Crisp air and bare trees can only signal one thing: the dawn of the winter sports season. As fall sports wind down at Middlebury, it’s time to turn our attention to the 14 varsity winter sports teams that are set to compete over the next few months. Here are previews for every varsity winter sports team.
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Bread Loaf should not have been a housing option this year. It should never again be an option. I am a junior Feb, meaning I had five weeks of normal Middlebury life before being dealt a heavily altered college experience lasting the next two and a half semesters. During those two semesters, the undergraduate experience that I had so often dreamt of only existed as such, a dream. While my friends, my Feb class and the other students who decided to stay on campus made the best of our situation with intimate group hangs and Settlers of Catan tournaments held outside, it was an incredibly difficult time to be a young person who yearned for socialization after quarantine. While the year of Covid-19 yielded more genuine relationships, it often left me feeling unfulfilled and desperate for normality. I was comforted by the hope that there was light at the end of the tunnel. As vaccines were rolled out across the country and Middlebury’s messaging confirmed that most of the restrictions in place would be relaxed, I looked forward to finally experiencing a normal Middlebury College for the first time. How naïve I was. When I arrived at Bread Loaf, I did not see another human being for the next 36 hours, emblematic of the social exile inherent in living a more than 20-minute drive from campus. I felt like a graduate student, attending the school but removed from the social fabric. Now, I am dependent on my friends to invite me to gatherings and events because I am unable to host my own. I have often found myself in limbo on campus, desperate for a new place to hang out after feeling uncomfortable in unfamiliar places and unable to return to the oasis of my own personal space lest I conclude my socializing for the evening.While other students chose to take the semester off or study remotely, took this time to travel the country or party in South Carolina, I was foolish to believe that I would be rewarded for demonstrating how important it was to me to live on campus. I was foolish to believe that the administration was empathetic to the social and emotional effects of Covid-19. I thought after sinking into newfound mental health lows due to isolation, loneliness and adjusting to a new social scene, the school might be extra diligent in remedying the ways in which they had contributed to such lows. I was foolish to believe I would always have a home at Middlebury College simply because I attend the school. Sophomores and seniors control the larger social spaces, like suites and townhouses, while juniors only inhabit singles and doubles and the occasional involvement in an interest house. While Middlebury’s housing policy requires all first years and sophomores to live on campus in an attempt to provide them with all of the opportunities to make new friends and become accustomed to campus life, juniors and junior Febs were not able to take advantage of this opportunity. I expected the school to be aware of this phenomenon and to provide our class with a second chance at enjoying the social perks of being an underclassmen since I never got a first chance. We missed our first opportunity for a vibrant social life and now must wait until our senior year to regain control of our own social scene.At a small, community-oriented liberal arts college, commuting defeats the whole purpose of the school’s mission. Hindered by the pandemic and the college’s mistakes during the prime time of socialization in our lives, Bread Loafers are struggling to be a part of the Middlebury community to the detriment of their mental health. The administration has clearly acknowledged their mistakes, evident in the attempt to soothe our anger with free ski passes and priority housing next year. However, the administration will never acknowledge the toll on our mental health in case they need to banish a future junior cohort to Bread Loaf.
