The fourth-ranked Middlebury men’s tennis team (20-2) claimed an NCAA Regional Final title with a 5-2 victory Saturday over #22 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in a match played on the Proctor Tennis Courts. The Panthers will play in an NCAA Quarterfinal match on Monday, May 23 at the USTA National Center in Orlando, Florida. The Engineers see a 14-match winning streak snapped, finishing their season at 16-3. Middlebury advances to the quarterfinals for the 17th time in the last 18 tournaments it has competed in.
The Panther duo of Noah Laber and Aidan Harris turned a 2-2 tie in the second slot into a 6-2 advantage. The Engineers pulled to within two (6-4), but Middlebury claimed the last pair of games for an 8-4 victory. The other doubles matches came down to tiebreakers, as the Engineers won 8-7 (3) in the third slot to level the contest at 1-1. Middlebury’s team of Stan Morris and David Vilys fought back from a 4-2 deficit to even the score at 5-5. The pairs traded the next four games, sending the match to the tiebreaker. RPI won four of the first five points, before the Panther tandem claimed three-consecutive points for a 4-4 tie. Even at 6-6, an Engineer unforced error and a running cross-court winner from the baseline by Morris gave the hosts the match and a 2-1 advantage headed to singles play.
RPI knotted the match at 2-2 with a 6-3, 6-4 victory in the top spot. Moments later, Harris gave the Panthers a 3-2 advantage with a 6-3, 6-2 triumph at #3, fighting back from a 2-0 deficit in the opening set for the win.
Neel Epstein made it a 4-2 Middlebury lead with a narrow 6-4, 7-5 victory. Deadlocked at 4-4 in the opening set, Epstein served and then held serve for the 6-4 win, matching that effort in the second set for the victory. Zihao Yuan clinched the match and the berth in the quarterfinals, cruising to a 6-1, 6-2 win at #6. Yuan increased his unbeaten streak to 17-straight triumphs with Saturday’s win, improving his record this season to 21-5.