MIDDLEBURY, Vt. - After over a week since they concluded their spring break trip in southern-California, the Ephs returned to New England and NESCAC action with a trip up Route 7 into Vermont to visit the ninth-ranked Panthers of Middlebury College. Though Juli Raventos returned to the Ephs' lineup for the first time since the fall, it was not enough to overcome the blue and white, as the Vermonters fired off warning signs in doubles, before completing the upset of the third-ranked Ephs in singles thanks to a 6-3 margin.
The home side got off to the ideal start, as they managed to take two of the three doubles points off the visitors who seldom concede the doubles advantage to their opponents.
In spite of their eventual success in the doubles portion of the dual, the Panthers were not the first team on the board, as the Eph partnership of Hannah Atkinson and Chloe Henderson prevailed on Court 1 against Katherine Hughes and Skylar Schossberger, recording an 8-4 victory to give the Ephs the early lead.
That lead would not last for long, however, as the Panthers pulled the match level just a short while later thanks to the likes of Kaysee Orozco and Catherine Blazye, who managed to defeat the reigning individual NCAA doubles champions, Juli Raventos and Linda Shin, 8-5 on Court 2 in what was the Eph pairing's first competitive match playing together this calendar year.
Buoyed by their teammates' success, the Panther duo on Court 3 of Alexandra Fields and Christina Puccinelli also bagged a point for the home team, outlasting Julia Cancio and Emily Zheng by a 9-7 margin, after a tightly contested pro-set, giving the blue and white the advantage over the purple and gold entering the singles portion of the dual.
Since weather had forced the match indoors, the two teams were only able to play four matches at a time, and unfortunately for the Ephs, the hosts would sneak all four of those to clinch the dual and then some. The Ephs, however, didn't go down without a fight, as three of those four matches required third sets to determine a winner.
Fields' match with Leah Bush on Court 1 was the first clash to clear the courts. The Williams sophomore managed to take the first set off her fellow Floridian, but the Middlebury senior came charging back in the second and third sets, taking the former, 6-4, before following up in the latter, 6-1.
The match between Blazye and Mia Gancayco was the next match to be decided, and it too required three sets. Like her fellow Eph on Court 1, Gancayco was able to notch the first set on Court 4, but she could not capitalize on her momentum in the second. The first-year from London caught the Eph junior cold, blanking her 6-0, which she followed up in the third set, 6-2, to pull the Vermont side to within one point of clinching the match.
The Panthers did not have to wait long for confirmation of their victory, as Puccinelli's battle with Raventos on Court 2 came to a close shortly after Blazye's triumph. The sophomore handled the returning Costa Rican in straight sets, albeit both were hard-fought, especially the second. Puccinelli orchestrated a 6-2 first set against the Eph junior, before grinding out the win in the second, 7-5, to give the Panthers only their third win against the Ephs in the last 10 years and their second win in 15 duals.
Though the dual had already been won by their NESCAC rivals, the Ephs did not stop fighting, claiming two of the last three points left on the courts.
Of the initial first four matches sent out, only Shin's match against Heather Boehm remained. Unlike Bush and Gancayco, however, Shin had to fight from behind in her three-setter, after dropping the first set 6-1 to her plucky first-year opponent. The senior's experience showed in the second set, as she pushed Boehm to her limits, ultimately forcing a third-set match-tiebreaker with a 7-5 win. Shin's energy seemed to evaporate in that tiebreaker, however, as the veteran succumbed to the upstart, 10-6, to win the Panthers what would be their final point of the dual.
The final two matches saw Atkinson and Cancio represent the Ephs, and both fell in favor of the visitors. Atkinson marched to a straight sets victory over Molly Paradies, while only conceding a single game, 6-1 and 6-0, and the Ephs finally found themselves victorious in a three-set match when Cancio downed Schossberger 11-9 in a third-set match-tiebreaker.
"We battled really hard in the match today," reflected Eph head coach Alison Swain after the match. "But I think we still have room to improve and Middlebury was ready to play. We are looking forward to an opportunity to rebound tomorrow, but we know it'll be another tough match."
The Ephs would indeed like to rebound tomorrow, but that will be no easy feat for the Ephs, as they go away from home for the final time this regular season when they travel to Middletown, Connecticut to visit the Cardinals of sixth-ranked Wesleyan on Sunday afternoon. That match is set to get underway at 2 PM EDT.
Middlebury 6, Williams 3
- Fields, Alexandra (MIDDLEBURY) def. Bush, Leah (WILLIAMS) 3-6, 6-4, 6-1
- Puccinelli, Christina (MIDDLEBURY) def. Raventos, Juli (WILLIAMS) 6-2, 7-5
- Boehm, Heather (MIDDLEBURY) def. Shin, Linda (WILLIAMS) 6-1, 5-7, 1-0(6)
- Blazye, Catherine (MIDDLEBURY) def. Gancayco, Mia (WILLIAMS) 4-6, 6-0, 6-2
- Atkinson, Hannah (WILLIAMS) def. Paradies, Molly (MIDDLEBURY) 6-1, 6-0
- Cancio, Julia (WILLIAMS) def. Schossberger, Skylar (MIDDLEBURY) 2-6, 6-2, 1-0(9)
- Atkinson, Hannah/Henderson, Chloe (WILLIAMS) def. Hughes, Katherine/Schossberger, Skylar (MIDDLEBURY) 8-4
- Blazye, Catherine/Orozco, Kaysee (MIDDLEBURY) def. Raventos, Juli/Shin, Linda (WILLIAMS) 8-5
- Fields, Alexandra/Puccinelli, Christina (MIDDLEBURY) def. Cancio, Julia/Zheng, Emily (WILLIAMS) 9-7
Order of Finish:
Doubles – 1, 2, 3
Singles – 1, 4, 2, 5, 3, 6
Middlebury: 5-3, NESCAC 2-0, nationally ranked #9, regionally ranked #5 (Northeast)
Williams: 7-4, NESCAC 1-1, nationally ranked #3, regionally ranked #1 (Northeast)