With the academic year underway at Middlebury, fall sports are back in full swing — and in typical fashion, the Panther squads carry high expectations this season. Here are previews for each of the 11 fall varsity sports teams competing this season. Women’s golf season preview by Josh Rosenstein Head coach: Bill Mandigo (33 years at Midd) Captains: Maddy Cordeiro ’23, Katie Murphy ’23 Players to watch for: Audrey Tir ’25, Kayla Li ’23, Jacqueline Slinkard ’24 Background: Women’s golf didn’t have the best of seasons last spring, finishing fourth among five teams in the 2021 NESCAC Championship. There are positives to take away from last semester, though, including the play of captain Katie Murphy ’23. Last spring, Murphy led the Panthers in finishes in every tournament. With her paving the way, how far can the Panthers go? Are there any first-year players who can step in and immediately compete for a top spot? Key matches: George Phinney Classic (Home; Sept. 18–19), Williams Invitational (Away; Oct. 2–3) The Middlebury women’s golf team kicked off their season last weekend at the Hamilton Invitational at Yahnundasis Golf Club in New Hartford, New York. The opener was the first of five tournaments of the fall season. The Panthers are also excited to travel together as a team in a more normal manner, as far as Covid-19 restrictions are concerned. The players still get tested every Monday, and remain cautious when interacting with other teams, but their travel schedule is that of a typical season. Besides the tournament at home next weekend, the NESCAC qualifiers on Oct. 9 and 10 are marked on all the players’ calendars. The top four teams qualify for the NESCAC Championships in the spring, and the winner gets the privilege of hosting the tournament. “We are so beyond grateful and just so pumped to be able to compete this season,” Murphy and Cordeiro said in an interview with The Campus. “There is still a lot of uncertainty in the world, so [we are] thankful Midd and the NESCAC did everything possible to make this happen.” Men’s golf season preview By Charles Crounse Head coach: Bill Beaney (34 years at Midd) Players to watch for: Colin McCaigue ’24, Anthony King ’23, Sean McGarrity ’23, Hogan Beazley ’23, KJ Dieker ’22 Background: Men’s golf won the NESCAC Championship last spring, giving them some momentum ahead of this season. The Panthers will certainly miss the contributions of recently graduated captain Jordan Bessalel ’21, the reigning NESCAC Player of the Year, but the team has the pieces to restock the lineup. One key player will be Hogan Beazley ’23 — the junior was an All-NESCAC First Team player last year. Key matches: Williams Fall Invitational (Away; Sept. 18–19), Sap Bucket Challenge (Away; Oct. 12) Men’s golf opened its season this past weekend with a home match against 22 other teams, with the Panthers taking fourth over the course of the two-day event. Beazley took home the individual honors with an impressive score of 140 over the two 18-hole rounds, finishing a comfortable three strokes ahead of second place. The team will turn to their returning seniors for leadership this year, with Phin Choukas ’22 and Chris Thompson ’22 among those returning to the team after taking the past year off due to Covid-19. Thompson and Choukas were among those competing for Middlebury’s first team this weekend, with both set to play key roles this season. Returning NESCAC Freshman of the Year Colin McCaigue also looks set to star, as do Hogan Beazley ’23 and Sean McGarrity ’23. The team has also added four first years to its all-star lineup as they look to blend youth with experience. Men’s cross country by Charles Crounse Head coach: Nicole Wilkerson (19 years at Midd) Captains: Quinlan McGaugh ’22, Noah Whiting ’22 Players to watch for: Drew Donahue ’25, Alec Gironda ’24, Zander Kessler ’22.5, Max Cluss ’23 Background: Men’s cross country has depth in every class this season, from first years to seniors. The question is, as usual: How do the Panthers stack up against other leaders in the NESCAC? How well could they do against Williams, a perennial national contender, for example? Middlebury always finds a way to compete, but could they vault to the top of the NESCAC this year? Key matches: Aldrich Invitational (Home; Sept. 18), Purple Valley Classic (Away; Sept. 25), Connecticut College Invitational (Away; Oct. 16) Men’s cross country kicked off their season this past week with a win at the Maple Syrup Challenge. The Panthers nearly swept the top ten with just three rivals sneaking in in second, seventh and eighth respectively. Alec Gironda ’24 earned an impressive victory in his Panthers cross-country debut. The team looks primed for a strong year this season, hoping to improve on their third place in the NESCAC back in 2019. They will look to top their sixth place finish in the NCAA Regionals and 29th place at the NCAA