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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

WINTER SPORTS PREVIEWS

The men's basketball team lost their season opener 68-62 to the University of Saint-Joseph. Courtesy of Will Costello.
The men's basketball team lost their season opener 68-62 to the University of Saint-Joseph. Courtesy of Will Costello.

Women’s Swim and Dive

Head Coach: Bob Rueppel

Captains: Hailey Vandenbosch ’24, Louise Hay ’24

Athletes to watch: Chloe Katz ’25, Isabella Caddeau ’25, Pai Easterbrook ’26

Key Competitions: Bowdoin College (home, Jan. 6), Bates College (home, Jan. 14)

The Panthers are looking to bounce back this year after a disappointing campaign last season saw them finish fifth in the NESCAC. The program has only missed out on a national championship bid four times in its history, but two of those times have come in the past three seasons that the meet was held (2018–19, 2021–22 and 2022–23). The team will be looking for a reversal of fortunes this year, and they certainly have the talent to do it. Pai Easterbrook impressed in her rookie season on the diving boards, and she returns for her sophomore season ready to improve. Distance swimmer Chloe Katz is back and will be an integral figure for the team in both individual races and relay events. All-NESCAC honoree Isabella Cadeau will be another swimmer to keep an eye on this winter as she looks to defend her third-place NESCAC finish in the 50 yard backstroke from last season. In addition to the returning cast, the team has added a strong group of 11 first-years that they will be hoping can turn the tide and propel them to a higher conference finish. The team did not hit the heights they hoped for last season but if they swim at their best this year, a return to the national championship meet is more than attainable.

Men’s Swim and Dive

Head Coach: Bob Rueppel

Captains: Riley Griffis ’24, Chris Pedersen ’24.5

Athletes to watch: Riley Griffis, Sam Hughes ’25, Owen White ’26

Key Competitions: Colby College (home, Jan. 13), NESCAC Championships (away, Feb. 22-25)

The men’s swim and dive team will be looking for a change this year. The team has fallen into a streak of finishing seventh or eighth in the conference for the past nine years, and they have not made a full team appearance at the NCAA Championships since their 46th place effort in 2017-2018. Much of their hope will rest on the shoulders of Riley Griffis, who was the team’s sole competitor at the national meet last year. Griffis had a stunning campaign last winter, breaking three school records in total, one by himself and two as a part of relay teams. He’ll be supported by a number of strong swimmers, including Sam Hughes, who was a part of those record-breaking relays and garnered All-NESCAC honors in the 200 backstroke at NESCACs last February. The swimming Panthers will be looking to end their drought this year and return to the national meet, where they have historically finished as high as tenth.  

Women’s Indoor Track and Field 

Head Coach: Martin Beatty

Captains: Michelle Louie ’24, Meaghan McEnroe ’24.5, Ciara Dale ’24 and Tatum Peskin ’24

Athletes to watch: Audrey MacLean ’27, Emily Rubio ’26, Ciara Dale, Michelle Louie

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Key competitions: Middlebury New England Small College Invitational (away, Jan. 28),  David Hemery Valentine Invitational (away, Feb. 9)

Women’s track is looking to kick the season off with the same fire power they found at the end of last winter. Michelle Louie and Ciara Dale return as veteran competitors of last year’s premier distance medley relay (DMR) after their performance at the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships in Alabama earned them All-American recognition last March. The Panthers also boast several returning All-Region honorees this season, including Louie, Dale, Emily Rubio, Lucy Pollitt ’26, and Zoe Wang ’26. Rubio returns as the Division III New England runner-up in the heptathlon, holding a school-record score of 4,477 points. Entering her sophomore winter after receiving praise in three events during her debut season, Rubio is certainly a key athlete to watch this season. But she is not the only one. Keep an eye out for first-year distance runner Audrey MacLean, who will enter the indoor season as the cross country NESCAC Rookie of the Year and conference Athlete of the Week. Looking forward, the Panthers will chase high scores at key meets, such as Middlebury's New England Small College Invite (Jan. 28), and have hopes of making another NCAA Indoor Championship appearance. Michael Pallozzi '18.5 will join the Panthers’ coaching staff as an assistant coach to give them an additional boost.

