Saturday, February 28, 2009

Live Updates from Salisbury vs. Hampden-Sydney

The Salisbury team is providing live updates from their match tomorrow against Hampden-Sydney. The updates can be found here.

Saturday Recap

Three important regional matches took place Saturday and we had 3 intriguing results. The day started with a marathon match between W&L and Salisbury. W&L was able to hold on for a 5-4 victory that came down to the last match. Salisbury looked like they were going to pull the upset for a while. We then had a dominating performance by Cal Lutheran against a tough Pomona-Pitzer team. Cal Lutheran is a sleeper this year and could knock off a good team on the right day. The day finished with another sleeper, Skidmore, dominating their Liberty League rival Vassar. This was a 9-0 victory, but the doubles were close.

We have some more interesting regional matchups happening tomorrow as well.

Friday, February 27, 2009

#25 Pomona-Pitzer at Cal Lutheran Match Preview

1. Taylor/Singh vs. Wetterholm/Hunt
2. Friedman/Meyer vs. Lassila/Karsant
3. Bernard/Groth vs. Culpepper/Giuffrida

1. Tommy Meyer vs. Andrew Giuffrida
2. Cameron Taylor vs. Paul Wetterholm
3. Nick Tagliarino vs. Forrest Hunt
4. Uday Singh vs. Ryan Lassila
5. Alex Groth vs. John Karsant
6. Grant Friedman vs. Jordan Culpepper

A huge early season SCIAC match that has big time implications on the 20-30 range in the national rankings. We have two evenly matched teams all the way through the lineup. Predictions will be very difficult but I'll give it my best shot. Cal Lutheran is an overlooked team who took 2 of 3 doubles against CMS only three weeks ago. I have to give the edge in doubles to Cal Lutheran for that reason and I would expect them to win 2 of 3 on their homecourt with a sweep being possible. Pomona-Pitzer should quickly even things up in singles and I would expect them to win at the top 3 spots. After that things get interesting. The 4-5-6 matches will be very hard to predict. I would expect Pomona-Pitzer to win at least one of them resulting in a 5-4 victory for PP.

Salisbury at #20 Washington & Lee Match Preview

1. Burtzlaff/Thomas vs. Watson/McCardell
2. Barnas/Nottage vs. Gaffney/Meyers
3. Lupinetti/Robinson vs. Becht/Brooke

1. Scott Burtzlaff vs. Jamie McCardell
2. Evan Thomas vs. Jonathan Gaffney
3. David Lupinetti vs. Brett Meyers
4. Daniel Barnas vs. Jeremy Becht
5. Andrew Nottage vs. Ben Fass
6. Sasha Felikson vs. Michael Freeman

It's not until you take a closer look that you find out Salisbury actually has a pretty good chance here. They return 4 starters from last year's top 25 team to take on a W&L team who only returns 2 starters. Both of these teams have seen better days but they have to work with what they have this season. Both teams are known for good doubles and I would expect Washington & Lee to come out ahead 2-1. I like Salisbury's chances at 1 doubles. I think Salisbury has a good shot at both 1 and 2 singles and maybe 3 as well and they would definitely need all those spots if they want to win this match. You have to like Washington & Lee in the bottom half of the lineup at every spot. I would predict a 6-3 win for Washington & Lee on their home courts to solidify their spot in the top 25 for the time being.

Interview with Ben Belletto, Head Coach of Pomona-Pitzer

I had a chance to talk with Coach Belletto about his team's upcoming match with Cal Lutheran as well as his program in general. He gave me some very good and comprehensive answers...

D3Tennis: How have you done against Cal Lutheran the past few years and what do you expect from them this year? Is this a big match for your team?

BB: We’ve gone back and forth with Cal Lu the past few years, though they got us last year. They’re a good program and I don’t think they always get the credit they deserve. Coach Gennette does a great job year in and year out. My team is very young. Typically we’ll have four freshmen in the starting lineup, so every match is a huge learning experience. I expect them to fight for every ball, every point. This is a big match for us, but every match is big. I don’t want to be one of those teams that plays up or down to their opponent. Our preparation and focus is the same regardless of opponent. I am very much looking forward to this weekend’s match.

D3Tennis: You split singles with Redlands in a 6-3 loss a few weeks ago. How did you feel about your team's effort and performance in that match?

BB: Against Redlands, we battled hard in singles. We were tight and nervous in doubles. It was our first match of the season, and right now we’re not as sharp as we need to be in dubs. At the same time, Redlands is a great team and they always play great doubles. In singles, even those matches we lost were competitive. We had a frosh in his first dual match of his career take the former Redlands #1 7-5 in the first; it’s a piece to build off of for sure. We will be a better team in all facets later this spring, but for what it was, we were competitive in that match.

D3Tennis: Why do you choose to play such a tough schedule? How do you feel this benefits your players?

