Women’s Tennis Falls Short in NESCAC Championship

By CECELIA SCHEUER

MAX PADILLA
Emily Bian ’21 has gone 11-10 in singles for the 2018-19 season.

The Middlebury women’s tennis team battled to the very end this Sunday before falling to second-seeded Wesleyan 2-5 in the NESCAC Championship on the Proctor tennis courts. On Friday, the Panthers blanked fourth-seeded Amherst 5-0 to advance to the final for the fourth-straight year. Wesleyan will receive an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament with Middlebury now boasting a 16-2 record for this season.

 “I think we can all agree that this is the strongest our team has ever been physically and mentally,” senior Christina Puccinelli ’19 said. “Even though we may not be thrilled with the results of this past weekend, we are all extremely confident in our ability to take it all the way at NCAAs … I’ve got two more weeks playing tennis with my ten best friends, and I don’t intend to waste them.”

 On Friday during doubles play, Middlebury swept all three doubles matches. The junior duo of Katherine Hughes and Skylar Schossberger posted an 8-2 victory in the second flight over Camille Smukler and Anya Invenitsky, while Puccinelli and Maddi Stow ’20 clinched an 8-6 win against Anya Ramras and Maddie Dewire in the third slot. The top squad of Heather Boehm ’20 and Ann Martin Skelly ’21 triumphed 8-7 (1) over Kelsey Chen and Jackie Bukzin to secure the 3-0 lead.

 In singles action, Boehm eased past Bukzin 6-0, 6-1 at the No. 1 spot, while Puccinelli posted a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Dewire in the third flight. As for the remaining matches which went unfinished due to the Panther’s 5-0 lead, Hughes and Smukler split sets at No. 2 singles, with Hughes up 1-0 in the third. At the No. 4 spot, Schossberer also split the first two sets with Ivenitsky, trailing Ivenitsky 0-2 in the third set. In the fifth slot, Amherst’s Claire Evans clinched the first set against Stow and was up 3-2 in the second, while Middlebury’s Emily Bian ’21 claimed the first set at the No. 6 spot over Camilla Trapness, down 1-3 in the second.

 On Sunday during doubles, the Panthers secured a 2-1 lead, grabbing points at No. 1 and No. 2 doubles. The No. 1 duo of Boehm and Skelly toppled Victoria Yu and Kristina Yu 8-2, after which the Cardinals tied the match at 1-1 with an 8-5 win in the third spot. The No. 2 pair of Hughes and Schossberger triumphed 8-6 over Venia Yeung and Polina Kiselva, however, to solidify the team’s 2-1 advantage.

 “Wesleyan played like they had nothing to lose,” Boehm said. “Every point was close, we just got a little unlucky here and there and the score was definitely not indicative of the play … The men’s team actually lost NESCACs to Bowdoin last year, and they ended up beating them in the NCAA final when it really mattered. We brush this loss off, because at the end of the day, we came here to win a national championship.”

 During singles play, the Cardinals grabbed the first four points to win the match, posting a straight-set win at the No. 3 spot followed by a three-set triumph at the No. 4 spot. Wesleyan advanced to a 4-1 lead after securing a three-set win at No. 5 and a three-set victory in the second flight as well. As for the two matches remaining when Wesleyan clinched the winning point, the Cardinals claimed the opening set in each one. Victoria Yu edged Boehm 7-6 (5) in a first-set tiebreaker in the top flight, with Boehm leading 3-0 in the second set. At the bottom of the lineup, Wesleyan’s Alissa Nakamoto triumphed over Bian 7-5 in the first set, with the second set tied at 4-4.

 With many of the matches being close three-setters for the Panthers, their championship loss was heartbreaking to say the least. However, it will only make them stronger as they prepare for the NCAA tournament starting next weekend.

“It actually takes a lot of pressure off of us,” Boehm said. “The love we have for each other is unmatched by any team we played this season. We played an incredible match and just needed a few points here and there. Our goal is not to look back, and to just look forward at who our next matchup is.”

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