Championship. Captains Noah Whiting ’22 and Quin McGaugh ’22 are excited about the team’s prospects this season. Whiting says the team is particularly excited about the first-year and sophomore classes, all of whom had yet to race a proper college 8k coming into the season. Alec Gironda ’24, Peter Burke ’24, Drew Donahue ’25, Oscar deFrancis ’24.5 and Will Lavey ’25 all look set to play big roles as part of the up-and-coming cast of untested runners. Other key runners will include Zander Kessler ’22.5, who placed 57th at the last edition of the NCAA Regional race, and captain Quinlan McGaugh ’22, who placed 62nd at the same race. The team remains under the leadership of coach Nicole Wilkerson, who has led the team to the NCAA Championship race in every year of her coaching tenure, which spans back to 2011. Women’s Field Hockey - Blaise Siefer Head coach: Katharine DeLorenzo (20 years at Midd) Captains: Isabel Chandler ’21.5, Danielle Brown ’21.5, Erin Nicholas ’22 Players to watch for: Katie George ’23 (F), Grace Harlan ’22.5 (GK), Meg Fearey ’21.5 (D) Background: Is there a better D-3 women’s field hockey team in the nation? The answer is probably no. Women’s field hockey has won the NCAA National Championship the past three seasons — 2017, 2018 and 2019 — and return a core group of top players. It would be silly to bet against this team in any game this season. Key matches: Bowdoin (Home; Sept. 18), Tufts (Home; Oct. 10), Williams (Away; Oct. 26) Women’s Soccer - Blaise Siefer Head coach: Peter Kim (17 years at Midd) Captains: Eliza van Voorhis ’21.5, Isabelle Hartnett ’21.5, Simone Ameer ’21.5 Players to watch for: Fanny Lodge ’24 (F), Elizabeth Peebles ’23 (M), Eliza Robinson ’21.5 (M) Background: After an early exit in the 2019 NCAA Tournament, how well can women’s soccer respond this year? They are a perennial juggernaut, last making the NCAA Championship game in 2018, when they fell in dramatic fashion to Williams. The Panthers will have firm tests against Tufts, Williams and Amherst this fall, which could go a long way in determining the ultimate course of their season. Key matches: Amherst (Home; Oct. 3), Tufts (Home; Oct. 10), Williams (Away; Oct. 26) Men’s Soccer - Blaise Siefer Head coach: Alex Elias ’08 (6 years at Midd) Captains: Liam Sloan ’22.5, Raffi Barsamian ’21.5, Michael McFarlane ’22 Players to watch for: Ryan Grady ’23 (GK), Jordan Saint-Louis ’24 (F), Ben Powers ’23 (M), Brandon Reid ’21.5 (F) Background: Men’s soccer hasn’t finished atop the NESCAC since 2008 — could this finally be the year that breaks that streak? The team would need to get past the likes of Tufts, Amherst and Connecticut College first, which won’t be an easy task. But there is a lot of promise among the first-year and sophomore classes, and the Panthers have no shortage of experience; Liam Sloan ’22.5, Raffi Barsamian ’21.5 and Michael McFarlane ’22 are all All-NESCAC caliber players when healthy. Don’t bet against men’s soccer turning a few heads this season. Key matches: Connecticut College (Away; Oct. 2), Amherst (Home; Oct. 3), Tufts (Home; Oct. 10) Men’s Tennis - Blaise Siefer Head coach: Andrew Thomson ’10 (3 years at Midd) Captains: David Vilys ’22, Stan Morris ’22, and Zach Hilty ’22 Players to watch for: Robby Ward ’23, Aidan Harris ’23 Background: It’s been two years since men’s tennis competed, as the team didn’t have enough players to field a team last spring. After all that time off — and with a relatively new head coach — it’s hard to predict how men’s tennis might fare this season. Will their senior leadership help propel them to success? Key matches: Middlebury Invitational (Home; Sept. 18–19), Panther Classic (Home; Oct. 2–3), Wesleyan Invitational (Away; Oct. 16–17) Women’s Tennis - Blaise Siefer Head coach: Rob Barr (interim head coach) Captains: Brinlea La Barge ’23, Amanda Frank ’23, Caitlin Neal ’23, Nora Dahl ’22, Ruhi Kamdar ’22.5 Players to watch for: Gena Huang ’24, Amy Delman ’24 Background: Many sophomores and juniors on women’s tennis took the spring semester off — how strong will they return? Also, with former head coach Rachel Kahan taking the head women’s tennis coaching job at Yale several months ago, the team enters an adjustment period as they search for a permanent head coach. Key matches: Williams Invitational (Away; Sept. 24–26), Middlebury Invitational (Home; Oct. 8–10) Women’s Volleyball - Sam Lipin Head Coach: Sarah Raunecker (26 years at Midd) Captains: Corley Doyle ’22, Maggie Wise ’22, Jane Nelson ’22 Players to Watch: Laney Sullivan ’23 (OH), Gabbie O’Toole ’25 (S), Kelly Ferrero ’23.5 (L) Background: After jumping out to a 5–0 start to the season having only lost one set in total, the volleyball team is primed for a big season. The squad went 15–10 two seasons prior, and those sophomores and first-years (five players total) have worked tirelessly to rebuild their team. Senior Jane Nelson ’22 