BB: Well, first, it’s hard to say no. You have all of the best teams in the division and we have great facilities. We’ve been playing so many of these teams for so long that it becomes almost automatic. But the real reason is that we get better by playing the best. We become the best be competing with the best. I am lucky to be at a school that doesn’t measure my job security by wins and losses alone. I am driven by the processes of development and improvement. Looking at the past season, we had graduated 5 of our top 6 and were supposed to be in rebuilding mode. Cameron Taylor had played anywhere from 4-7 in our lineup in 2007. He improved because he faced great competition every day. From an admissions standpoint, Pomona is one of the toughest schools in the nation to get into. As a result, many of our guys have had less than extensive junior records. We are focused on development, and by playing such a tough schedule, we develop faster. At the end of the season, all of our guys know what it takes to be a championship team. Every year we are making this the best year in our program’s history. Every day, we have the opportunity to compete against the best.

D3Tennis: Obviously an NCAA bid will be tough to get this year with CMS in your conference. What are your team goals for the season?

BB: An NCAA bid will always be tough. That’s the way it goes, at least for now. Our team goals are always the same: Compete for a National Championship. We are always building and developing. We are always strengthening our foundation and developing our culture; always learning. I don’t get caught up in rankings and such, and I know how all of this works. In ‘07, we beat two of the five teams in the West regional, so there is much out of our control. We just go out every day and play. We play because we love tennis and love to compete. The NCAA part of it will take care of itself. Having CMS, Redlands, Cal Lu in our conference makes me a better, more dedicated coach. I wake up every morning burning to get out on the courts. We only focus on the matches in front of us, but we also know what it takes to get to Nationals. Can we beat CMS? I know how talented they are, but I’m a very competitive person and always believe I can win. I think that we CAN beat anyone on any given day. Whether we make that happen, I cannot say. We will do everything within our power to make that a reality. We have a very young team, and as the season progresses, so will they. Let’s take it one day at a time.

D3Tennis: What do you think it will take to get your team back to the top 20 in the country?

BB: D-III has become so deep and there are so many great programs out there, many of which we’ll never get the opportunity to compete against. Like I said before, we will focus on what we can control and let the rest take care of itself. We need to focus on getting better every day, and in the end, if there’s a little number next to our name, great. If not, we’ll move on. I work very hard to put us in a position to compete with the best in the country, but who doesn’t? Our guys work their tails off both in the classroom and on the courts. In the end, rankings mean very little in terms of the overall experience. I’ve had just as much of an incredible time coaching when we were unranked as when we were ranked. I love having the opportunity to win, to be the best. Right now, with the team that we have, and the group of guys we have, we have that opportunity. Our schedule is littered with opportunities.

Thanks a lot to Coach Belletto for taking the time to do this and check back later today for a preview of the Pomona-Pitzer at Cal Lutheran match tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Explanation of How Rankings Work

Many of you seem to be confused about how I do my rankings. I'll try to make this as simple as possible...

It's very early in the season, we really don't have a lot of results to use right now. Therefore, I have to put heavy consideration on the results I do have. Let me use the example of Amherst, Kenyon and UC Santa Cruz for argument's sake.

Amherst beat Kenyon in the Fall. Players were missing, people were sick, it was 5 months ago. The only thing that I care about when it comes to rankings is "Amherst beat Kenyon." If Kenyon wants to discount that match, they shouldn't have agreed to play it. There are no excuses, only results. I can't move Kenyon ahead of Amherst just because I feel like they are a better team. It doesn't work like that.

Someone just made a comment that Santa Cruz shouldn't be #9 in the rankings, they should be top 5. If that's the case, why don't you tell me who they should be ahead of? They can't be ahead of Kenyon. They can't be ahead of Gustavus. They certainly can't be ahead of Amherst because Amherst beat Kenyon who beat Santa Cruz. Maybe they should be ahead of CMS? Wait, CMS beat Gustavus and Gustavus beat Santa Cruz so that doesn't make sense either. My point is stop making ludicrous arguments based on bias or hunches and take a minute to just look at results. In a month, when people all start beating each other, then you can start making arguments for your teams to move. Right now, the top 9 are very clear cut.

UC Santa Cruz blanks Redlands

UC Santa Cruz made a statement today that they are back after a disappointing weekend, defeating Redlands 9-0 without Jared Kamel playing. A link to the score can be found here...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

#13 Redlands at #9 UC Santa Cruz Match Preview

Projected Lineups
1. Gendelman/Liberty-Point vs. Reading/Spearman
2. Kamel/Vartabedian vs Wong/Trippel
3. Mark-Griffin/Ortiz vs. Ouye/Fashouer

1. Max Liberty-Point vs. Michael Reading
2. Jared Kamel vs. Cameron Spearman
3. Ilya Gendelman vs. Aron Ouye
4. Max Ortiz vs. Matt Liebman
5. Colin Mark-Griffin vs. Chris Trippel
6. Marc Vartabedian vs. Keven Wong

I think the poll results so far are pretty accurate showing that Redlands most likely won't win more than 3 matches. This will be their first true test of the season. Redlands always plays good doubles but I don't know where they are going to win here. #3 doubles is the best chance for Redlands and they will need this to stay in the match. I think Redlands has a good chance at 3 and 4 singles, but after that I definitely like Santa Cruz in all the other matches. I think Santa Cruz should get back on track after a disappointing Indoors with a 6-3 or 7-2 win against Redlands at home. Team Rankings February 24, 2009

