Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2011 Season Preview: Top 10 Stories of 2011

10. NCAA Selection Process - We got the official numbers for the NCAA Selection Process and 6 teams will be qualifying through Pool C. The real question is can any progress be made to get the system changed? We know that deserving teams will be left out this year, but if D3 tennis as a whole keeps pushing to change the system, there is hope for a change.

9. Can Chicago play to their talent? - Despite having great teams and finishing in the top 25 for 3 consecutive seasons, Chicago has yet to make it to an NCAA tournament. Despite the loss of some key seniors, they have an outstanding freshmen class and I think this is by far the best team they've ever had. If they can't make the tournament with this team, then I have no idea what the problem is with them. They could potentially be the 2nd best UAA team and see the single digits in the rankings. Other years when I was sure they would make the top 15, it didn't happen, so don't take anything for granted with this team.

8. CLU and CMU: One-hit wonders? - They both broke into the top 10 last season and the question is if they can stay there. Both lost a couple of key seniors and they don't seem to have fully replaced them. They still have a lot of talent but the question is if they played over their head last spring. One great season is certainly an accomplishment for a program and both of these teams have the potential to break into the next level of teams. This year could tell us a lot about the future of these programs as we see if they can continue their great play from last season.

7. Former powerhouses become non-factors - Gustavus fell out of the top 30 last season and they have shown no signs of rebuilding. Kalamazoo looks to be the next former powerhouse to fall off the map as they lost 3 of their top 4 from last season and only brought in 1 recruit. While they should still win their conference comfortably, the Hornets not being ranked is unheard of and unacceptable for a program with their tradition. Neither of these teams should be making much noise on the national scene this year and they will soon be unknowns in D3 if they don't start reloading their programs with players.

6. A rebuilding year for Kenyon? - I really thought Kenyon would be weak this season, but a strong fall result against Amherst certainly has to give confidence to this inexperienced team. It's tough to lose the best class of seniors in school history, but the Lords had an extensive bench last year that has to step in and contribute this year. They really only have 3 players who have been in a serious college match, and only 2 who have been consistent starters. They play a very tough schedule and will get experience throughout the season, but I certainly don't think a top 15 finish is a sure thing for this very young team.

5. Can Hopkins perform in the post-season? - Another strong team for Johns Hopkins and another chance to finally make the Elite 8. They have been closer every year and it remains to be seen whether the blow-up last year was a setback for this program or just something to make them work harder. Hopkins certainly has the talent to make the final 8 this year, but you aren't going to get much closer than you did last year. They now know that no lead is safe and I have a feeling they will be a great team this year after a tough learning experience.

4. How far will the best 2 players in the country take you? That's the question for Emory for this year. They aren't the deepest team in the country, but they have the best two players for sure. Neither of them are spectacular doubles players, but you could say Emory is all but guaranteed 2 wins each match. That being said, the Eagles know to take nothing for granted after the NCAA quarterfinal last year. Both of their superstars lost, so it is possible to crack the top of their lineup. Depth certainly will help this team and I know they have it, but the Eagles are going as far as Pottish and Goodwin will take them.

3. Midd minus Schwarz, Wash U minus Watts - Both programs lose integral parts of their teams. Dave Schwarz built Middlebury into what it is with fantastic recruiting and coaching. He has now moved on and the future of Middlebury tennis is in question at the moment. They have a strong team this year, but we will see how big of a difference maker he really was. Wash U lost one of the best players in D3 history and pretty much an automatic win against most teams. It's takes a lot of pressure off of a player to know that #1 singles belongs to your team. Wash U needs to recover without a replacement for Watts. They will need to become more of a team and have everyone step up to replace their superstar.

2. Indoors leaves Gustavus - Indoors has been at GAC for the past 8 years and it is now leaving and moving to Virginia. Kudos to Mary Washington for accepting this all important tournament. Indoors moves to its 3rd site and hopefully will stay here for a while. After getting beaten up last year, I am assuming GAC decided it didn't belong in the Indoors field. While Mary Wash is a heavy favorite to finish 8th this year as well, they surely will put up a better fight than GAC would. It's sad that the future of Indoors is in question, but we at least have it for this year.