claimed she has never been a part of a team as closely knit as this one. The Panthers will look to stay undefeated when they play their first NESCAC opponents of the year this coming weekend. Key Matches: Amherst (Home; Sept. 24), Wesleyan (Away; Oct. 8), Tufts (Away; Oct. 16) Women’s Cross Country - Sam Lipin Head Coach: Nicole Wilkerson (19 years at Midd) Captains: Emily Bulczynski ’22, Cassie Kearney ’22, Grace Kirkpatrick ’22 Players to Watch: Sophie Nardelli ’23, Eliza Broughton ’22, Katelyn Pease ’22 Background: Cassie Kearney ’22 has dominated the field during her time at Middlebury, once again doing so when she broke a course record in the 5k at Vermont Tech this past weekend. She leads an experienced team poised to build upon their fourth place NESCAC finish in 2019. Middlebury hosts their only cross country event of the season this coming Saturday at their annual Aldrich Invitational. Key Matches: Aldrich Invitational (Home; Sept. 18), Connecticut College Invitational (Away; Oct. 16) Men’s Football - Sam Lipin Head Coach: Bob Ritter (26 years at Midd) Captains: Gordon Pollock ’22, Will Jernigan ’21.5, Jack Pistorius ’21.5 Players to watch: Zander Bailey ’21.5 (LB), Jimmy Connell ’21.5 (TE) Background: In their last full season in 2019, Middlebury football dominated the field, going 9–0 and winning the NESCAC Championship. However, their games were not won by huge margins, with five games ending in a one-score lead. As players return from their semesters off due to Covid-19 and a large freshmen class steps onto the field, will Middlebury once again prevail as champs? Key Matches: Williams (Away; Sept. 18), Hamilton (Away; Nov. 6), Tufts (Home; Nov. 13)
Women’s track and field traveled to Williams College this weekend to compete in their last team meet of the season. This was their first non-dual meet of the season, with four other NESCAC schools competing. Middlebury captured first place in five of the twenty-one events. Although no Panther came out on top in the straight sprints, Middlebury once again dominated the 4x100-meter relay with the squad of Liza Toll ’24, Eva Kaiden ’23, Jackie Topping ’22 and Joely Virzi ’23 finishing in 50.11 seconds. Ciara Dale ’24 bounced her way to victory in the 400 hurdles (1:04.90), while Mary Scott Robinson ’24 once again came out on top in the shot put (12.03 meters). “I always just try to do my best,” Robinson said. “I was hoping I could set a new personal record for shot put like I did in discus, but I’m glad I could give Middlebury some points.” Cassie Kearney ’22 continued her dominance in the 1500 this season, crossing the finish line three seconds before the second place finisher with a time of 4:36.83. Cady Barns ’22 also had a huge day for the Panthers, breaking Middlebury records in the long jump and the triple jump. Barns’ 5.56 meter long jump edged out the previous record holder, Alex Cook ’20, who had held the record of a 5.55 meter jump since 2019. Meanwhile, her 11.75 meter triple jump captured the record from Kelly Coughlan ’09 who had held the record of 11.71 meters since 2009. “After freshman year, I was really frustrated with my performance so I committed myself to getting back to where I know I could be,” Barns asserted. “During Covid-19, I made it my priority to spend a lot of time in the gym; the weight room is what has changed my jumps this year.” The Panthers’ achievements at Williams are indicative of their momentum all season, as the team saw plenty of success at home and away. Besides winning both dual meets of their season, many athletes also set personal records, Dragone Field records and school records. Kearney was among the standout athletes this season, called a “dynamo” performer by head coach Martin Beatty ’84. She won every 800 and 1500 race in which she competed, breaking the Dragone Track record in the 1500 (4:34.09). Kearney expects to compete at the national championships next week. “This is all really exciting,” Kearney said. “I think I’ll be able to qualify for both the 800 and the 1500, but I’m not sure whether they’ll allow me to compete in both.” The freshmen class also impressed this campaign, with many first-year athletes providing major contributions to the team. One standout was Robinson, who set the new school record for the shot put (12.12 meters). As the largest athletic program on campus, the track and field teams had to make many adjustments to the way they conducted practices, held meets and organized team bonding events this spring. “I’m so amazed how they've responded to dealing with trying to do this sport during a pandemic,” Beatty marveled. “It hasn’t always been easy or convenient but they’ve been troopers. This is really the sport that they love and that’s why they do it.” Middlebury will send 14 women to compete at Tufts Last Chance Meet on May 20, where they hope to qualify for the national championships the following week.