1. Emory
2. Wash U
3. CMS
4. Middlebury
5. Amherst
6. Kenyon
7. Williams
8. Gustavus
9. UC Santa Cruz
10. Bowdoin
11. Trinity (TX)
12. Mary Washington
13. Redlands
14. Johns Hopkins
15. Carnegie Mellon
16. Trinity (CT)
17. DePauw
18. UT-Tyler
19. Bates
20. Washington & Lee
21. Denison
22. Chicago
23. Whitman
24. Kalamazoo
25. Pomona-Pitzer

Monday, February 23, 2009

Overall National Indoors Recap

We learned a lot of things this past weekend that cleared up a lot of suspense. Most importantly, we learned that Emory is the new #1 in the country with Wash U coming in as a close second. CMS solidified their position as the 3rd best team in the country with tough victories over Gustavus and Kenyon. I'm going to look at each team now and a few things we learned about them this past weekend.

Wash U - We learned that Wash U most likely will not fall prey to lesser teams than them. They showed that they can play great doubles against Kenyon, but they have some work to do if they want to beat Emory. They are no doubt the 2nd best team in the country right now and I think they could potentially take down Emory but the circumstances have to be perfect. Watts made a statement this weekend that he is the best player in the country.

Trinity(TX) - Trinity was beaten 9-0 in their first two matches by two very good teams. With their dominant win over Mary Wash, they showed that they did belong at this tournament and most of us were underestimating them. They have a very young team but they won't quit. They won't be tested again until early April against Tyler, but they earned themselves a top 12 ranking until someone else proves they are more deserving. Max Frey could be a future star in D3.

Santa Cruz - They have to be disappointed with their 6th place finish. They really didn't lose anyone from last year's team who finished 4th in the nation and Hansen usually has his guys ready to play. They immediately went down 5-0 to Gustavus and blew big leads on more than one occasion against Kenyon. They will have to do some work if they want to get back in the top 5, but the good news is they get another shot at Kenyon in just a few weeks and on their home courts.

Kenyon- Have to love the effort from these guys in the first round but things went downhill after that. With 2 of the top 5 players in the country, this team has high expectations for themselves. Arguably the best #2 doubles team in the country last year just didn't show up this weekend. If Kenyon can figure out doubles they are tough, but they really need to get better to compete with Wash U and Emory. A 5 or 6 ranking is appropriate for them at this moment in time.

Gustavus - Although they didn't win Indoors, I think Gustavus proved that they are still a very good team. I'd say Kauss is top 5 in the country and GAC doubles is still excellent. They went 8-1 on the weekend in doubles, but they need to improve the bottom of singles to break into the top 5. I'm thinking that this team will hover in the 7-10 range in the rankings for most of the season. Overall, I think Gustavus has to be pleased with their performance this weekend.

CMS - The bigger story than CMS getting 3rd this weekend is losing Starr for the season and possibly the rest of his college tennis career. CMS is very deep, but he is not an easily replaced player. A bright note is that Erani showed that he is one of the best freshmen in the country and he's ready to move up and win at #2 singles. With Lim playing, they may have had a shot at beating Emory. Some tough upcoming weeks will show us what the Stags are really made of.

Mary Washington - What a horrible weekend for the Eagles. They went 0-9 in doubles and James and Loden just didn't step up this weekend. I have no doubt that this team will turn things around, but I'm shocked with their lack of effort especially in the 7th/8th match. They should be beating Trinity(TX), they have almost their whole team back from last year. They have to use their upcoming California matches to re-establish themselves as a top 10 team. They certainly didn't show that this weekend.

Emory - Emory proved this weekend that they are clearly the best team in the country. They have very good doubles followed by excellent singles. I would like to see this team play the Slugs from 2 years ago. I think it will take a lot to derail this team from a national title and an undefeated D3 season. Chris Goodwin is one of the best players in the country and he and Michael are an unbeatable combo at 1. Just a great performance from Emory and they showed everyone what they are capable of.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Schedule For The Week 2/22-3/1

Monday: Indoors Team-By-Team and Overall Recap
Tuesday: Team Rankings, Santa Cruz-Redlands Preview
Wednesday: Redlands at Santa Cruz
Thursday: Nothing as of now, I'll try to lineup a coach or player interview. Maybe someone wants to submit something (hint, hint)
Friday: Cal Lutheran at Pomona-Pitzer Preview, Possible interview with one of the coaches
Saturday: Three important regional matches (see calendar)
Sunday: Christopher Newport at Washington & Lee

National Indoors Day 3 Recap

The 2009 National Indoor Championship belongs to Emory after their dominant 6-3 showing against #1 seed Wash U in the finals today. Emory came out winning 2 of 3 doubles and clinched soon afterwards taking 4 of 6 singles matches. This team really is phenomenal this year and I have to give tournament MVP honors to Chris Goodwin. Wash U looked great the first two rounds but they were just slightly overmatched today in doubles and especially singles. They will get another shot at Emory so they now know what it will take to win.

