Middlebury holds off Bowdoin rally to advance to NCAA quarterfinals
Middlebury took a 4-1 lead and held off a late Bowdoin rally in an eventual 5-3 win in the regional finals of the NCAA Division III tournament on Sunday afternoon at Maine Pines Tennis Club. The Panthers (13-6) advanced to the quarterfinals to be held May 20 in Kalamazoo, Mich.. The Polar Bears finished an exceptional year with a record of 15-5.
Sunday's victory gained a measure of revenge for the Panthers, who lost the regular-season meeting between the squads 5-4 on April 13 and fell to Bowdoin in the same round of the Division III championship last spring.
Middlebury gained an early advantage thanks to a convincing 8-2 win by No. 1 doubles team Lok-Sze Leung/Ria Gerger. Bowdoin tied the contest moments later with a 8-5 win from No. 3 duo Emma Lewis and Kate Winingham, but the Panthers earned an important victory at No. 1 doubles, 8-6 from Leah Kepping/Brittany Faber, to take a 2-1 advantage heading into singles play.
Middlebury's top two singles players cruised to straight-set wins to quickly push the margin to 4-1. Gerger took a 6-1, 6-1 win before Leung earned a 6-2, 6-0 win for the Panthers.
Needing to win all the remaining singles matches, Bowdoin began to close the gap as Lewis took a straight-set 6-4, 6-1 win at No. 5 singles for the Polar Bears. Winingham rallied from a second-set deficit to net a 6-3, 7-6 win at No. 4 to trim the lead to 4-3 with two matches remaining.
Bowdoin had claimed the first sets in both matches -- at No. 3 between Tiffany Cheng and Kepping and at No. 6 between Emma Chow and Faber - only to see their Panther opponents rally to take second sets and knot the match. In a back-and-forth affair at No. 6, it was Faber who rallied from a 5-4 hole to clinch it with a 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 win and send Middlebury to Kalamazoo.