Men’s baseball (2–6) finished in fifth place in the NESCAC’s West Division this spring, with both of their victories won in the final inning. Despite the team’s slow start, the underclassmen-heavy roster — composed of four sophomores and eleven freshmen — made significant progress this season. Although the team suffered some lopsided losses early in the campaign, men’s baseball finished the season winning two of their last three games, including a walk-off home run against Hamilton and a come-from-behind victory against the would-be NESCAC champions, Amherst. Head coach Mike Leonard felt that these wins were representative of the progress made by each and every player this season. “I’m so incredibly proud of this group,” Leonard said. “It's such a testament to the mindset of these players that they took these challenges of being thrown into a season they didn't expect to have and facing some tough results early into opportunities to learn and get better.” First-year and sophomore players who were pressed into starting roles took advantage of the opportunity. Two first-year players stood out for their success in the batter’s box: first-baseman and outfielder Andrew Ashley ’24 and center fielder Sammy Smith ’24. Smith led the Panthers in doubles (2), triples (3), walks (6), on-base percentage (.452), slugging percentage (.750) and OBP plus SLG (1.202). His slugging percentage ranked second in the NESCAC and he was tied for first in triples, as well. “I am pretty pleased with how my at-bats went,” Smith said. “I really focused on being relaxed in the box and having an opposite field approach.” Meanwhile, Ashley led the team in batting average (.333), hits (9), runs batted in (8) and stolen bases (4). “If this was a normal year, I probably would have gotten only 10 at-bats,” Ashley claimed. “It meant a lot to get this opportunity to show what I’m capable of, especially after losing my senior season [in high school] to Covid.” Leonard further highlighted the positive effect this wacky Covid-19 season had on these young players. “All of the players really benefited from this opportunity to build confidence, gain some experience, and improve their game,” Leonard posited. “So when they are faced with the challenges of performing in-game or competing against teammates for playing time, they will feel like they are in a better position to do so.” With the full team returning next spring, men’s baseball is expected to produce a dominant team with these hungry, young players set to compete for starting roles against the returning upperclassmen.
Men’s baseball (1–5) tallied its first win of the season this past weekend, splitting a double-header with Hamilton (4–7). While the Panthers were shut out in the first game, they captured the win in the second after a walk-off home run by Evan Hunter ’24. The Panthers were unable to produce much offense in the first game, losing 11–0 as Hamilton’s pitcher completed a shutout. Middlebury tallied three hits in total with singles from Lucas Flemming ’24, Joseph Duran ‘24 and Tyler Leinan ’24. Starting pitcher Charlie Kutz ’24 struggled, giving up 10 runs (seven earned) and five walks. The Panthers bounced back in the second game, though. Starting pitcher Henry Gustavson ’24 had his best outing of the season, going four innings and striking out two, giving up two runs (one earned) off four hits and one walk. “I felt like I did a much better job of getting ahead in the counts,” Gustavson said. “I tried to be aggressive right away. I only had two strikeouts, but I got into a lot of two strike counts that ended in outs so I was really happy about that.” Gustavson was taken out after the Continentals tied the game at 2–2 after a double drove in an unearned run in the top of the fourth inning. In the bottom of the inning, after a single, a double and a hit-by-pitch loaded the bases, Jack Torpey ’24 doubled in two runs to retake the lead for the Panthers. A single by Hunter brought in two more runners, extending the Middlebury lead to 6–2 ahead of the fifth inning. “He struck me out in the first at-bat, so I was looking to be aggressive in the next at-bat,” Torpey said about his fourth inning clutch hit. “I got a pitch I could hit and I got it pretty good.” Hamilton’s offense revved to life in the sixth inning, scoring four runs to tie up the game. The score remained 6–6 until the bottom of the last inning, when Hunter led off the inning and took the game into his own hands. “I had one approach for the first pitch: I’m only swinging if I see a fastball right in my zone which is what I got,” Hunter said about his at-bat in the bottom of the seventh. “After it went out, there was just that instant feeling of excitement knowing we just won our first game.” With only 15 players currently on the roster — consisting exclusively of sophomores and first-years — the Panthers continued to prove that they can compete in the NESCAC despite their young complexion. Men’s baseball will conclude its regular season next Saturday, May 1, with a double-header against the red-hot Amherst College Mammoths (7–2). The action will begin at 1:30 p.m. in Amherst, Massachusetts.