CMS took 3rd place with a 5-4 win over Kenyon. The Stags looked good today but they may have lost Michael Starr for the season for a second time. While they are a deep team, without Lim and Starr at the top of the lineup, this could be bad news for CMS. The Lords had a good showing overall but I think they have to be disappointed with their showing the final 2 days after an incredible effort against Santa Cruz. They have a lot of work to do if they want to be a top 3 team in the nation.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

National Indoors Day 2 Recap

The day started with two consolation matches and both results were as we expected. Gustavus was dominant in doubles and took care of Mary Washington 6-3. The singles were close but Gustavus proved to be too much in the end. The Eagles need to fix some weaknesses if they want to make a national title run this year. Santa Cruz was dominant against Trinity(TX), setting up a rematch of last year's final between Gustavus and Santa Cruz tonight for 5th place.

The semifinals were contested at 2 pm and Wash U was great early sweeping doubles against a hungry Kenyon team. The Bears piled on the pressure early and never let up, resulting in an 8-1 victory and a trip to the finals tomorrow. A good win for the Lords yesterday, but something was missing for them today. Meanwhile, CMS shocked Emory in doubles going up 2-1 putting themselves in a position to win. Emory came out firing in singles with their 1-2 punch to go up 3-2. CMS returned at #3 with a victory by freshman Robbie Erani to tie the score at 3-3. 4, 5 and 6 then came on and people were definitely thinking about a potential upset. Emory is supposed to be beatable at these spots, but they dominated to take the match 6-3. CMS really did just about the best they could and gave Emory all they could handle.

Tomorrow the 2 best teams in the country will play for the Indoor title at 9am. This will be another battle and I'd definitely keep an eye on doubles in this one. Kenyon will play CMS simultaneously for 3rd and 4th in a match that has big implications on the top 5 national rankings.

Friday, February 20, 2009

National Indoors Day 1 Recap

A brief wrap-up from Day 1 of the Indoors as well as a preview of Day 2...

Wash U started the day winning in expected fashion. They defeated an overmatched inexperienced Trinity(TX) team 9-0 without surrendering a set. There was a competitive doubles match and 2 close singles matches but this was a blowout from the beginning. The national champions are looking tough heading into the semis.

CMS won a hard-fought match against the hosts from Gustavus. As expected, Gustavus jumped on the Stags early in doubles going up 2-1, but also as predicted CMS just had too much depth and really dominated the Gusties throughout the singles lineup. Good effort by Starr to come back in first set and suck the life out of Gustavus. The CMS freshmen as well as Wang will really need to step up tomorrow against the best team in the country.

This win was not only important for Kenyon, but also D3 tennis as a whole. We saw a changing of the guard today with the "new guys" from Kenyon defeating annual powerhouse UC Santa Cruz with some spectacular comebacks. Greenberg and Piskacek really stepped up for their team today both coming back from a set down and Polster was very tough at #3. The Lords have to like their chances tomorrow against Wash U if they can repeat their performance from today. They proved that last season was no fluke and they are a contender this year.

The most surprising result on the day was Emory-UMW. Emory didn't give up more than 4 games in any set against a top 10 opponent. They made the #9 team in the country look like they were unranked with incredible doubles and even more amazing singles. The Goodwins have to hold the title of best doubles team as well as best 1-2 punch right now. They will be tested tomorrow against a feisty CMS team, but Emory really seemed unbeatable today against a very good opponent.

Looking forward, I like Santa Cruz to easily beat Trinity(TX), most likely by an 8-1 or 9-0 score and I like Gustavus to avenge their loss today with a doubles sweep and a 5-4 win against Mary Washington.

Emory should beat CMS in a fairly comfortable 6-3 or 7-2. The only chance CMS really has is if they can somehow manage to get 2 of the doubles against Emory. The match to watch is really Wash U-Kenyon tomorrow. This should be another nailbiter and I think whoever gets the advantage in doubles will most likely win. All eyes will be on the Watts-Greenberg match at #1 and this could go a long way in determining the outcome of the match. I have to give a 5-4 edge to Wash U, but again this is definitely a winnable match for Kenyon. If they can take 2 doubles points and follow it up with a Greenberg-Piskacek 1-2 punch, I don't see how they can lose. Definitely going to be another great day of tennis tomorrow.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Interesting Result

I was looking through CTO D3 scores and I noticed a result that caught my eye. Yesterday, #17 UT-Tyler was really challenged by LeTourneau University, another ASC team. Tyler swept doubles, with an 8-6 and 9-7 victory. Singles were split with all matches being highly contested except for #3 singles. We know Tyler is a very good team, but I was surprised to see them struggle like this. If LeTourneau continues to play like this, they definitely have top 25 potential. If anyone has info on this team or any other sleepers this year, please let me know.

National Indoors Preview: #1 Emory vs. #9 Mary Washington

1. Goodwin/Goodwin vs. Loden/Murata
2. Boren/Egan vs. Dunn/James
3. Kaufman/Lopp vs. Goff/Parrish

1. Michael Goodwin vs. John James
2. Chris Goodwin vs. Randy Loden
3. Mark Boren vs. Jason Dunn
4. Colin Egan vs. Riley Baver
5. Oliver Lopp vs. Andrew Frisk
6. Phillip Overdiek vs. Bryce Parrish

This is the first tough D3 match for the projected national champions against a very formidable opponent. I would expect Emory to come out hot in doubles with the Goodwins making a statement that they are the best doubles team in the country. Mary Wash should keep it close at both 2 and 3 and could put themselves in a position to win, but I would expect Emory to win both spots if they play to their potential. The matches at 1 and 2 should both be highly contested, particularly the #2 match, but I think Emory should win both to clinch the match. In the remaining 3 through 6, I'd expect Mary Wash to take at least 1 if not 2 of those matches to make the score respectable. This should end up as a 7-2 or 8-1 result, but I think almost all of the matches should be competitive. I wouldn't be surprised to see 3 or 4 3-setters in singles. Emory will be tested but should move on.