Men’s Indoor Track and Field

Head Coach: Martin Beatty

Captains: Sam Maxwell ’24, Joel Kofman ’24, Colin Breen ’24, Peter Burke ’24

Athletes to watch: Alec Gironda ’24, Ziggy Goddard ’25, Dave Filias ’25, Zach Utz ’26

Key Competitions: NYU DIII Invitational (away, Feb. 2), Division III New England Championships (away, Feb. 25-26)

The men’s track and field team will hope their winter season goes a bit better than their last outing, where they finished an underwhelming 13th out of 25 schools at the Division III New England Championships. They will certainly have their work cut out for themselves in trying to fill the holes left by top-performers Zander Kessler ’22.5 and Peter Hansen ’23, who have both graduated since the team last took to the oval. Yet, there is still plenty of hope in the Panthers’ camp. The men’s distance runners have had a strong campaign this fall, highlighted by impressive performances from Gironda and Goddard and the emergence of rookie Ben Hughes ’27. Dave Filias will lead the throwers after an impressive season last winter, while Colin Breen and Richard Clark ’26 will be among the team’s top sprinters. The team recently graduated a handful of their top short and middle distance athletes, so the onus will be on the younger classes to step up this winter. Although the indoor season is in part focused on building for the outdoor season in the spring, the team will still be hoping for some good results this term and fans will look for them to climb their way back up the NESCAC rankings.

Alpine Skiing

Coaches: Stever Bartlett

Captains: Bradshaw Underhill ’25 and Nina Reichhelm ’23.5

Athletes to watch: Sophia Tozzi ’26, Alexandra Cosette ’24, Bradshaw Underhill, Nick Unkovskoy ’27

Key Competitions: Middlebury Carnival (home, Feb. 23-24)

The team has officially set out for fall training camps in Colorado and is looking forward to another successful season on both the men's and women’s sides. Sophia Tozzi scored the top finish for the Panthers last year at the Williams Carnival, earning runner-up in slalom, and joined teammate Alexandra Cosette to compete at the NCAAs in Lake Placid, NY last March. Underhill was the sole NCAA qualifier on the men’s side, locking in a solid performance of 18th place in the giant slalom and 30th in the slalom. The team has high hopes for first-year Nick Unkovskoy, who joins the Panthers with a high number of points in the slalom and giant slalom events this season, according to the International Ski and Snowboard Federation. With only six Carnival weekends, the Middlebury Carnival (EISA Championships) to close out the season will be a key competition for the Panthers looking to qualify for NCAA Nationals in Steamboat Springs, Colo. in March. 

Nordic Skiing

Head Coach: Andrew Johnson 

Captains: Logan Moore ’25, Jack Christner ’25, Quincy Massey-Bierman ’25, Shea Brams ’26

Athletes to watch: Shea Brams, Quincy Massey-Bierman and Logan Moore

Key competitions: Middlebury Carnival (home, Feb. 23-24)

The nordic team eagerly anticipates some rematches this year as the team aims to improve off a tenth place finish at the NCAA Championships last season. That event saw Shea Brams finish a solid 13th place overall in the Women’s 20k classic, clocking in at 1:03:22.8 as the first Midd skier across the line. Quincy Massey-Bierman was not far behind as she placed 30th, managing to improve five spots overall after the first 1.25km split.  The women’s team finished in seventh overall in the competition, racking up 32 points. On the men’s side, Logan Moore ’25 looks set to lead the line after finishing the NCAA championships in a respectable 15th overall as the first Midd skier to finish in the Men’s 20k classic. While it will be tough to improve upon a season that saw six skiers go to the NCAA Championships, the squad will look to improve on their eighth place finish at the event last year.

Women’s Hockey

Head Coach: Bill Mandigo

Captains: Sophia Merageas ’24.5, Cat Appleyard ’24.5 (assistant captain)

Athletes to watch: Sophia Merageas, Britt Nawrocki ’26, Molly MacQueen ’25

Key competitions: Panther/Cardinal Classic (home, Nov. 25-26), Hamilton College (home, Feb. 17th)

Coming off a heart wrenching quarterfinal loss against Plattsburgh State in last season's NCAA tournament, the women’s hockey team looks to bounce back this season. While the team graduated key contributors such as Jenna Letterie ’22.5, Claudia Vira ’23 and Eva Hendrikson ’22.5, veteran forward Sophia Merageas and a hopeful crop of younger players look to build off a season that saw the team compile a strong 17–8–3 record. Look to Midd to keep up a successful offense that outscored opponents by 26 goals throughout the season, a difference that came primarily from Midd’s ability to convert during power plays by outscoring opponents 18–7 to take advantage of penalties.  The Panthers also hope to continue solid defense. 