1. Third time is the charm - It's very simple. The last two years, Amherst surprised everyone, and maybe even themselves, by reaching the national finals. They played great tennis during the most important time of the year. This year, anything but a national title for Herst is a disappointment. This team is loaded and by far the best team in the country. Not much more to say than that. The third time in the national final should the charm for the Jeffs and they are my pick, and most others' pick, to finish #1 this year.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2011 Season Preview: Pre-Season Top 30

1. Amherst
2. CMS
3. Emory
4. Trinity (TX)
5. UC Santa Cruz
6. Middlebury
7. Wash U
8. Cal Lutheran
9. Williams
10. Johns Hopkins
11. NC Wesleyan
12. Carnegie Mellon
13. Chicago
14. Bowdoin
15. Kenyon
16. Redlands
17. DePauw
18. Whitman
19. Mary Washington
20. Pomona-Pitzer
21. Christopher Newport
22. Trinity (CT)
23. Bates
24. MIT
25. Brandeis
26. Denison
27. Washington & Lee
28. UT-Tyler
29. Vassar
30. Carleton

Monday, December 27, 2010

2011 Season Preview: Pre-Season All-America Team

These players have established themselves as superstars in D3 and have had consistent college careers. If I was making an all-star team, this is who I would pick to be in my starting lineup at the moment. Players ordered by strength in both singles and doubles.


Bobby Cocanougher/Cory Kowal, Trinity (TX) - These guys are the clear #1 team in the country after their win at Fall ITAs. Although they didn't have a great regular season last Spring, they have been a model of consistency in any individual competition. They have won 3 Fall ITAs in Texas and added the national ITA title to their hardware this year. They have made the semis and finals of NCAAs the past two seasons. If they want to be talked about as a great doubles team, these guys need to generate wins for their team this Spring.

Nick Ballou/Andrew Giuffrida, Cal Lutheran - These two teamed up last year and were immediately successful. They won their first 20 doubles matches of the Spring last year, which is an impressive streak. Although they fell off a bit due to a Ballou injury, they were able to come back and have a good NCAAs, making the semis. These two should be the best doubles team in California this year as they have a great mixture of power and finesse. These two baseliners have successfully transferred their singles skills to doubles.

Isaac Stein/Max Woods, Wash U - This will be their 4th season together and they both have great all-court games. These two are very tough to play because of their intense and in-your-face style. It is rare that these two both have a bad day, so that means you really have to earn a a victory against them. A great senior season could earn them the title of best team in Wash U history. Winning another team national title probably isn't realistic, but they certainly could add some NCAA doubles hardware to their trophy case.


Dillon Pottish, Emory - Since transferring from the University of Portland, Pottish has established himself as the best singles player in D3. He went undefeated in D3 dual matches during last regular season and made it to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Singles tournament. He was 2-1 against national champion John Watts last season and he began this year with a National ITA championship. Pottish enters this season as the hands-down best player in the country and he hopes to lead his team to a national title.

Chris Goodwin, Emory - It's not often that the best two players in the country are on the same team, but this just might be the case for the 2011 Emory Eagles. Chris Goodwin is the defending national runner-up, and by far the best #2 player in the country. In 2 years, playing #2 singles during both of them, he has lost only 1 dual match in D3. Goodwin has the potential to surpass his brother's college accomplishments. His main competitor in his quest for a national singles title is most likely his own teammate.

Andrew Peters, Middlebury - Peters was the #1 player for the national champions last year and played ahead of Andrew Lee, who ended up taking out Pottish in NCAAs. Peters started his career in the middle of the lineup but became one of the best in the country after only two years. He is probably the most intense player in D3 and has a lot of firepower mixed with consistency. Peters is well tested in the NESCAC all season long and his is surely one of the top contenders to win the NCAA Singles tournament in 2011.

Austin Chafetz, Amherst - This crafty lefty came to college as a highly ranked junior, but he has improved since he came to Amherst. He had a good run in NCAAs last year and looks to be Amherst's #1 player this year as well. Chafetz will be able out-hands almost any counter-puncher. Just to show his potential, Chafetz was the only player in D3 last season to beat Pottish in a dual match. Chafetz continues to improve under Garner and has been one of the most consistent players in the country during the last two years.

