The men's tennis team kicked off its fall season at the Middlebury Invitational last weekend. The two-day event, originally slated to be played on Middlebury's 12 outdoor courts, was moved inside Saturday morning due to inclement weather.

Competition was a welcome change for the Polar Bears after weeks of intensive practices. Armin Drake '08 said, "After playing matches within the squad, it was nice to switch things up and see outside competition."

Sophomores Noah Buntman and Garrett Gates saw first round action in the "A" flight singles draw. Gates used his powerful serve and tenacious backhand to defeat Greg Sher of Skidmore 6-3, 6-2. Gates was pleased with the way his game adapted to the surface.

"I aced my opponent the first two points of the match," he said. "It was a great feeling."

Buntman, on the other hand, drew nationally ranked Ari Beilin of Middlebury in the first round. Fighting hard, he was up 3-1 in the first set, but Beilin overcame his early lead to win a close 6-4, 6-3 match.

The weather improved and by mid-afternoon, play got underway outside. In the "B" flight, freshman Alex White squared off against Tom Dolan of Trinity, while Drake played Salih Unsal of Middlebury.

Drake lost 6-2, 6-3 to Unsal. White's match was a close one. After dropping the first set 6-1 and falling behind 5-2 in the second, White fought back valiantly. He rallied to win five straight games and level the score at one set a piece. The two played a super tiebreaker to decide the match, but Dolan edged out the first year 10-8 to claim the win.

"It was a real close match," White said. "It could have gone either way."

Gates saw second round action that afternoon when he went head to head with Brian Waldron, the nationally ranked, number one player from Middlebury. Gates gave Waldron a fight, returning his 130 m.p.h. serves deep in the court and running down ball after ball. But, Waldron served Gates a 6-4, 6-2 loss.

After the match, Gates said, "I gave Waldron a very good match. He's a talented player with some big shots, but he's definitely not unbeatable. No one is Divison III tennis is unbeatable."

In the "C" and "D" flights, sophomore Andrew Fried defeated Jack Martin of Skidmore in three sets, then lost to Tim Fuhriman of Colby in a close 6-4, 7-6 (5) loss. First years Nick Day and Chris Rogers lost their first matches to talented opponents from Trinity and Middlebury, respectively.

Despite a tough start to the weekend, the squad bounced back. On Sunday, first years White, Rogers and Day won their consolation brackets in their respective flights. White won two straight matches to capture the "B" flight consolation championship, while Rogers and Day rolled over their opponents to capture the "C" and "D" flights, respectively.

"Why did I put everything on the line today?" Rogers asked his teammates after winning the "C" consolation championship. "Simple," he said. "Because that's what Bowdoin tennis is all about."