No. 9 Spartans Fall to No. 3 Middlebury in NCAA Championship Quarterfinals

CWRU played in the NCAA Championship Quarterfinals for the first time in program history. (photo by Milan Reed Athletic Photography)
CWRU played in the NCAA Championship Quarterfinals for the first time in program history. (photo by Milan Reed Athletic Photography)

CLAREMONT, Calif. – The Case Western Reserve University men's tennis team made history on Monday as the first from the school to compete in the NCAA Championship Tournament Quarterfinals. The No. 9 nationally ranked Spartans fell to No. 3 Middlebury College (Vt.) by a score of 5-1 at the Biszantz Family Tennis Center.

The Spartans end their historic season at 17-8 overall. The Panthers (21-3) advance to the semifinals to play host and top-ranked Claremont Mudd Scripps Colleges tomorrow afternoon.

"Middlebury has a large group of guys that played in this match last season, and they definitely handled the moment better than we did for the opening hour," said Head Coach Todd Wojtkowski. "It took us a while to settle in and play our brand of tennis."

The Panthers built a 3-0 lead in doubles action that started with wins at No. 3 (8-2) and No. 2 (8-3). In a hotly contested match at No. 1, sophomore Christopher Krimbill (Scottsdale, Ariz./Desert Mountain) and senior Eric Klawitter (Arlington Heights, Ill./John Hersey) were unable to hold on in a 9-8 (7-5) loss to Alex Johnson and Andrew Lebovitz.

"If we were able to snag that point at first doubles, the match would have been very, very tight," Wojtkowski said. "That's only the second time in the last three years we fell behind 3-0. We showed a lot of fight despite being down, but it was too little, too late."

Krimbill and Klawitter entered ranked second in the ITA Central Region, while Johnson and Lebovitz were third in the Northeast.

In singles play, the Spartans picked up the first point when senior No. 4 Derek Reinbold (Carmel, Ind./Park Tudor) won in straight-sets (6-1, 6-2) against Ari Smolyar. Yesterday evening, Reinbold was named the first NCAA Elite 89 Award winner in CWRU history.

The remaining five singles matches played close, but Middlebury was able to edge out wins at No. 6 and No. 1 to clinch the match.

"It's really frustrating to lose, but we did achieve our goal of reaching the Elite 8. Ultimately, we put ourselves in a better position to win a national championship," Wojtkowski said.

With the team portion of the season now over, Krimbill and Klawitter will shift their attention to individual competition. Krimbill will play in the singles bracket on Thursday, May 22 at 8:45 a.m. (PT). The duo will then play together in doubles action later that day at 3:00 p.m. (PT).

"Each year, we talk about legacy," Wojtkowski said. "This is another senior class that leaves the program better than it found it. There were 325 Division III men's tennis programs to start the season, and we finished in the top eight. This was an especially valuable experience for our younger guys that will work to go even further next season."