Colby Men’s Tennis traveled to Middlebury, VT for the first round of the NESCAC playoffs, where it faced the defending champions and fourth-seeded Panthers.
Historically, the Mules and Panthers have faced off fourteen times, in which Colby is 0–13. Colby’s last battle against Middlebury was at home in April where the Mules lost 1–8.
This NESCAC tournament appearance was Colby’s second straight, and it improved its seeding from last year’s seventh place to a program-record fifth place. The Mules also came in ranked as the twentieth team in Division III tennis, their highest ranking yet.
Unfortunately, this historic season ended at Middlebury. The Mules fell 0–5 to Middlebury, who would go on to win the championship.
To start the match, Colby went down in doubles, losing on courts two and three. On court one, Jake Cohen `25 and captain Jan Wenger `23 controlled the games early, leading 5–3. Middlebury refused to quit as tandem Aidan Harris and Noah Laber battled back to even the game score at 7–7, forcing a tiebreak. In the tiebreaker, Colby narrowly lost 6–8, leaving it in a 0–3 hole entering singles play.
After the match, Cohen commented on his and Wenger’s match.
“I think what most contributed to me and Jan playing well against Middlebury doubles was our confidence and conviction in every shot we were hitting,” he explained. “Before each point we set a clear intention: to play aggressively through big targets. We also made way more first serves than we had been making all year, which allowed us to hold serve much more easily. I’d say that we played more free because we knew we were the underdogs. The last time we played them they beat us 8–3, so we knew that we had nothing to lose and could just swing out, not worrying about the result.”
In NESCAC playoff matches, play concludes once a team reaches its fifth victory, which clinches the match. Already down 0–3, the Mules were forced to win five out of six singles matches to advance to the next round. Colby would go on to drop matches on courts one and six shortly after doubles play, eliminating them from the tournament.
The Mules were counting on a deep NESCAC playoff push for an at-large NCAA tournament bid, but with the first-round loss, the Mules’ season ended in Vermont.
With the men’s tennis team breaking season records in consecutive years, the program is likely to continue trending upward in the future.
After the loss, the Mules’ three seniors, captains Ben Powis `23, Josh Fleishman `23, and Wenger, reflected on their four years on the court and as a part of the program.
“My four years of playing on the Colby tennis team has been a great experience,” Powis said. “I was welcomed in immediately as a freshman and it felt like a family. Even after COVID hit and we were sent home, we would talk together on Zoom multiple times a week. For my second two years on the team, I got to experience more of a leadership role. It was cool to be a part of a team that really improved every year, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the team can achieve even after I graduate.”
“My four years playing tennis at Colby have been difficult, unpredictable, and extremely rewarding,” Fleishman said. “Coming in as a freshman, I knew I was joining a strong team, but one that was not used to competing with the top teams in the NESCAC. Despite being interrupted by COVID and a shortened sophomore season, our team has remained focused on climbing the rankings and working as hard as we can do so. I have been so fortunate to be a part of a program that has gotten so much stronger and has finally started to break into the upper echelon of teams in the conference. The team is in incredible hands moving forward and I am happy to say that my fellow seniors and I are leaving the program in a better place than we found it. I cannot wait to see the progress the team makes moving forward.”
Wenger also reflected on his time on the team.
“I would describe my Colby Tennis experience in two parts,” he said. “One, tennis has given me a family and support system through my entire four years. Two, it has been an honor and a privilege to be part of this team, especially given its trajectory and tremendous improvement from a nationally unranked to a top twenty team.“
~ Julian Cangieter-Hernandez `25