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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Winter Sports Previews

Who and what to watch this season

Jenna Letterie '23 will be a player to watch this season for women's hockey.
Jenna Letterie '23 will be a player to watch this season for women's hockey.


Coach: Stever Barlett

Captains: Tim Gavett ’23, Bradshaw Underhill ’25, Sophia Yubero ’23

Athletes to watch: Bradshaw Underhill ’25, Sophia Yubero ’23, Axel Bailey ’25, Ali Nullmeyer ’24, Mike-Anne Reha ’25


The men's and women’s alpine teams collectively earned 10th place at NCAA nationals last season, and after graduating several key skiers, will be looking for new faces to score points for the Panthers. On the women’s side, Ali Nullmeyer ’24 saw few NCAA competitions last year as she raced on the World Cup circuit, including scoring a 21st-place slalom finish in the 2022 Winter Olympics. Looking toward this season, Nullmeyer’s NCAA competition schedule remains a question mark in the midst of FIS World Cup competition and a World Championship year. However, the rest of the team is more than capable of putting up strong scores, with skiers Sophia Yubero ’23 and Mika-Anne Reha ’24 returning following solid performances last year at NCAA nationals. The men’s team also has a strong roster of returning skiers, hungry for a national title, including Bradshaw Underhill ’25 and Axel Bailey ’25. Preseason training and Noram competition will soon wrap up, with the carnival season beginning on Jan. 13 at Bates.


Coach: Andrew Johnson

Captains: Sam Hodges ’22.5, Willson Moore ’22.5

Athletes to watch: Logan Moore ’25, Charlotte Ogden ’23, Josh Valentine ’24

Background: The Middlebury Nordic team is looking to have another strong season after finishing in 10th place in last years’ NCAA skiing championships. Graduating only two seniors last year, the team is well-positioned to improve and continue their success. For the women’s team, Ogden, an NCAA qualifier last year, leads a relatively young group of skiers with lots of potential. On the men’s side, there are a number of qualifiers, led by Sam Hodges ’22.5, who are ready to compete for victories. The Nordic team’s season starts the weekend of Jan. 13 at the Bates Carnival.

Key competitions: Williams Carnival (away, weekend of Feb. 17), EISA Championships (away, weekend of Feb. 24)

Women’s basketball

Coach: KJ Krasco

Captains: n/a

Athletes to watch: Alexa Mustafaj ’25, Augusta Dixon ’24, Emily Downer ’24

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Background: The women’s basketball team has made a decent start to the season, fighting back from an opening day loss to a 3–3 record. The Panthers have a relatively youthful squad, with only one player in their starting rotation not returning next year, so hopes will be high that they can continue to grow and improve throughout the season. Alexa Mustafaj ’25 has been the team’s go-to scorer so far with an average of 21.2 points per game and an impressive 47.8% shooting percentage from behind the three point arc, but Augusta Dixon ’24 and Gabby Stuart ’26 have both been effective scorers as well. The Panthers have six more games to fine-tune their tactics and chemistry before NESCAC play begins, and with head coach KJ Krasko at the helm – who led the team to their first national tournament appearance in 20 years back in 2019 – the Panthers could certainly peak just in time for league play.

Key Competitions: Union (home, Sunday, Dec. 11), Babson (away, Friday, Dec. 30), Amherst (home, Saturday, Jan. 7)

Men’s basketball

Coach: Jeff Brown

Captains: Nash Goldman ’22.5, Thomas Zodda ’22.5, Alex Sobel ’23

Athletes to watch: Sam Stevens ’25, Noah Osher ’23.5, Jaden Bobbett ’25

Background: The men’s hoop team made a hot start to the season, flying out of the gate with five straight wins before falling 72–70 to the #10 ranked University of Rochester. The Panthers will face stiff competition later in the season once NESCAC competition starts, taking on currently undefeated Williams and Trinity. However, hopes will be high for the Panthers and their talented lineup of players. This includes Alex Sobel ’23, who currently leads the conference in points per game, rebounds per game and blocks per game. With a strong core of younger players around him, Panthers fans can expect the team to improve upon their NESCAC semifinal loss from last year, as they look to win their first league championship since 2017.

Key Competitions: Colby (home, Saturday, Jan. 14), Williams (away, Saturday, Jan. 21), Tufts (home, Saturday, Jan. 28)

Women’s hockey

Coach: Bill Mandigo

Captains: Jenna Leterrie ’22.5, Eva Hendrikson ’22.5

Athletes to watch: Jenna Leterrie ’22.5, Cece Ziegler ’25, Eva Hendrikson ’23, Cat Appleyard ’24.5.

Background: After a perfect 27–0 season and winning a national championship last year, the women’s hockey team has high aspirations for this season. Despite losing major contributors like last year’s NESCAC Player of the Year Maddie Leidt ’22, the Panthers have a core that is highly capable of defending their national title. Letterrie, who led the NESCAC in goals and assists last year, with 32 and 26 respectively, is certainly expected to be the team’s offensive contributor, but the depth of the team means the Panthers can excel on both offense and defense. However, it has not been smooth sailing to start the season. The team is currently 4–3 after losing back-to-back games to NESCAC rival Amherst this weekend. While this is not the start the hockey team was hoping for, they still have the talent and the mentality to contend for another national championship this season.