Men’s Hockey

Head Coach: Jack Ceglarski 

Captains: Chris Garbe ’24, Nolan Moore ’24, Jin Lee ’25, 

Athletes to watch: Andrej Hromic ’24, Nolan Moore, Jin Lee

Key competitions: Connecticut College (home, Dec. 1), Tufts University (home, Dec. 2), Hamilton College (Home, Dec. 8), Amherst College (Home, Dec. 9)

Men’s hockey is looking to rebound after a disappointing season last year, which saw them post a 5–18–1 record and miss out on postseason competitions. This year, the Panthers will be guided by Interim Head Coach Jack Ceglarski, who previously served as the program’s assistant coach. The team will also be welcoming back scoring stars Andrej Hromic, Nolan Moore and Jin Lee who collectively dominated the stat sheet on offense last season. Some of the first home matches for the Panthers this season are against NESCAC opponents who beat them last season: Tufts University, Hamilton College and Amherst College. Needless to say, the Panthers will be starting the season with a clear point to prove. With a blend of old and new faces, fans could see a few surprises from the Panthers on the ice this season. 

Men’s basketball

Head coach: Jeff Brown 

Captains: Noah Osher ’23.5, David Brennan ’24.5

Athletes to watch for: Sam Stevens ’25, Jaden Bobbett ’25, Kuba Cwalina ’27

Key competitions: Hamilton College (home, Jan. 5), Amherst College (home, Jan 6.), Williams College (home, Jan. 20)

The Panthers enter the season ranked No. 24 in the country following a 20-win campaign in 2022-23. The biggest question mark is how the team will replace Alex Sobel ’22.5, who has moved on to playing Division-I basketball at Sacred Heart University. Filling the gap may not be an issue, however, given the team’s depth this season. The Panthers have no shortage of talent, with players including Edward Witherington ’26, Jackson McKersie ’26, Evan Flaks ’26 and Tristan Joseph ’26 expecting to see their roles elevated this season.

Women’s basketball

Head coach: KJ Krasco 

Captains: Bethany Lucey ’24, Emily Downer ’24, Augusta Dixon ’25

Players to watch for: Gabby Stuart ’26, Calie Messina ’26, Brooke Collins ’26, Alexa Mustafaj ’25

Key competitions: Williams College (away, Jan. 20), Tufts University (home, Jan. 27), Trinity College (away, Feb. 3)

Women’s basketball will look to earn its sixth winning season in the last seven years in its 2023-24 competitions. The team’s star player is junior guard Alexa Mustafaj, who was a World Association of Basketball Coaches All-American Honorable Mention and First-Team All-NESCAC player last season. Other key players include Gabby Stuart ’26, who had two double-doubles last season, and Calie Messina ’26, who had 40 assists and 25 steals in 2022-23. The Panthers have no shortage of firepower this season, and they are young, gritty and aggressive. 

Men’s squash

Head coach: Mark Lewis 

Captains: PK Keller ’23.5, Alex Stimpson ’23.5, Kian Lalji ’24

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

Key competitions: Colby College (home, Jan. 12), Bates College (Home, Jan. 13), Williams College (home, Jan. 20)

Men’s squash finished No. 21 in the country last season, a finish upon which the team will look to build this season. The team only graduated one player in May, returning all of its scoring players from last season. Nathan Feinstein, who competed at the top spot for the Panthers last season and qualified for the CSA Individual Championships, is one player to watch. Feinstein will be joined by Will Lichstein ’25 and Caleb Boateng ’26 at the top of the ladder. Also look out for senior captain PK Keller ’23.5, who led the team in victories last season (14–4) and ended on a five-match winning streak.

Women’s squash

Head coach: Mark Lewis 

Captains: Eva Finney ’24, Maya Bardorf ’24

Players to watch for: Abby Holding ’25, Lindsey Burnham ’26, Izzy Ronda ‘26

Key matches: Williams College (home, Jan. 20), Tufts University (away, Jan. 28), Amherst College (away, Feb. 4)

Women’s squash returns nine players and adds four first-years in 2023-24. The team is coming off a successful campaign last season in which they won the Walker Cup title at the CSA Team Championships and finished No. 17 in the nation. Similar to the men’s team, women’s squash returns their top performers from last season, including Abby Holding ’25, Lindsey Burnham ‘26, and Izzy Ronda ’26. Look out for another strong campaign from the Panthers this season. 

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The swim and dive teams will compete in their first meet this Saturday at Connecticut College.

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