The Middlebury men's tennis team won its third NCAA Championship (2004, 2010) with a 5-3 victory Wednesday over third-ranked and NESCAC foe Bowdoin (23-2). The championship match took place at the Biszantz Family Tennis Center in Claremont, California. The top-ranked Panthers finish their spring with a single-season record 25 wins (25-4). The national championship is Middlebury's second title of 2017-18 (field hockey) and the 35th overall since 1995.
Middlebury gained a 2-1 advantage after doubles in the title match. The Panthers got on the scoreboard first as the third pair of Timo van der Geest and Peter Martin won six of the last seven games en route to an 8-3 victory over Gil Roddy and Larry Zhao. The Polar Bears knotted the match at 1-1 when Jerry Jiang and Kyle Wolfe posted an 8-4 triumph against William de Quant and Noah Farrell. In the top spot, Middlebury's Kyle Schlanger and Lubomir Cuba possessed a 4-1 lead before Bowdoin's Luke Tercek and Grant Urken won five of the next seven games, tying the match at 6-6. Both duos held serve over the next four games, sending the match to a seven-point tiebreaker. During the tiebreaker, the Panthers moved out to leads of 3-0 and 6-2 before Cuba tallied an ace, sending Middlebury into singles play ahead 2-1.
Middlebury grabbed a 3-1 advantage when Cuba posted a 6-4, 6-2 victory over Urken atop the lineup, including an ace on match point. Andre Xiao moved the Panthers ahead by three at 4-1 with a 6-1, 6-4 win over Justin Patel in the No. 6 spot.
Bowdoin claimed the next two matches within a few minutes, pulling to within one at 4-3. Roddy tallied a 6-4, 6-2 win in the fifth spot against Middlebury's Nate Eazor, while Tercek outlasted Farrell at No. 2 (6-0, 3-6, 6-1).
In the fourth flight, Schlanger won the opening set against Jiang 6-2, but Jiang fought off three match points at 4-5 and sent the set to a tiebreaker. In the tiebreaker, Jiang earned four of the first five points, but Schlanger leveled the score at 4-4 before Jiang won the last three points for the 7-6 set win. In the third set, the score was tied at 3-3, but Schlanger held serve twice sandwiched around a break of serve for the 6-3 match-clinching victory.
In the lone match that went unfinished, de Quant won the first set at No. 3 by a 6-3 score and trailed 5-2 in the second set against Wolfe, but the Panther won the next three games to knot the set score at 5-5. Wolfe claimed the next two games for the 7-5 set victory. In the back-and-forth third set, the two players were tied at 5-5 when the match concluded.
Wednesday's NCAA Championship contest between the Panthers and Polar Bears was the 48th all-time meeting between the two schools and the fifth in the NCAA Tournament. The two teams had split the previous four NCAA contests. Middlebury avenges a loss in the 2016 NCAA Championship match to the Polar Bears. Bowdoin and Middlebury met earlier this season on April 14 in Vermont with the Panthers earning an 8-1 victory. The Polar Bears and Panthers played again in the NESCAC Championship a little more than two weeks ago, as Bowdoin earned a 5-3 decision.
Cuba and Farrell will be two of 32 individuals vying for the singles crown, while Cuba and Schlanger will battle 15 other duos from across the country for the doubles title at the same site. The brackets will be announced on Wednesday with action beginning Thursday morning.