National Indoors Preview: #3 CMS vs. #10 Gustavus

1. Schils/Wang vs. Burdakin/Kauss
2. Starr/Wu vs. Paukert/Tomasek
3. Erani/MacColl vs. Hansen/Stickney

1. Lawrence Wang vs. John Kauss
2. Michael Starr vs. Mike Burdakin
3. Robbie Erani vs. Charlie Paukert
4. Russell Brockett vs. Kevin Stickney
5. Victor Chien vs. Ben Tomasek
6. Ronald Wu vs. Patrick Clark

The question in this match is how big of a role with home court advantage play. Gustavus is the defending champion at this event and their support on campus is really incredible. CMS not only has to play against GAC, but also the crowd, particularly in doubles. I would give the edge to Gustavus in doubles. They should win 1 against the defending national champions and I would expect them to get either 2 or 3. Gustavus has a shot at 1 and 2 singles, but after that they are done. CMS just has more depth and should win in straight sets in 4 through 6. What can't happen for CMS is to get swept in doubles because then Gustavus has the potential to win at both 1 and 2 and take this match. If CMS can manage to get 1 of the doubles points, they should be favorite going into singles. I'm going to say 5-4 for CMS in this match.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

National Indoors Preview: #4 UC Santa Cruz vs. #7 Kenyon

1. Gendelman/Liberty-Point vs. Greenberg/Vandenberg
2. Kamel/Vartabedian vs. Becker/Brody
3. Mark-Griffin/Ortiz vs. Pisakacek/Polster

1. Max Liberty-Point vs. Mike Greenberg
2. Jared Kamel vs. Tomas Piskacek
3. Ilya Gendelman vs. Jeremy Polster
4. Max Ortiz vs. Charlie Brody
5. Colin Mark-Griffin vs. Will Vandenberg
6. Marc Vartabedian vs. Daniel Becker

Definitely the most intriguing first round match and also the most evenly matched. The doubles is very tough to call and I think that the best two #2 doubles teams in the country are on display here. I won't get into specifics, but I think Santa Cruz will be able to win 2 of the doubles because of their experience at this tournament and on a big stage. A sweep by either team in doubles would be a shock for me. Moving to singles, you have to like Kenyon at the top 2 spots and I also like them at 6. Santa Cruz has the edge at 5, Mark-Griffin is one of the most consistent winners in the country in dual matches This leaves the matches at 3 and 4 to determine the outcome of the match. These are very tough to call. As of now, I have to give both to UCSC. I'm going to give Santa Cruz a 5-4 win here, but that score could easily be flipped. Really looking forward to this match.

National Indoors Preview: #2 Washington vs. #16 Trinity (TX)

Projected Lineups
1. Cutler/Hoeland vs. Cocanougher/Kowal
2. Woods/Stein vs. Carroll/Murray
3. Watts/Choradia vs. Ramirez/Hoing

1. John Watts vs. Max Frey
2. Charlie Cutler vs. Bobby Cocanougher
3. Max Woods vs. Don Murray
4. Isaac Stein vs. Andrew Hoing
5. Danny Levy vs. Cory Kowal
6. Chris Hoeland vs. Jose Borges

Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but I just don't see where Trinity(TX) is going to win a match here. Frey and Cocanougher are tough as we've seen in the fall and last year, respectively, but they aren't Watts and Cutler. If Wash U plays good doubles, they should sweep that also. Levy was great at 3 last year so he shouldn't lose at 5 for pretty much the entire season. While I would be surprised by a 9-0 for Wash U because I think they will slip in at least one spot, it's too hard to predict where it will be. This will be a great test for Trinity(TX) and if they make it a close match, they can let the country know that this young team is for real. Of the 9 players who they will be using in their lineup this year, only 3 started last year. I'm calling 8-1 for Wash U.

Monday, February 16, 2009 Pre-Season Rankings 2/16/09

1. Emory - On paper, definitely the best team in the country. The best 1-2 punch in the country along with an extremely deep lineup makes Emory a clear favorite to win Indoors and Nationals if they play to their potential. They have had issues with mental toughness in the past and this could hold them back. Their doubles were a bit inconsistent last year, but it looks like they now have an automatic win at 1 doubles which will surely help a lot. I really don't see anyone derailing this team except themselves. The question in my mind is how close can other teams get to them. If Emory gets down in doubles, they could be vulnerable, but if they win 2 of the doubles, there's really no use in even playing the singles because everyone knows the outcome of the match.

