The second-ranked Middlebury women's tennis team fell in the NCAA Semifinals by a 5-4 score in a back-and-forth matchup to fourth-ranked Williams (19-4). The contest took place indoors at the Baylor School in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Panthers finish their season with a 17-5 record, while the Ephs will play third-ranked Emory in Wednesday morning's championship match. Tuesday's contest marked the second-straight year and third time in Middlebury women's tennis history the program has reached the NCAA Semifinal, with the other two occasions in 2005 and 2016.
Middlebury held a 2-1 advantage after doubles play against the Ephs. Alexandra Fields and Christina Puccinelli jumped out to a 6-1 lead and put Middlebury on the scoreboard with an 8-4 win at No. 3 over Julia Cancio and Emily Zheng. Williams knotted the match at 1-1 when Juli Raventos and Linda Shin won the final two games at No. 1 for an 8-5 win against Skylar Schossberger and Katherine Hughes. Seconds later in the middle flight, the Panthers took the lead when Kaysee Orozco and Catherine Blazye claimed the last four games of the match for an 8-4 triumph over Chloe Henderson and Hannah Atkinson.
During singles play, Middlebury made it a 3-1 match when Puccinelli eased past Leah Bush at No. 2 by scores of 6-3, 6-0. The Panthers made it 4-1 when Blazye won the final two points of the first-set tiebreaker and cruised in set two for a 7-6 (5), 6-1 victory over Atkinson at No. 3. The Ephs cut it to a pair when Raventos posted a 6-4, 6-2 victory over Fields atop the lineup.
Williams pulled to within one at 4-3 when Shin fought off four matches points in the second set, recording a 1-6, 7-5, 6-2 win at No. 4 over Middlebury's Heather Boehm. The Ephs tied the match when Julia Cancio was victorious by scores of 6-2, 6-2 at No. 6 singles.
In the final match on, Williams' Mia Gancayco won the first set 6-4 against Molly Paradies. The second-year Panther fell behind 5-1 in the second before winning the seventh game. Gancayco broke Paradies to clinch the match with a 6-2 second-set decision for the Ephs.
Puccinelli will compete later in the week in the NCAA Division III Singles Championship, while Hughes and Schossberger will participate in the doubles championship at the same site. The brackets will be announced on Wednesday with action beginning Thursday morning.
Tuesday's NCAA Semifinal contest between the Panthers and Ephs was the 55th all-time meeting between the two schools and the fourth in the NCAA Tournament. Williams has won all four matches, including a 5-0 win in the regional round in 2005, a narrow 5-4 decision a year later in the regional round and a 5-1 victory in 2009.