As head coach Mike Leonard gears up for his fifth season at the helm of the men’s baseball team, a giddy excitement surrounds the team and the players who decided to return. The team will field a squad of 15 players this spring, consisting of 11 first-year players and four sophomores — all underclassmen — as opposed to last year’s team of 34 players. While Leonard expects the team to be competitive, he emphasized that this season will be focused on player development. “We are not talking about stats and win-losses,” Leonard claimed. “We are trying to figure out what information we are going to learn about our group and the individual players from these competitive opportunities so that they can take that information and apply it to their long-term growth.” Since Middlebury’s NESCAC season was canceled in the spring of 2020, none of the current rostered players have played in a game at Middlebury before. It’s a weird predicament and an unfortunate product of the times, but one that opens the door for young players to impress. One of the many players expected to assume a larger role both on and off the field is pitcher Andrew Gatland ’23. “I’m really excited,” Gatland said. “I’m going to be pitching every weekend which probably would not have happened otherwise. It’s going to be a great opportunity for me to prove myself and get comfortable playing college baseball.” The baseball team will play four doubleheaders against Williams, Wesleyan, Hamilton and Amherst this season, with plans for postseason play still to be determined.
Few teams have faced the brunt of the pandemic more than the women’s track and field team, one of the largest squads at Middlebury. However, after the cancellation of the winter indoor season, the team is gearing up for their first formal competition since the winter of 2019–2020. There will be three meets this spring, beginning with a home meet against SUNY Potsdam and Union College on May 1. Then, the team will host Hamilton on May 8, and close their season at Williams on May 15. While there are usually more teams at each meet, state and NESCAC guidelines are limiting outdoor competition to 150 people. Thus, considering the significant roster sizes of typical track and field teams, each meet only has the capacity for two teams. There’s been no Covid-induced effect on team morale and motivation, according to head coach Martin Beatty ’84. The coach maintained that through it all, the team has remained resilient and has put 100% into every practice. “It’s a testament to the kids we have in the program,” Beatty explained. “They really just enjoy being together as a team, training together as a team, getting to know each other and doing the sport that they love.” Beatty attributes the team’s impressive disposition to the upperclassmen leadership, including captain Kate Holly ’21. “Morale is definitely higher now,” Holly said. “The team has something to train for more immediately than next season.” There are a few other key athletes to keep an eye on this upcoming season. Senior sprinters Gretchen McGrath ’21, who holds the school outdoor record in the 4x100 (48.78) and co-holds the record in 4x400 (3:52.77), and Cassie Kearney ’22, who shares McGrath’s 4x400 record, have received multiple invitations to Nationals for cross-country running. Finally, Jaqueline Topping ’22 is a talented sprinter and jumper who carries high expectations. With their first meet in less than a month, track and field practice is in full swing. The season will look different, but the Panthers are preparing to dominate the NESCAC in classic fashion.
Greg Conrad ’17 might be one of the most talented athletes to come out of Middlebury in the past decade, but his recent contributions to the school through mentorship and coaching are proving equally impressive. After a four-year career on the men’s soccer and hockey squads and a stint playing professionally abroad, Conrad is now in his third year as an assistant coach for the men’s soccer team while also serving as the Associate Director of MIDDCORE. During his collegiate years, Conrad was the 2014 NESCAC Player of the Year, a three-time First-Team All-NESCAC selection and a National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Scholar All-American. He was also a two-time team captain during his junior and senior seasons. Also a member of the hockey team, Conrad tallied five goals and two assists his senior year. Before each hockey season, Conrad would have to “relearn” how to skate, unable to commit himself to rigorous hockey-intensive training in the fall — unlike his teammates — because of the soccer season. While Conrad will be remembered for his athleticism and goal-scoring prowess, head men’s soccer coach Alex Elias notes that there’s more to Conrad’s legacy than just his statistics. “While he did have this fierce desire to win and achieve, he was also a very supportive teammate,” head men’s soccer coach Alex Elias ’08 pointed out. “It was an obvious vote that he would lead our team for multiple years.” Elias highlighted that it was not only Conrad’s athletic dominance and work ethic that was so vital