By Anne Bello
Published Jul 30, 2009 at 5:50 PM ET; Updated Jul 31, 2009 at 5:41 PM ET

middleburyPrinceton, NJ -– Middlebury College was presented with the 2009 Sloane Award at the National Team Championships banquet. The Sloane Award is given annually to the team that, as judged by their peers, best exemplifies the ideals of sportsmanship throughout the season.

Coming into the National Team Championships ranked twentieth, the Panthers defeated Denison, Colby, and Bowdoin to win the Summers Cup (C Division). Middlebury finished the season ranked seventeenth in the nation, with a 15-10 record, showing significant improvement over their 11-13 record the previous season.

What makes Middlebury’s accomplishments all the more impressive is that this is only the Panthers’ second season as a varsity team. From 2001—2002 to 2006—2007 the Panthers competed as a club team, starting with about ten players on the roster and competing in only three or four matches a season. Middlebury gave the team varsity status in 2007, and John Illig, who also coaches the women’s team, became the men’s first head coach. The Panthers, whose roster has steadily grown, now compete a full schedule, holding their own against teams with long-established programs.

This is the first time Middlebury has received the Sloane Award. An award for team sportsmanship has been given annually since 1981. In 2005 the award was renamed in honor of Sean Sloane, a coach whose teams at Williams and later Haverford have been known for their spirit and sportsmanship.