Although the women’s tennis team was supposed to open their season on April 3, a positive Covid-19 test on Trinity’s roster delayed the season opener to April 11. It was a tease, but after almost 18 months without a match, the season opener doesn’t feel far off.
Only seven of 11 players are on campus this semester, but the team is still confident and eager ahead of their season opener. As of now, the truncated spring season contains four matchups — two home and two away — though that number could increase in the coming weeks since the team is considering adding matches. The season opens with back-to-back away trips against Hamilton and Wesleyan, respectively, and then closes with two home matches against Amherst and Williams.
While nothing is etched in stone, current plans have the NESCAC splitting into two conferences: the East and West, with Middlebury positioned in the latter. There are rumors that each subconference will host its own end-of-season playoff tournament, with the two winners meeting in a final, but plans remain tentative and contingent on the health of the players.
This season, Ann Martin Skelly ’21 and Emily Bian ’21 are senior co-captains, stepping into leadership roles under head coach Rachel Kahan, who enters her fifth year at Middlebury. In 2018-19, Kahan led the Panthers to a 19–3 record as the team finished as NESCAC Finalists and NCAA Semifinalists.
There are four first-years on the roster, and while Covid-19 restrictions have made it tough to organize traditional team bonding events, they have integrated nicely into the team, according to Skelly and Bian.
“I think the freshmen are assimilating very well,” Bian said. “It’s a good sign that all four of them came back in the spring.”
The Panthers will begin NESCAC play on the back of a successful fall, according to Bian, where practices were competitive and engaging. “When we were at practice [in the fall], we were a lot more engaged with each other since we maybe didn’t get to see each other the past weekend,” Bian said.
Though the team graduated five seniors who were all high-caliber players, Bian noted that the team is in good hands.
“The freshmen have really stepped up,” Bian said. “And the returning players have gotten a lot better and definitely can fill those holes in the lineup. So far everyone has been extremely competitive.”
The women’s tennis matches will be livestreamed this spring season, according to Athletic Director Erin Quinn. The first match is slated for Sunday, April 11 at Hamilton. Start time is to be determined.