Panther Women Edged by Emory in NCAA Semifinals

Panther Women Edged by Emory in NCAA Semifinals

The fourth-ranked Middlebury women's tennis team fell in the NCAA Semifinals by a 5-4 score in a back-and-forth matchup to top-ranked Emory (17-4). The contest took place at the Biszantz Family Tennis Center in Claremont, California. The Panthers finish their season with a 17-4 record, tying the program's single-season mark for wins, while the Eagles will play third-ranked Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in Wednesday's championship match. Tuesday's contest marked the third-straight year and fourth time overall that the program has reached the NCAA Semifinals, with the other occasions in 2005, 2016 and 2017.

Middlebury held a 2-1 advantage after doubles play against the Eagles. Emory's Anna Fuhr and Stephanie Taylor claimed the first point of the match at No. 2 with an 8-3 win over Catherine Blazye and Maddi Stow. The Panthers knotted the match at 1-1 when Katherine Hughes and Skylar Schossberger won the final two games at No. 1 for an 8-5 win against Ysabel Gonzalez-Rico and Bridget Harding. Middlebury's Heather Boehm and Ann Martin Skelly trailed 4-1 in the third flight against Katie Chang and Daniela Lopez. The Panther duo came roaring back, winning the final seven games for an 8-4 victory and the lead headed to singles play.

During singles action, Emory evened the match at 2-2 when Harding defeated Hughes at No. 2 by scores of 6-4, 6-2. Within minutes of each other, the fifth, sixth and fourth flights all finished. Emory gained a 4-2 advantage when Defne Olcay edged Schossberger at No. 5 (6-3, 6-4) and Taylor defeated Stow (6-4, 6-2) in the sixth flight.

The Panthers pulled within one at 4-3 behind a 6-3, 6-4 triumph by Blazye in the fourth position, winning the last two games of the match. At No. 3, Boehm won the first set against Daniela Lopez by a 6-0 score. The two players traded games early in the second set, with Boehm clinging to a 4-3 lead. She won two of the next three games, including breaking the serve of Lopez in the final game for a 6-0, 6-4 victory to make the score 4-4.

In the final match on, Emory's Gonzalez-Rico won the first set 6-0 against Middlebury's Christina Puccinelli. The Panther battled back to level the match at a set apiece via a 6-4 score. During the third set, Gonzalez-Rico jumped out to a 4-1 lead. Puccinelli won the sixth and seventh games to make it 4-3, before the Gonzalez-Rico claimed the final two games for the 6-0, 4-6, 6-3 victory.

Hughes and Boehm will compete later in the week in the NCAA Division III Singles Championship, while Hughes and Schossberger will participate in the doubles championship at the same site. The brackets will be announced on Wednesday with action beginning Thursday morning.

Tuesday's NCAA Semifinal contest between the Panthers and Eagles was the 12th all-time meeting between the two schools and the fourth in the NCAA Tournament. Emory has won all four postseason matches, including a 5-1 win in the quarterfinal round in 2013, a 5-1 decision in 2015 in the same round and a 5-1 victory in the semifinals during the 2016 season.