to the team’s success, but his more “humanistic” qualities that allowed him to be an impactful teammate and a leader. After his senior hockey season ended in 2017, Conrad committed himself to playing professional soccer and found an opportunity in Scandinavia. “I knew I wouldn’t be right waking up at a desk job knowing my career was over,” Conrad said. “I had that lingering feeling after the soccer season ended, and it never went away.” Conrad spent the 2017 spring break in Iceland, where he practiced with various teams, including Vikingur Reykjavik in the Icelandic Premier League. He got a good taste for the level of competition he could expect in the future and eventually signed a contract with UMF Afturelding of Icelandic Deild 2 in Mosfellsbær, Iceland, a small town near Reykjavik. He did not perform to the team’s satisfaction — nor his own — however, and ended up a few months later in Saudarkrokur, Iceland, where he was able to find his groove. “I, as a player, love to mesh into my team and I’m inspired by teammates and being a part of that culture,” Conrad said. “I felt like I was a part of something in Saudarkrokur.” After his stop in Saudarkrokur, Conrad moved to Bochum, Germany, where he felt successful both individually and collectively. “I found myself at the top of the game,” Conrad claimed. The language and cultural barriers abroad proved to be large obstacles for Conrad. While he was eventually able to develop friendships with his teammates, he struggled during practice because drills were instructed in the native language. And while he was accustomed to constant feedback from his coaches at Middlebury, there wasn’t as much communication on the field abroad. Ultimately, Conrad reflects on his time abroad as an incredibly special time in his life. He said that the experience allowed him to not only continue playing the sport he loves, but also develop skills of resilience and grit. In the summer of 2018, Conrad was offered a job as an assistant coach for the men’s soccer team from his former coach, Elias. While he was finding success in the professional realm, Conrad knew the offer presented a unique opportunity to return to his roots. Now in his third year of coaching for the Panthers, Conrad has built a strong reputation as a coach. He brings professional expertise and strong mentorship skills to the team, a combination that most coaches can’t boast. “He goes out of his way to make myself and each one of my teammates feel valued,” Raffi Barsamian ’21.5, a midfielder for the Panthers, said. “Whether that's picking us up when we are having a tough practice or just engaging with us and what we are doing off the field. Through his work with us around the team and through MIDDCORE, I would say that he has been pivotal in the way that I look at my next stage in life.” Conrad’s playing days might be over, but his impact on the Middlebury men’s soccer program and Middlebury students endures.
Recruiting athletes to Middlebury has always been a long and arduous process, but now the task is even more challenging. Without traditional identification camps, scouting trips or in-person meetings, Middlebury coaches have explored new ways to engage with and evaluate prospective student-athletes. Video workouts, junior tapes and Zoom showcases now color the recruiting landscape. These are all band-aid solutions, of course, but they are helping coaches remain confident about the talent they are recruiting. For Kate Livesay, the head coach of the women's lacrosse team, Zoom showcases have been particularly useful in identifying talent. In recent months, she’s sent high school players workouts and drills that they can perform live on Zoom. Livesay explained that while the assessments fail to demonstrate in-game skills such as game IQ, stamina and explosiveness, the new format does offer positives. “The Zoom aspect where you're face to face really does bring a nice intimate connection to recruitment,” Livesay said. She said the team will try to incorporate this new method in the future. The intimacy of one-on-one Zoom calls allows Livsay to connect more with recruits and give live, nuanced feedback on fundamentals such as footwork, cradling and shooting mechanics. Meanwhile, Bob Ritter ’82, the head coach of the men’s football team, has heavily relied on game footage of his recruits to assess talent. While strictly observing athletes through a screen is no easy feat, Ritter remains confident in the talent coming to the team next fall. Ritter did admit that without in-person interaction with recruits, identifying athletes that will gel well with the team and coaching staff is a difficult task. For a coach who views team camaraderie as a pillar of any successful team, the pandemic has given Ritter a novel challenge. “I think that continuing the strong culture that we’ve established is going to be important, and I think we're going to have to work at it more than in the past,” Ritter said. As to the effect that this abnormal year of recruiting will have on Middlebury athletics, Livesay conveyed a confident tone. “I think we are going to be dominant,” she said.