Brian Pybas, UC Santa Cruz - If you combine singles and doubles, he was probably the best player in the country last year. Despite his doubles national title, his singles game can't be overlooked. The way he ended the season last year was unbelievable, winning Ojai and then destroying Giuffrida and Erani on back to back days in NCAAs. If Pybas feels like playing and being patient, he is the best shot maker in the country. He can play offense from anywhere on the court and being a lefty certainly doesn't hurt.

Stephen Sullivan, Bowdoin - If you want to talk about someone who doesn't get enough respect, look no further than Sullivan. In three years, he has made the semis and the quarters of NCAAs. 5 NCAA singles wins in 3 years is not something many players can do. Sullivan plays in the tough NESCAC and goes about his business getting big wins for Bowdoin. NESCAC coaches know how big his forehand can be and he certainly should be included in the conversation when talking about the best players in the country.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

2011 Season Preview: 10 Matches to Mark on Your Calendar

The following matches have great significance for both teams. All of my top 15 teams are represented, and I believe these are all very even matches which can go either way. Winning matches like these can make or break a team's confidence, so it's worth keeping an eye on all of these results.

February 11: Chicago @ Kenyon - This will be the first match of the season between top 15 teams, and it should be a great one. Kenyon is 4-0 against Chicago since 2006, but this is the first year they are going in as the underdog. Kenyon will have home court advantage, but the Maroons surely have superior talent with a great batch of freshmen. This match is important for Kenyon because they want to start the season strong with an inexperienced team, but more important for Chicago, as they need every win they can get in their quest for a Pool C bid.

February 18: UC Santa Cruz vs. Trinity (TX) - This is the marquee match of the Indoors 1st round, and could potentially end up being the best match of the tournament. Cruz has owned Trinity since 2001, possessing a record of 7-0 against the Tigers. This is Trinity's best team in a while so they hope to end that streak. Cruz always starts their season strong at this tournament, as they will be the defending champions. Trinity traditionally isn't all that strong at Indoors, and their Indoors result typically isn't reflective of how they will end their season.

March 19: Amherst @ CMS - This is the first time these two will meet after their epic semifinal match in 2010 NCAAs. Both teams are arguably stronger than last year so this should be one of the best matches of the regular season. If Amherst is going to lose a match during the season, it may very well be this one. CMS always plays outstanding tennis on their courts, and they will be looking for revenge after Amherst beat them in Claremont comfortably last March. The #2 ranking in the country could be on the line during this match so it's definitely one to watch.

March 21: Johns Hopkins @ NC Wesleyan - Normally this wouldn't be that crucial, but I'm very curious to see how Hopkins plays against NCW after their meltdown in last year's Sweet 16. NCW is at home and will be fired up to beat JHU for the second consecutive time. I believe a lot of Hopkins' problems are mental, so winning a match like this could be a big step for the Blue Jays. This is one of the few times NCW will really be tested this year so it's important for them to play their best tennis. This match could go a long way in determining who will host an NCAA regional.

March 31: Williams @ UC Santa Cruz - After Williams weak season last year, they decided to schedule a California trip for 2011. Williams isn't always adjusted to the outdoors by late March, but they will surely be tested here. Cruz typically plays well at home, and these two traditional powers have quite a history. I'm looking forward to a Sun-Pybas match and you know Cruz will play great doubles, so this will be a good test for the young Williams team. This is one of the Ephs' few out of conference opportunities, so they need to make the most of it.

April 2: Trinity (CT) @ Bowdoin - If you want to talk about two teams that hate each other, look no further than this match. It's not widely known, but this is one of the best rivalries in D3. After splitting last year's two matches, they basically ruined each other's NCAA chances. Despite Trinity (CT) being seemingly weak this year, you know this will go down to the wire, because it always does with these two. Much like the last few years, the loser of this is in very bad shape when it comes to making NCAAs. All bets are off in this one and it should be one of the best of the year.

