Men’s Tennis Battles Unfamiliar Competition

By MIGUEL ESPINOSA

MICHAEL BORENSTEIN/THE MIDDLEBURY CAMPUS
Lubomir Cuba ’19 returns the ball during the tournament at Middlebury from Sept. 28–30.

After coming short of victory in the prior weekend’s ITA Regional Championships, men’s tennis readjusted their focus and travelled south to Princeton, N.J. for the Farnsworth Invitational. The Invitational, hosted by Princeton University, was a change of scenery for the Panthers; they were the only Division III team in a field of 15 schools. Unlike in previous tournaments where players would compete in either a singles or doubles bracket, the Farnsworth Invitational followed a Davis Cup format, where each player competes in four doubles and singles matches.

Representing Middlebury on the weekend of Oct. 5–7 were just six players: Noah Farrell ’19, Peter Martin ’19, Adam Guo ’21, Andre Xiao ’21, Aleksander Samets ’20 and David Vilys ’22. NCAA Division III All-American Lubomir Cuba would sit out the invitational, as well as senior captain Cole Sutton. Other notable absences included junior Weston Brach and freshman Stanley Morris. Clearly, the Panthers’ full roster of weapons was not displayed at Princeton.

The Panthers still managed to piece together a solid outing. The Farrell-Martin doubles pair posted a 3–1 record over the weekend, while Xiao-Samets and Guo-Vilys both went 2–2. For singles, Farrell, Guo and Vilys each won three matches. Martin won two matches, while Samets would tally a victory in just one. As the only Division III team in the invitational, Middlebury managed to put up quite a fight.

One Panther, Guo, found himself needing to adjust his play style during the match. “Division I players make you pay for any short ball that you give them, so one thing that I was struggling with was keeping the ball deep [while I run],” Guo said. “Additionally, DI players have noticeably bigger serves, so one thing that I could have done better was keeping the ball deeper off the return.”

For Samets, competing at the NESCAC level isn’t very different from competing against Division I teams. “The level of play is very close, so we go into each match looking to compete hard and to win,” said Samets. “The real differences are a few Division-I-specific rules that we have to adjust to, like playing lets and no ad scoring.”

The small differences in competition, however, don’t take away from the thrill of beating a higher-level opponent. “It’s always great to mix in the Princeton tournament during the Fall, so being the only DIII team down there definitely makes the wins sweeter,” said Samets.

The Panthers return to Division III play on Oct. 12–14, when they look to build some momentum at the Tufts-Brandeis Invitational.

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