2. Wash U - The #1 team in the nation according to the ITA and the defending national champions have everyone gunning for them now. They are the #1 seeds going into Indoors and one of the favorites to win. The interesting thing is that they didn't lose any seniors from their national champion squad last year so this team will definitely be back in full force this year. Watts is one of the top players in the country and they are also very deep. If Wash U plays good doubles like they did at NCAAs last year, they are nearly impossible to beat. They have switched up their lineup a bit so far this season and I'm interested to see how they fair at Indoors against the nation's other top teams.

3. CMS - Probably the most talented team in the country besides Emory, CMS is very hot and cold. They seem to have everyone play very well or vice versa. If they can stay on track for the entire season and peak near the end, this is definitely a national championship contender. Their doubles was a little suspect last year and if they can manage to get 2 doubles wins against the other top 5 teams, they are tough all the way through singles. Erani should play in the top 3 and be one of the top freshmen in the country. This team should be very hungry to get to the Elite 8 this year because they are hosting it and they will be very tough to beat in front of a large crowd on their home courts.

4. UC Santa Cruz- Santa Cruz defines the term "powerhouse" in D3 tennis. No matter who is on their team, the Slugs are always competing for a national championship and this year certainly won't be an exception. The loss of Pybas hurts and Kamel has been out of the lineup for an unknown reason, but they have new players who are filling in well. This team plays very good doubles and fights hard for every point. They will have a great match against Kenyon in the first round of Indoors and whoever wins has a good shot at Wash U. They also play a tough schedule and one thing we know about Santa Cruz is they are mentally tough. They will need it if they have to play NCAA regionals at CMS again.

5. Middlebury - A team that was really overlooked last year in my opinion. They quietly won and made a Final 4 run with an inexperienced team. They are a very good team and solid everywhere. With Olson returning to take over #1, they are very tough in singles. This team is very vulnerable in doubles and they were swept last year on several occasions. They shouldn't count on winning 5 singles matches too many times this year. Midd also plays a very tough schedule so they will be ready to go come NCAAs. As of now, I would say that Midd is the favorite to win the NESCAC, but they had a tough loss in the finals last year at home. Another Final 4 contender and potential finalist.

6. Amherst - Very impressive fall results for this team going 3 for 3 against 3 good teams. The Kenyon upset let us know that this team is for real. Amherst is the deepest team in the country and with one of the best coaches in the country, Amherst also has top 3 potential this year. They will eventually lose in NESCAC play and they also have a very tough California swing, but I expect Amherst to be a fixture in the top 8 for the whole year. You can get this team in the bottom of doubles and the top of singles though so they are vulnerable. If they can fix those small flaws and Lerner can step up to win a lot at 1, Amherst will be very hard to beat and could be the favorite for NESCAC.

7. Kenyon - A team who has very high expectations for this upcoming year. Piskacek has not quite met expectations but he will still be dominant in the top of the lineup. This is a team that can challenge Emory and on a good day, they really can blowout anyone in the country. If they can get their doubles in order and manage to take 2 of 3 in most matches, they could be a top 3 team. They should probably be ranked higher than 7, but the Amherst loss sets them back a little bit. They play a brutal spring schedule and they can easily make up for it. How they respond against Santa Cruz this weekend will tell us a lot about this team. This is a Final 4 contender and national championship dark horse.

8. Williams - They lost some valuable players to graduation last year but they have replaced them with some new outstanding freshmen. They apparently have a new #1 from England who should be a top 20 player in the country. This coupled with their depth will make Williams a very tough out in singles competition. Their weakness last year was doubles and this got them in trouble against CMS at NCAAs. If they can manage to get even 1 doubles point against the rest of the top 10, they have put themselves in a position to win the match. They play a very tough schedule and being in NESCAC certainly doesn't hurt their players in terms of match toughness. Another likely Elite 8 team.

9. Mary Washington - One of the most experienced teams in the country, starting seniors at 1, 2 and 3. They boast one of the nation's top doubles teams and this team has a huge amount of heart to go with their ability. Mary Washington is very solid all the way through the lineup and anyone who wants to beat them will need to get up on them in doubles and then be on the singles court for hours before earning a victory. While they might not have the talent of a top 8 team, they certainly are a very tough out in any situation. They will definitely be tested at Indoors and I'll be interested to see how their freshmen respond. This team has final 4 potential but I'd expect another Elite 8 finish for them.

10. Gustavus Adolphus - The real story for this team is the fact that Coach Steve Wilkinson will be entering his last year as head coach. The Gusties will really need some magic this year if they want to make it a memorable one from Wilk. They will need a better effort from the bottom their singles lineup this year. Kauss has turned into a top player in the nation and if he continues to be dominant, this is a dangerous team. No one questions their doubles depth, and if they can consistenly win at 2 and 3 doubles against top teams, they are tough to beat. They need to win Indoors to get confidence and if they do the sky is the limit for this team with a different kind of motivation this year.

11. Bowdoin - This team seems to be a mystery every year. They are very up and down, as shown by last year and they seem to always have new freshmen who are stepping up into the starting lineup. I have them at 11 right now but they certainly have top 10 talent with two new freshman who should both be in the top 4. Their doubles is streaky as well and it is pretty inevitable playing in NESCAC that they will lose a few matches. Their out of conference results will really determine their eventual ranking. They should get an At-Large spot for NCAAs and they are dangerous once they're there.