April 3: Carnegie Mellon @ Johns Hopkins - This has become a decent regional rivalry over the past couple years, with Hopkins holding a 3-2 edge since 2007. CMU was one of the two teams who put a dagger in Hopkins last year, as a Blue Jays weekend trip in early April quickly turned sour. Hopkins should be out for revenge, and they are tough to play against on their obscure home courts. Carnegie's inconsistent team will be tested in this one, and it should be a good indicator of whether or not they belong in the top 10 for this year.

April 8: Cal Lutheran @ Redlands - 3rd place in the conference is not familiar territory for the Bulldogs, but that is where they are projected to finish for the second year in a row. This should be a preview of the SCIAC semi, but its a good chance for these two to get a feel for the other. Redlands has the advantage of home court, but Cal Lu is a very confident team. The Kingsmen will learn from last year and not peak at the wrong time. This is CLU's chance to assert their dominance and show that they are the new #1 challenger to CMS in the SCIAC.

April 17: UAA Final - Although there are teams that can derail it, go ahead and pencil in a Wash U-Emory final. This would be the 6th consecutive time these two meet for the UAA title and this is becoming one of the best rivalries in D3. Emory has won 19 of the last 20 conference title, but they have to be sour about losses to Wash U each of the past 3 seasons. The Bears are without Watts, but they always get fired up to beat Emory. This match will have very important implications for NCAA seeding, and a conference title should be on the list of goals for both teams this year.

April 30: Middlebury @ Amherst - If there's one team that Amherst has struggled against the past few years, it's Middlebury. Since Garner took over the Jeffs, Amherst has a record of 1-6 against the Panthers. There's potential for both of these teams to enter this match undefeated, which would surely make it the biggest match of the season. Amherst has the experience, talent and coaching edge, but Middlebury knows they've had success against the Jeffs in the past. This could have the #1 ranking on the line and will likely be a preview of the NESCAC final.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

2011 Season Preview: Ranking the Conferences

1. NESCAC - Despite the UAA closing the gap last year, we saw who the top conference was during NCAAs. This year, these New England liberal arts schools will be #1 again, boasting the best team in the country as well as two other top 8 quality teams. Don't forget Bowdoin who's a lock for the top 18 and Trinity (CT) and Bates, both of whom should be top 25. Other respectable programs include Colby and Tufts. The NESCAC is both top heavy and deep, making it the top conference in the country by a long shot.

2. UAA - The UAA came on strong last year as the only conference to have 3 teams in the top 8. They have 5 teams this year that should be ranked, including 4 probable top 15 teams. Emory and Wash U both have top 5 potential, and we could see CMU and Chicago in the single digits. I don't think they are quite as strong as NESCAC, but the potential is there. Brandeis and Case Western are two teams on the rise who should be making noise on the national scene for the next several years.

3. SCIAC - Another powerhouse conference that was much improved with Cal Lutheran making its way into the top 5 in the country for a good portion of last season. This conference has 4 schools that should definitely be top 20 and other respectable programs in Occidental and Whittier. We could see both CMS and CLU in the top 5 this year and top 10 for Redlands isn't completely out of the question. This conference remains strong, but not quite as good as the top 2.

4. SCAC - A big drop after the top 3, as the SCAC should have 2 ranked teams this year in Trinity (TX) and DePauw. Trinity has top 5 potential, and I could see DePauw as high as 11 or 12 sometime during the season. After the top two, other decent teams include Rhodes, who flirted with the top 30 last year, as well as Sewanee who always fields a pretty good team. This conference will get significantly weaker after the end of this season with DePauw leaving to go elsewhere.

5. NCAC - The home to Kenyon and Denison, this conference has really been dominated by the Lords during this decade. Denison has good and bad years, but they look to be a top 30 team this year, which allows this conference to come in at #5. This conference is fairly deep, with teams like Allegheny and Wooster, as well as Oberlin College, the hosts for last year's NCAA championships. I can see the NCAC having 4-5 top 30 teams in a few years, especially after they get DePauw for 2012.

6. Centennial - Hopkins really dominates this conference and there's not much question that they are going to win it. They won't just dominate this year, but I see them pretty much locking up the conference for the next 5 years as well after a great recruiting class. That being said, this conference is also home to 3 other respectable programs who I would consider top 75 teams. Franklin & Marshall is a young team on the rise and Swarthmore and Haverford are always good, despite having seen better days.

