MIDDLEBURY, VT — The Williams College men's tennis team made a repeat appearance in the NCAA Regional Final on their quest to retaining the NCAA Division III National Championship; however, the Panthers of Middlebury College proved to be too much for the Ephs, as the Panthers ended the Ephs' chance at a repeat title with a 5-2 that came largely as a result of outstanding singles performances by the Panthers.
The Panthers were confident but wary going into the match, having defeated the reigning national champions 6-3 during their regular season encounter, which included sweeping all three doubles points, but this match proved to be different, as the Ephs avoided falling into the formidable 3-0 hole after doubles. Middlebury did claim the first point of the match, however, as the senior Panther combination of Alex Johnston and Andrew Lebovitz eased past Eph senior Matt Micheli and freshman Conrad Harron at one-doubles by the margin of 8-3. The Ephs responded well to the loss of Court 1, as the Ephs managed to snag the remaining two doubles points to take a 2-1 advantage into singles. The Eph sophomore duo of Brian Astrachan and Alexander Schidlovsky were next off the court at the number three position, as they broke the Panther pairing of sophomore Ari Smolyar and junior Peter Heidrich early in the match and rode that break all the way to an 8-6 win. The same scoreline was registered at two-doubles by the Eph tandem of freshman Rohan Shastri and sophomore Jose Raventos, as they exchanged blows with Panther sophomore Palmer Campbell and senior Brantner Jones deep into the set, before breaking and consolidating late to take the match 8-6.
The Panthers exhibited outstanding mental toughness to not be let down after doubles, as they proceeded to take the first set on all six courts in the singles portion. Micheli and Raventos at one- and six-singles respectively rallied to stretch their matches into third sets, but the remaining four courts all went in favor of the Panthers in straights. Brantner was first off the court during singles, as he ousted Harron 6-1, 6-4 to level the match at two points apiece. Schidlovsky put up a strong fight in the first set at four-singles, just being edged out 7-3 in the tiebreaker, but Smolyar built on his momentum from the first set, as he cruised to a comfortable 6-3 second set. Three-singles followed suit shortly thereafter, as Shastri had an opportunity to serve out the first set against Campbell at 5-4, but he could not capitalize on the opportunity, allowing Campbell to get back into the match and take the first set 7-5, before easing to a comfortable 6-2 second set. The Panthers needed only one more point, and they found that point through junior Panther Courtney Mountifield, as he defeated Eph sophomore Howard Weiss 6-3, 6-3 to book the Panthers' ticket to the NCAA Quarterfinals.
After the match, Eph head coach Dan Greenberg reflected on the season as a whole: "We put ourselves in a great position to win this match after doubles, but Middlebury responded well and we let them off the hook, giving up six first sets. Credit to them for coming out strong in singles, and credit to our seniors for doing an awesome job leading such a young team. Matt [Micheli] was such a tough competitor and leader on the court, today included, and Adam [Reich] was a rock in all things off the court, organizing and coaching and generally getting our guys in the right frame of mind. We'll miss them, but they did everything they could to get us headed in the right direction moving forward."
The Ephs' season ends at 16-7 with both a NESCAC semifinal appearance as well as an NCAA Regional Final appearance. They graduate two seniors, Matt Micheli and Adam Reich, but return a plethora of players next year.
Middlebury 5, Williams 2
- Johnston, Alex (MIDDLEBURY) v. Micheli, Matt (WILLIAMS) 6-3, 3-6, 2-1 DNF
- Jones, Brantner (MIDDLEBURY) def. Harron, Conrad (WILLIAMS) 6-1, 6-4
- Campbell, Palmer (MIDDLEBURY) def. Shastri, Rohan (WILLIAMS) 7-5, 6-2
- Smolyar, Ari (MIDDLEBURY) def. Schidlovsky, Alexander (WILLIAMS) 7-6(3), 6-3
- Mountifield, Courtney (MIDDLEBURY) def. Weiss, Howard (WILLIAMS) 6-3, 6-3
- Frons, Jackson (MIDDLEBURY) v. Raventos, Jose (WILLIAMS) 6-4, 3-6, 0-0 DNF
- Johnston, Alex/Lebovitz, Andrew (MIDDLEBURY) def. Micheli, Matt/Harron, Conrad (WILLIAMS) 8-3
- Raventos, Jose/Shastri, Rohan (WILLIAMS) def. Jones, Brantner/Campbell, Palmer (MIDDLEBURY) 8-6
- Astrachan, Brian/Schidlovsky, Alexander (WILLIAMS) def. Heidrich, Peter/Smolyar, Ari (MIDDLEBURY) 8-6
Middlebury 20-3; national ranking #3; regional ranking #1
Williams 16-7; national ranking #11; regional ranking #3
Order of finish: Doubles (1, 3, 2); Singles (2, 4, 3, 5)
2014 NCAA DIII Men's Tennis Regional Final