12. Johns Hopkins - Despite the fact that they lost 2 seniors and finished last year at #19, I really like this team. They were beaten soundly by Amherst, but it's very clear that the talent is there. Maldow and Wang have turned into a great 1-2 punch as well as a good 1 doubles team. They are solid through the middle of the lineup, but what worries me is the bottom in singles and doubles. They only play two competitive matches this season against CMU and Mary Wash and they will definitely have to win both to prove themselves worthy of a top 15 ranking. They will win their conference though.

13. Redlands - A completely new look for this team with two graduating seniors and a transfer. They have Liebman moved back to 4 and I know this is a team that doesn't switch their lineup often. We know they are deep like every other year, but the question is if their top guys can step up and win against good teams. Their doubles will make or break them this year. Good doubles could put them as high as 8 or 9 and bad doubles could drop them from the top 15. They will finish 2nd in the conference and make NCAAs through the At-Large pool where they'll probably bow out to CMS or Santa Cruz.

14. Carnegie Mellon - A very talented team with a lot of upside who hasn't really broken out of their shell yet. They struggled with doubles last season and this is what kept them out of the top 12. They have a very deep lineup and if their top three or four can consistently win they can be dangerous. They will most likely finish 3rd in the UAA because they are overmatched against the top 2, but they could pull an upset against a team ranked 5-12. Another contender in the NCAA At-large pool and I would expect them to steal one of the last two spots.

15. Trinity (CT) - They most likely will be the better of the Trinity's this year for the first time in a while. This is another sleeper team that plays well in big matches. They lost two very important seniors, but got a good recruit who should play near the top of their lineup. I would say that they are overmatched against the top 4 teams in the NESCAC, but they certainly made a believer out of everyone last year. They will be competing in the At-large pool for NCAAs and I think that they will most likely be clawing for that 7th spot.

16. Trinity (TX) - If anyone is in a true rebuilding year, it's definitely the Tigers. They lost 4 excellent players last year and start several underclassmen. On the flip side, Coach Newman is outstanding at developing his players, especially in doubles. With the exception of Indoors, they play a very easy schedule, only playing Tyler. This could leave them as a question mark in the rankings. They should win the SCAC Championship against DePauw. More realistically, I would expect them to finish around 15 and they probably won't see the top 12 after the first rankings.

17. UT-Tyler - A very talented team who made themselves known on the national scene last year. They have some new players this year and really didn't lose anyone too important. They have an underrated 1-2 punch in Sajovich and Phillips that could give problems to some higher ranked teams. Tyler fights really hard and they are going to need this throughout their very difficult schedule. I would not be surprised if they can upset Trinity(TX) this year. They will win their conference again and they are definitely a team that you don't want to play in NCAAs.

18. DePauw - This is another team in a sort of rebuilding mode after their Elite 8 performance two years ago. They had a disappointing year last year and just snuck into NCAAs, and the one-time powerhouse seems to be slowly slipping. Another upset of Trinity (TX) could make their season, because I think they will have a very tough time cracking the top 15. They have a solid middle of the lineup, but they will almost always get beaten near the top by good teams. DePauw needs to get some good recruits to improve.

19. Bates - Bates returns one of the top doubles teams in the country along with one of the best singles players in the Northeast. They have a good freshman who should play near the top of the lineup and give fits to more experienced NESCAC players. They could make some noise in the At-Large pool for NCAAs, but they aren't quite there yet because I think they are still lacking depth. They will probably finish 6th in NESCAC and despite having less talent than teams ranked directly below them such as Chicago, Bates is very consistent and this could get them in the top 20.

20. Washington & Lee - One of the youngest teams in the country is really in rebuilding mode. They have some outstanding freshmen and a bright future, but they don't have the experience to match their results from the last few years. Another conference championship is almost guaranteed and they are a threat in NCAAs no matter who they play. They don't have strong players at the top, but this is a deep team who can definitely challenge the top 10 teams. They will have a good season and finish right around 20 and most likely bow out to a more talented team in NCAAs.

21. Denison - A team that was really under the radar last season opened some eyes already this season by beating a tough Chicago team. Denison is always a very good team but they can't seem to take that next step into the top 15. They should stay ranked most of the season because they play a pretty easy schedule with the exception of Kenyon. I don't expect Denison to cause any fireworks on the national scene but I'm sure they will quietly have another good season and finish somewhere between 20 and 25 in the country.

22. Chicago - This team has dug themselves into a hole already with a loss to Denison and a spanking by Kenyon. We thought Chicago had the potential to be a top 15 team, but these early season results don't suggest that. The season is only a few weeks old and already Chicago has a lot of work to do if they want an NCAA bid from the At-Large pool. A finish outside of the top 20 should be extremely disappointing for this team given the amount of talent they have. Chicago needs to regroup and go back to the drawing board.

23. Carleton - This could potentially be the year where Carleton beats Gustavus and there is a changing of the guard in the MIAC. Gustavus travels to Carleton for their regular season matchup and a win for Carleton could have them in the At-Large NCAA mix. They have some good recruits over the past few years and they have now turned into a Top 25 caliber team. I don't expect them to beat Gustavus at GAC, but they certainly have the potential to crack the top 20. This is a good team and they also have a tough Spring Break in Hilton Head which will test them.

