By Anne Bello
Published Jun 27, 2011 at 7:00 AM ET; Updated Jun 26, 2011 at 5:34 PM ET

Cambridge, MA — The Middlebury men’s squash program has been one of the major college squash success stories of the past five years.

The Panthers have shown steady improvement since the program went varsity in the 2007-2008 season. They finished their last season as a club team ranked 26th in the nation, the runners-up in the Conroy Cup (D Division). By the end of their first varsity season, they had moved up into the Summers Cup (C Division), though they finished at the bottom of the division.

The Panthers went from last in the C Division to first, winning back-to-back Summers Cups in 2009 and 2010.

On the second day of this year’s Men’s National Team Championships, the Panthers pulled out a thrilling 5-4 victory over Bates to secure a program-record 14th-place finish in the tournament and the final team rankings of the season.

While wins and titles are one measure of success, Middlebury has consistently demonstrated a high level of sportsmanship, even during intensely competitive matches.

They were recognized for their sportsmanship in 2009 when they won that year’s Sloane Award, which is given annually for team sportsmanship. Named for former Williams and Haverford coach Sean Sloane, the award is presented to the team that, as judged by their peers, best exemplifies the ideals of sportsmanship throughout the season. Coaches discuss with their teams which team they feel is deserving of this award. Coaches then vote on the award at the National Team Championships meeting.

As the Panthers have improved, they have knocked off teams that have been fixtures of the top twenty for years, even decades. So it’s a testament to the program’s commitment to sportsmanship that the other teams selected Middlebury to receive the Sloane Award again this year.

As more programs go varsity, Middlebury has set the standard for competitive success and sporting play, good squash in every way.

Middlebury is coached by John Illig, and Brian Cady was captain.