7. USA South - This conference is home to top 10 team NC Wesleyan, as well as Christopher Newport, who should definitely be top 25 this year. These 2 have competed for the conference title the past couple years and should continue their rivalry for quite a while. The bottom of this conference is extremely weak, but a bright spot is a streaky Averett team who usually finishes 3rd. They have top 30 potential, but have a long way to go until they catch up with the top 2.

8. Northwest - The home to Whitman, who has dominated this conference in recent years. Although they didn't win the conference in 2007, Whitman seldom loses a conference match. They have some decent competition, as this conference has 3 teams who I'd consider top 60 in D3. Pacific Lutheran has a pretty good tradition and always has a good team, and Linfield is a similar story. A team to watch is Willamette, who's improved significantly over the past few years and looks to be well on their way to the top 30.

9. Liberty League - Lucky for these guys, they were in Pool B last year, so they had 3 teams qualify for NCAAs. Vassar was a fixture in the top 30 last year, and Skidmore did the same the year before that. Both Vassar and Skidmore have solid teams in 2011 and should fight it out for the conference title. A respectable 3rd place team is fairly unknown St. Lawrence, who quietly was able to beat Skidmore comfortably last year. This conference is improving exponentially each year, so I expect a bright future for them.

10. Capital - A fairly weak conference in 2011, the CAC is home to Mary Washington, who's a lock for the top 25 as well as Salisbury. The Sea Gulls were in the top 15 last year, making the conference title race respectable, but they should be weak in this rebuilding year. Mary Wash should run away with this conference very easily, as they look for their 12th consecutive title. There's not much to this conference after the top 2 teams.

Friday, December 24, 2010

2011 Season Preview: 10 Players To Watch in 2011

The following players may not be the best on their respective teams, but in my opinion, are the most important players to each team's success. These guys are game changers, and have the potential to turn a match by getting 2 of their team's necessary 5 points. A good season from these guys can raise a team's ranking 3 or 4 spots. They may not be the biggest names in D3, but they are integral parts of their own teams. Players are listed alphabetically by last name.

Colin Egan, Emory - Projected to play 3 singles and 3 doubles. It's tough to live in the shadow of the best two players in the country, but that's what Colin Egan is facing this year, and he may just be the most important player when it comes to Emory's success. He was the lone winner in last year's NCAA quarterfinal against Amherst and earned the title of best #4 in the country in 2010. This year, he has to take that one step further and make Emory's 1-2 punch into a 1-2-3 punch if they want to compete with Amherst and CMS. Entering his senior season, Egan has been nothing but solid for the Eagles in his first three years. He hasn't made much of an impact in doubles, but he is one of the most underrated singles players in the country. Egan will most likely be the lone senior starter this year and will hope to finish off his career with a national title. Rather than being seen as a sidekick to the Pottish-Goodwin duo, Egan needs to gain the respect of his opponents and produce key wins for the Eagles in the middle of the lineup.

Max Frey, Trinity (TX) - Projected to play 1 singles and 2 doubles. Despite losing to his teammate in the Fall ITA Singles, everyone in the country, including the Tigers, knows that Frey is still the heart of this team. Cocanougher's streaky style is better used at #2 and I believe Frey is their man if they want wins at #1 singles. Entering his junior season, Frey has played #1 singles during his first two years, so he knows what kind of level to expect and how he needs to play to push Trinity towards a national title. He's half of arguably the best #2 doubles team in the country and we know that Trinity needs to be up after doubles because they will struggle to find wins in singles against top 5 teams. With his powerful style, Frey has the potential to self-destruct against excellent counter punchers, so he needs to use his powerful shots to his advantage in the #1 spot this year. There's a lot of pressure on Frey and the Tigers to perform this year, and he knows that, but we will see how he and his teammates hold up now that there are actually big things expected of them.