Skiing may be a popular sport at Middlebury, but it’s hard to find a faster student than Alpine star Ali Nullmeyer ’23. While most of the student body flocked to the Snow Bowl for recreational skiing last weekend, Nullmeyer was in a hotel room in Jasná, Slovakia, focusing on her upcoming World Cup race. Nullmeyer, who hails from Toronto, Ontario, has been on the road with the Canadian Alpine Ski Team this winter, traveling around Europe to compete in various slalom races. In the past few weeks, she’s finished 24th at the Fédération Internationale de Ski (FIS) World Ski Championships in Italy and 22nd in the World Cup in Slovakia. This is Nullmeyer’s third season competing at the World Cup level as a member of Team Canada. While she has podiumed 14 times at FIS events dating back to 2014, her best placement at a World Cup event was 16th in the slalom in Flachau, Austria. Nullmeyer will compete for a spot at the Winter Olympics next year in Beijing, and is determined to perform better in the few races remaining in this year’s World Cup circuit. “I had higher expectations for myself so I wasn’t as happy as I was hoping to be, but it was still a really awesome experience,” Nullmeyer said. “It was a really challenging hill and a lot of the girls skied really well. I’m stoked I got the experience, and I’m hoping I can build from that.” Nullmeyer’s international experience has helped propel her to collegiate success for the Panthers: In 2020, she was an All-American and the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association Rookie of the Year. In a normal year, Nullmeyer would be bouncing between Middlebury and international competitions, but this year she’s strictly been with Team Canada because of the pandemic. Now a sophomore, Nullmeyer is also taking remote classes at Middlebury. Middlebury Alpine coach Stever Bartlett explained that since Nullmeyer is already at the Olympic level, he’s needed to adjust his gameplan to provide her World Cup level training. “When Ali shows up it’s a reminder that here’s a World Cup athlete [and] we need to be on our game every single day, and not just for Ali; it really elevates the whole team,” Bartlett said. “We went out of our way to provide extraordinarily exceptional days of training.” Nullmeyer described her time with the Middlebury Alpine team as beneficial, especially since the coaching staff has helped her knock off a full second during the flat portions of the slalom race. Now she races through “the flats” faster than anyone else on Team Canada. Nullmeyer’s journey abroad continues on Friday, when she will race in Åre, Sweden, continuing her quest to be a world champion.
“I’m not going to give up until I get signed.” Former Middlebury pitcher Colby Morris ’19 was not satisfied with ending his baseball career with an 8-3 defeat to Tufts in the NESCAC Championship. Instead, he was resolute on taking his career to the next level, with the MLB as his ultimate goal. The pitcher got one step closer to realizing that goal in January, signing a minor league contract with the New York Mets organization. Less than two years after his graduation, Morris had catapulted himself from the NESCAC to the minor leagues, becoming the first Panther to sign with an MLB organization since Michael Joseph ’13 (Baltimore Orioles, minor league). It’s an achievement that follows a distinguished collegiate career punctuated by countless accolades. The 2018 NESCAC Pitcher of the Year has the most career wins (18), innings pitched (256) and career starts (39) in Middlebury history and ranks second all-time in strikeouts (174). The achievement also follows a period of less glamorous work in the lower divisions, including time with the Trois-Rivieres Aigles (Canadian-American Association) and the Milwaukee Milkmen (American Association). During his time in the minor leagues, Morris struggled to find consistent minutes or stability, but his aspirations didn’t falter. Morris also spent time with Driveline, a player development organization in Washington that uses advanced metrics to maximize their players’ potential. “When I went there, I had plateaued with velocity for a while at 89–92 (mph), but I guess the movement has changed,” Morris told The Campus. “You never want to be average with anything. With technologies that exist now like Rapsodo and Trackman, you can measure the spin rate and how the ball is moving. So, despite plateauing in velocity, I made my movement stand out as much as I could.” His tangible improvement, driven by minor league experience and technical work with Driveline, positioned Morris as a candidate for Major League clubs. And MLB organizations bit, with the Texas Rangers and Milwaukee Brewers both giving Morris a shot. But his potential truly glowed when he trialed with the New York Mets, who eventually offered Morris a minor league deal. The California native’s next step will be reporting to spring training in Port St. Lucie, Florida, following the conclusion of the MLB and AAA-league spring training. There, Morris will be further assessed and assigned to either their Double-A, High-A, or Low-A affiliate — three subdivisions of the minor league. When asked about Morris’ accomplishment, Mike Leonard, the head baseball coach at Middlebury, didn’t seem surprised. Leonard explained that Morris set the standard for both a Middlebury student-athlete and a Middlebury baseball player, undergirded by an incessant work ethic. At Middlebury, Morris helped spin an 11–23 record during his rookie year into two NESCAC Championship appearances in 2017 and 2019. “Each year, he understood that it was about bringing others along, and he had to help build that culture and support and mentor others so we had a full team who could help get to the championship,” Leonard said. “We weren’t at that level yet, but he wanted to take us there.” Leonard added that Morris’ achievement has inspired his current players to elevate their games, inspiring them to dream big about their baseball futures. Only two Panthers have ever played MLB baseball at its highest level, the most recent being Harry Hulihan in 1922. Middlebury watches excitedly as Morris embarks on his journey to become the third.