Key competitions: Bowdoin (home, Friday, Jan. 20 and Saturday, Jan. 21), Wesleyan (home, Friday, Feb. 3 and Saturday, Feb. 4)

Men’s hockey

Coach: Neil Sinclair

Captains: EMack Bentley ’22.5, Bret Pastor ’22.5,

Assistant Captains: Antonie Belisie ’23, Billy Dobensky ’23, Chris Garbe ’24

Players to watch: EMack Bentley ’22.5, Jin Lee ’25, Andrej Hromic ’24

Background: Middlebury men’s hockey finished last season with a record of 6–13–3, ended by a first-round playoff loss against Tufts in the NESCAC tournament, and looking forward, hoping the young team showed promise for a more dominant 2022-23 season. Graduating only three seniors since last year, the Panthers currently hold a 1–5–0 record, dropping NESCAC matchups to Colby (3-2 OT), Bowdoin (3-4) and Tufts (0-5), and pulled out a win against Connecticut College (3-2) on Dec. 3. Returners Jin Lee ’25 and Andrej Hromic ’24 have emerged as top scorers, charting 3 and 4 goals respectively so far this season. Last year’s top scorer, captain EMack Bentley ’22.5 is another player to watch this season, totaling 24 points scored last season and one goal in the team’s first six games. With a lot of tough competition left to go, time will tell if the Panthers will be able to turn their record around and make waves in the conference rankings.

Key competitions: Wesleyan (away, Friday, Feb. 3) and Williams (home, Friday, Feb. 10 and away, Saturday, Feb. 11)

Women’s swim and dive

Coach: Bob Rueppel

Captains: Louise Kim ’23, Lily Siemasko ’23

Athletes to watch: Zoe Tray ’25, Chloe Katz ’25, Hannah Baumgartner ’26

Background: Coming off a sixth place finish in last year’s NESCACs, the Panthers are looking for a breakout year after a few seasons where they finished middle of the pack in the league. They have started the season with real promise, claiming an emphatic win over Connecticut College before falling to a competitive Amherst team, who are ranked #14 in the nation. First-year Hannah Baumgartner ’26 has impressed so far this year, with three individual wins and a pair of relay wins to boot. The team has some young stars who are still full of potential, so they could be a dangerous team by the time the NESCAC championships roll around in February.

Key Competitions: Bates (away, Sunday, Jan. 8), Middlebury Invitational (home, weekend of Jan. 27), NESCAC Championships (away, weekend of Feb. 9)

Men’s swim and dive

Coach: Bob Rueppel

Captains: Ethan Ding ’23, Aidan McKenrick ’23

Athletes to watch: Paul Shen ’26, Riley Griffis ’24, Ran Brown ’23.5, Sam Hughes ’25

Background: The Panthers are off to a 1–1 start to the season. The team narrowly edged out Connecticut College to pick up an opening day victory before losing heavily to Amherst. Despite the loss, the team came away with several positives, with the diving crew in particular shining. Ran Brown ’23.5 claimed both the one meter and three meter dives, with Ryan Greguski ’25 and Owen White ’26 completing the podium in both events. The Panthers have an experienced coach in Bob Rueppel leading the way but have yet to find success in the NESCAC since their sole league title in 2002. The team has not finished above fifth in the league since 2013 nor appeared at the national tournament since 2018, so this season will be all about growth for the Panthers, as they fight to break their streak of three consecutive eighth places in the NESCAC.

Key Competitions: Bates (away, Sunday, Jan. 8), Middlebury Invitational (home, weekend of Jan. 27), NESCAC Championships (away, weekend of Feb. 16)

Women’s squash

Coach: Mark Lewis

Captains: Kieran Suntha ’23.5

Athletes to watch: Lindsey Burnham ’26, Abby Holding ’25, Izzy Ronda ’26

Background: The #17 ranked Panthers have made a strong start to the season, going 3–1 over their first four games. While the 2–7 scoreline looks unimpressive on paper, it does not reflect how close many of the individual matchups were, with the Panthers forcing several games past the usual 11-point finishing point. The Panthers finished 7–9 last year, but, given this season’s start, they look likely to finish with a winning record. The team is also a fairly young one, with first-years Lindsey Burnham ’26, Izzy Ronda ’26 and Margaux Comai ’26 usually occupying the #1, #3 and #4 positions respectively. The team will continue to grow and only get better as the season progresses, so fans can start getting excited about the Panthers’ chances this year.

Key Competitions: Bates (away, Sunday, Jan. 15), Tufts (home, Sunday, Jan. 22), Dartmouth (home, Wednesday, Feb. 1)

Men’s squash

Coach: Mark Lewis

Captains: PK Keller ’23

Athletes to watch: Nathan Feinstein ’25, Will Lichstein ’25, Caleb Boateng ’26

Background: The men’s squash team has made a tremendous start to the season, winning all four of their opening matches by a combined score of 32–4. The Panthers have looked dominant in all their matches to date, with several individuals still boasting unbeaten records. The road ahead will get harder, however, as the #23 Panthers have five matchups scheduled with teams in the national top-20. The team finished last year with a disappointing 5–12 record, so they have without a doubt improved greatly since then. Expect the Panthers to have some closer contests as the season progresses, but so far, there is no reason to believe they can’t keep up their winning streak.

Key Competitions: Franklin and Marshall (away, Sunday, Jan. 8), Williams (away, Thursday, Jan. 19), Amherst (home, Tuesday, Jan. 24)

Charles Crounse

Charles Crounse '24 (he/him) is the senior sports editor for the Campus. He has previously worked as a writer and staff editor for the section. Charles is pursuing a major in environmental policy and a minor in French, and in his free time he enjoys biking, hiking, and exploring Vermont. He is also a member of the club soccer team on campus.