Wyman and Lia Peterson in the first slot.

In singles, Hughes, Puccinelli and Paradies all won in straight sets in the same spots in the lineup as the Colby match. Boehm defeated Apt 6–0, 6–0 at No. 3, while Stow also shut out her opponent in the fourth slot. And Ann Martin Skelly ’21 won 6–2, 6–0 in sixth slot, as Middlebury earned its second 9–0 win of the day.

After a 3–0 start to the season, the women’s tennis team now turns to its spring break trip to California, where it will play Grossmont, Azusa Pacific, Westmont, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, and Pomona-Pitzer. The Panthers look forward to their matchup with Pomona-Pitzer, whom Mike Morgan coaches now, after 11 years as head coach of Middlebury.

“We are all looking forward to spring break,” Boehm said. “It’s a chance to compete in a different climate and practice some outdoor tennis. The competition will definitely be tougher against those two teams but because of our intense preparation (we wear sweats to every indoor practice to simulate the heat), we feel confident that we will compete well out there.”

To go along with the hot weather and the move outdoors, Middlebury will face tough competition on the west coast, since Pomona-Pitzer is ranked fifth and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps third in the DIII national rankings.