Men’s tennis (16-7, 7-2 in the NESCAC) ended its season with a 5-2 loss to Middlebury in the NCAA Div. III Regional Final last Saturday after advancing past Skidmore in the regional semifinal on Friday. The Ephs were hoping to repeat as NCAA Div. III Champions but fell short in a season marked by highs and lows.
On Friday, the men squeaked by Skidmore 5-4 in the NCAA Div. III Regional semifinal. The Ephs got off to a quick start in doubles, jumping out to a 2-1 lead. The No. 1 duo of co-captain Matt Micheli ’14 and Conrad Harron ’17 lost, while the No. 2 and No. 3 teams of Jose Raventos ’16 and Rohan Shastri ’17, and Brian Astrachan ’16 and Alex Schidlovsky ’16, respectively, pulled out victories. Micheli and Harron fell 8-6 to Oliver Loutsenko and Danny Knight, but Raventos and Shastri won a 9-7 nail-biter over Jimmy Sherpa and Nick Tong, while Astrachan and Schidlovsky cruised to an 8-4 win over Miles Ransom and Gabe Steerman.
In singles play, the teams split the six matches, with each team winning three apiece. The Thoroughbreds were victorious on courts one, three and five. Loutsenko bested Micheli 6-3, 6-2, Knight outplayed Shastri 6-3, 6-1, and Steerman topped Weiss 6-3, 6-3. The Ephs were the winners on the even courts as Harron overcame Sherpa 7-5, 6-4 and Schidlovsky triumphed over Ransom 6-2, 6-1, on courts two and four, respectively. The match came down to court six, where the only three-set contest took place between Raventos and Kai Yuen Leung. With Williams and Skidmore knotted 4-4 in the match, Raventos scored the deciding fifth point for the Ephs, overwhelming Leung 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.
At Middlebury on Saturday, doubles results proved identical to Friday with the men taking two of three matches. Williams’ No. 1 pair of Micheli and Harron fell 8-3 to Alex Johnston and Andrew Lebovitz of Middlebury, but the second and third teams rebounded with matching 8-6 wins. Raventos and Shastri teamed up to defeat the Panthers’ Brantner Jones and Palmer Campbell while Astrachan and Schidlovsky got past Peter Heidrich and Ari Smolyar.
The singles session was not as kind to the men, as Middlebury won the four points it needed to recover from its one-point deficit and win the match. The Panthers won the first set in all six of the singles matches and closed out four in straight sets. At the No. 2 position, Jones surpassed Harron 6-1, 6-4. The third court saw Shastri fall to Campbell 7-5, 6-2. Schidlovsky lost a close first set 7-6(3) to Smolyar and fell 6-3 in the second set on the fourth court while Courtney Mountifield won consecutive 6-3 sets over Howie Weiss ’16 on court No. 5. Play did not finish on courts No. 1 and 6, as Micheli recovered from a 6-3 loss in the first set with a 6-3 win in the second. Similarly, Raventos lost the first set 6-4 but won the second 6-3 on the sixth court.
“Our doubles teams competed extremely well at Middlebury despite a hostile environment, but they jumped on us quickly in singles,” co-captain Adam Reich ’14 said.
This concludes a season filled with high expectations and spurts of good play for the Ephs. As defending national champions, Williams was among the top ranked teams in Div. III all year. However, the men had trouble against good competition, falling to NESCAC foes Amherst and Middlebury twice each. The loss of many key pieces of that 2012-2013 team proved costly, as the men fielded a young lineup marked by strong first-year and sophomore classes. Micheli was the lone senior to consistently play for the squad, and no juniors were on the roster.
“We could have advanced further in Nationals, but this young team accomplished a lot,” Reich said. “Our doubles improved throughout the season, we competed well in tight matches, and we avenged our loss against Skidmore in the first round of Nationals.”
Going forward, the Ephs will lose Micheli and Reich, but return the rest of their roster with one more year of experience. Amherst and Middlebury will continue to challenge the men in conference, but Williams looks to work hard to return to the top of the NESCAC and Div. III ranks.
“Matt [Micheli] and I are excited to watch this program continue to improve and work toward another National Championship,” Reich said.