Women’s Tennis Ends Season Strong


Emily Bian ’21 returns a serve from her opponent at the Middlebury Invitational.

Women’s tennis ended their fall season with a bang at their home invitational on the weekend of Oct. 13. Over the course of three days, Middlebury hosted the Brandeis and Williams women’s tennis teams, and the Panthers ultimately demonstrated strides in their doubles play.

Competition took place inside the Nelson Recreation Center, where the Panthers played four to five singles matches and three doubles matches against each team. The singles matches were played in the traditional best two out of three format, with a tiebreaker set for the third. The doubles matches consisted of one pro-set. 

In spite of injuries and study-abroad trips plucking away at the team’s depth, the Panthers managed to come in swinging for their Friday’s evening doubles match. Sophomore Ann Martin Skelly and senior Christina Puccinelli edged the Williams duo of Chloe Henderson and Emily Zheng, 8-5.

“Historically, Williams has been quite the rival for us, but all that has done is pushed us to be better year after year,” said Puccinelli. She especially feels confident in the team’s ability to match Williams in the event they face one another in this year’s NESCAC finals.

This fall, Middlebury spent time focusing on doubles training, where they worked to attack early in on matches and to execute bigger moves at the net. The team’s hard work continued to show throughout the weekend, when they posted victories in three out of four matches on Saturday. 

In Saturday’s doubles matches against Brandeis, Skelly and Puccinelli were once again a force to be reckoned with, as they defeated Olivia Leavitt and Lauren Bertsch (8-3). Nora Dahl ’22 and Emily Bian ’21, meanwhile, clinched an 8-3 win against Sophia He and Ana Hatfield. Spirits were high across the board, and the team’s unwavering positivity gave them momentum for the rest of the weekend’s matches.

“Our opponents could constantly hear us cheering on one another from across the courts,” said Bian. “Even when we were down in our respective matches, you couldn’t tell. There was always someone pumping you up.”

In Saturday’s singles matches against Williams, Puccinelli claimed a 6-3, 6-3 win over Henderson, while Emma Gorman earned a hard-fought 4-6, 6-4, 11-9 victory against Maxine Ng.

Later in the day, Gorman cruised over He (6-3, 6-1), while Skelly defeated Michele Lehat in straight sets (6-3, 6-3). Dahl dropped just three games in a 6-3, 6-0 triumph over Isabel Cepeda.

On Sunday, Middlebury competed against Brandeis in both singles and doubles. Skelly and Puccinelli picked up an 8-1 victory over Bertsch and Leavitt, while Bian and Dahl won 8-6 against Khromchenko and Lehat. In singles, Puccinelli knocked off Leavitt in straight sets (6-0, 7-6 (4)). Gorman earned her third singles win of the weekend, with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Khromchenko.

Looking confidently towards the spring, the Panthers will continue to train intensely, and await five juniors returning from study abroad.

“In the spring, it’s really going to be about coming together again as a whole team of eleven instead of the six of us we had in the fall,” said Puccinelli. 

Until then, the primary focus remains on capitalizing on the growth they saw this fall. Their sights are set high; they want to clinch the team’s first national championship.