Men’s Tennis Begins National Title Defense with Two Shutout Wins

By Jack Kagan

Shirley Mao
Captain Lubomir Cuba ’19 fires off a serve at the Nelson Recreation Arena.

The defending Division III National Champion Panthers got back in action on Saturday for the first time this spring against Hamilton and No. 26 Skidmore. 

Despite their championship run last spring, the Panthers did lose a considerable amount of firepower to graduation. All three seniors were integral pieces of the lineup all season long. #3 William de Quant finished with an impressive 95-27 career total, while #4 Kyle Schlanger totaled a 69-23 record. Timo van der Geest went 19-11 playing at several different positions in singles, along with a 26-13 doubles record. 

The Panthers did add some depth in first-years David Vilys, a 4-star from Naples, Florida, Stanley Morris, a 3-star recruit out of Santa Monica, and Zach Hilty, a 2-star out of San Luis Obispo, California. This 10th-ranked recruiting class will certainly be called upon to fill the hole in the lineup left by the seniors, particularly Schlanger and de Quant.

Things certainly looked positive for the No. 2 ranked Panthers this Saturday as they took on Skidmore in Saratoga Springs. Middlebury swept the doubles competition easily, starting off with a win at #3 from Aleksandr Samets ’20 and Andre Xiao ’21 in one of their first doubles showings as Panthers. Doubles specialist Peter Martin ’19 teamed up with fellow senior captain Noah Farrell for an easy 8-4 victory. Veteran standout Lubo Cuba ’19 and sophomore Nate Eazor finished the session with a perfect 8-0 win. 

The singles corps quickly followed suit. In an impressive showing, not a single player dropped a set to his opponent. Morris recorded his first dual match win as a Panther in a win over Skidmore’s Travis Leaf at the #3 spot. Xiao slotted in at the #4 spot for just the second time in his career and also recorded an easy victory. Also getting some new experience in the singles lineup was Adam Guo ’21, who dominated his opponent 6-0, 6-1. Eazor, Farrell and Cuba all resumed similar singles positions as last year as the Panthers cruised to victory. 

That same day the Middlebury men returned from Saratoga to host Hamilton at the Nelson Recreation Center. It was the same exact story for the strong Middlebury contingent, as the Panthers swept the competition without dropping a set. 

This weekend, Middlebury will face sharper competition. In two home matches on March 16 and 17, the Panthers will take on No. 10 Brandeis and No. 33 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. On Saturday, Middlebury will take on a Brandeis team with a bit of a new look. After losing no seniors, the Judges welcomed a first-year class ranked seventh in the nation. A team that finished last season at No. 21, they’ve already recorded wins against #11 Pomona-Pitzer and several top-30 programs. With their first two wins under their belt, the Panthers have a week to prepare to defend their home courts and their national ranking.

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