24. Pomona-Pitzer - I wasn't sure how this team would be, but I think they made an early season statement giving Redlands a very hard time. Anyone who can win 3 singles matches against a top 15 team deserves to be ranked. They play one of the toughest schedules in the country and this can only help a fairly young team. While they may finish under .500 and most likely 3rd or 4th in their conference, this is a good, top-heavy team who can give some top 10 teams a run for their money on a good day.

25. Whitman - The loss of the Solomon brothers really hurts Whitman, and with Matt Solomon leading this team, they had a chance to be top 20. However, Whitman prides themselves on depth and despite the fact they don't have superstars, they still have enough good players to beat most teams in the country. They play very good doubles and should win their conference giving them an NCAA bid. I'd expect them to hover between 20 and 25 in the rankings for most of the year. A tough Hilton Head stretch for them with 3 ranked teams in under a week.

Others: Kalamazoo, Skidmore, Cal Lutheran, Salisbury, Vassar, Luther, Christopher Newport, NYU, Haverford, MIT

Changes for 2009

I received a lot of feedback last season about how to improve the blog. I took these comments and evaluated them and I am planning on making the following changes... Questions or concerns...e-mail me at

1. As you can see the color scheme is different and the poll will be updated every few days.
2. Every Sunday I will post a schedule for the upcoming week. This will include matches that will be happening along with anything that will be posted each day. Everything that I say will be posted will be, but there could also be other material depending on results and whether I receive new material.
3. There were a few complaints that I updated rankings too often and things got confusing. Team rankings will now be published every Tuesday afternoon/night starting next week. I am giving up on national singles and doubles rankings. I'll publish regional singles (10) and doubles rankings (8) every Friday starting March 20.
4. I had several comments to include photos. Unfortunately I cannot do anything about this. This has to come from readers. Anyone who e-mails me photos from matches or spring break or whatever it may be, there's a very good chance I'll put them up.
5. Anyone who wants to send me an article about a match or their team, you can submit it anonymously or with a name attached. I will post it on the blog. Match recaps would be great.
6. I will occasionally seek out players or coaches for a pre or post match interview. I'm sure everyone will enjoy reading what you have to say. Anyone who wants to be interviewed, please e-mail me.
7. Many of my most loyal readers complained that the site got spammed with too many unnecessary comments, particularly towards the end of the season. They asked that I moderate the comments board more closely, so I'm going to do this. Any off-topic comments will be removed. I'm not trying to discourage you from humor, but too many people said that they couldn't take the comments boards seriously towards the end of the season. I'll allow a few jokes, but don't let it get out of hand.
8. I created a Google Calendar with important matches on it. I'll repost it constantly with updated scores after the completion of matches.

If I think of anything else I'll post it.

Brief Season Outlook

The Spring of 2008 was one of the crazier years we have seen in Division 3 Tennis. We had 6 different teams hold the #1 ranking at some point during the season and attempting to predict the outcome of matches last year was a lost cause. I would like to think that there will be more stability this upcoming Spring, but I think everyone secretly hopes that this is not the case.

Despite being national champions last year, Wash U did look vulnerable at some points during the season, as did almost every team. The Bears enter this season with a #1 ITA ranking, but I think most of the buzz entering this Spring is that Emory is really loaded and looking to dethrone their conquerors from last year. We then have the two California powerhouses who are also legitimate contenders, especially given the fact that CMS is hosting nationals in May. Unfortunately, barring a rule change, we won't have the opportunity to see both of those teams in the Elite 8.

The evenly matched NESCAC schools certainly can't be overlooked and with Bates improving this year, 6 NESCAC teams in the top 20 is certainly not out of the question, including 4 in the top 10. This is the last year for Steve Wilkinson, one of the best coaches in college tennis history, and he's looking to help the Gusties rebound from one of their more disappointing seasons in recent memory. Kenyon and Mary Washington also can't be forgotten. Kenyon has a new #2 player along with the defending national champion, and a deep team that is dangerous against anyone. One of the best recruiting class in the history of Mary Washington tennis will be looking to depart this year on a high note after an incredible upset last year in Regionals. We then have a host of other teams who have top 10 talent, but are still looking to break through into the single digits in the rankings. I'll do my best to follow all of these story lines and more between now and Mid-May and I hope all readers won't be hesitant to add their commentary on another great season.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Schedule For The Week 2/15-2/22

Monday: Season outlook and changes to the blog for 2009. Team Rankings and Analysis #11-25
Tuesday: Team Rankings and Analysis #1-10
Wednesday: Indoors Preview: WUSTL-Trinity and UCSC-Kenyon
Thursday: Indoors Preview Emory-UMW and Gustavus-CMS
Friday: Indoors Quarterfinals
Saturday: Indoors Semifinals
Sunday: Indoors Finals and Schedule for Next Week

I'll also try to get a player or coach interview sometime this week about Indoors. Any volunteers?

Welcome Back

Welcome back everyone. The D3 blog is up and running again for another season. We have Indoors next weekend and an action packed March and April. Soon, I'll post a list of changes for this Spring as well as a schedule for the upcoming weeks.