Andy Hersh, Johns Hopkins - Projected to play 2 singles and 3 doubles. Given his outstanding junior ranking, you could call Hersh's freshman campaign a disappointment. He never cracked the doubles lineup and was an average 4, losing against NCW when it mattered most. He's started this year with a bang, running through his draw with ease at ITAs to reach the final, and then giving Rattenhuber all he could handle in the Amherst dual. It seems as though Hersh will find himself at 2 singles this year, and potentially 1 by the time the season is over. The answer of whether he's up to the challenge remains to be seen. Known as one of the biggest grinders in D3, this Floridian has to be one of the most fit players in the country and will stay out on the court as long as it takes to get a win. With Hopkins not meeting expectations over the past couple years due to some depth and doubles issues, this could be their year for a breakthrough. The real pressure is on Hopkins 1 and 2, and this is where Hersh has to come through. He can't just come close against tough opponents, he needs to win, and that's a lot to ask of a sophomore.

Erich Koenig, UC Santa Cruz - Projected to play 2 singles and 2 doubles. This reminds of the Brett Favre-Aaron Rodgers interaction. Pybas has seemingly been around forever, and Koenig is learning from the veteran and will soon become one of D3's best. He possesses one of the best all-court games in D3 and this transitions very well to the doubles court. He will only improve under the tutelage of Bob Hansen and he has already shown that he is cool and collected in pressure situations during his first year. He won close 3-setters in the Indoors final as well as the NCAA Sweet 16. He has big shoes to fill with the loss of Vartabedian, and I have no question that he can do it in singles after an excellent run in ITAs. The bigger question is can he be a consistent winner in doubles, as this is something Cruz desperately needs if they want to have any chance against the Stags this year. He's certainly one the most dangerous players in the country, but he needs to show up when it matters most. He's only a sophomore and has a lot of time to grow as a player, but he needs to be ready to take over this team when Pybas leaves.

Bobby Mactaggart, Carnegie Mellon - Projected to play 2 singles and 1 doubles. One of the most up and down players in D3, looking at Mactaggart's historical results are almost meaningless when trying to predict the outcome of his next match. Last year he suffered losses to Newport, Kalamazoo and Brandeis, but managed wins against Cruz, Kenyon and Trinity (TX). With CMU getting hit hard by graduations, Mactaggart needs to step up and become a consistent winner in both singles and doubles to keep the Tartans in the top 10. He has been a significant contributor in singles and doubles during his first three years and he has the good reputation of stepping up when it matters most. CMU doesn't have a great bottom of the lineup this year, so the pressure is shifted to the top and this could be good for CMU's two seniors. He had an impressive fall, winning the doubles ITA, and he has established himself as a top doubles player in D3. Last year, we saw the difference a good #1 doubles team could make for CMU. If he can find consistency, you can bet CMU will find themselves in a second consecutive Elite 8.

Anish Nanda, Redlands - Projected to play 2 singles and 1 doubles. Given the results from the past two seasons, we know Cam Spearman is more comfortable in the #2 singles spot than #1. He finished 2-11 at #1 singles against ranked D3 opponents last year. I personally think you let Nanda take his chances at #1 and put your senior where he's more comfortable. That's a lot of pressure for a sophomore, especially one who's confidence is shaken after getting beaten up all last year in the top of the lineup. There's unrest in this program right now after the Bulldogs missed the tournament for the first time in 18 years and had their 2nd lowest year-end ranking since 1992. Nanda needs to step up this year, in both singles and doubles. He and Spearman combine to make a talented #1 team. If he doesn't, the Bulldogs have a very slim chance of making the tournament. They can hang in the bottom of the lineup with their Pool C competition, but they were getting crushed at the top. The typical Redlands strategy of play tough doubles and win with depth didn't work, so for them to turn it around this year, Nanda needs to take his game to the next level.

Jeremy Polster, Kenyon - Projected to play 1 singles and 1 doubles. Polster certainly played in big matches over the past 3 seasons, but these are unchartered waters for him. Despite the graduations, Thielke has high expectations for his guys this year, and a lot of that will rest on the shoulders of their lone senior starter. The lefty will have plenty of opportunities, as Kenyon plays a tough schedule, and he hopes to make the most of his senior season. He has good singles and doubles skills and I'm sure he's well aware that he needs to pick up his game to transition from #3 to #1 singles. Polster plays the most important role in determining whether Kenyon will consider this a rebuilding year or a success. It's good that there's not a ton of pressure on Kenyon to make the tournament, as they are a heavy favorite to win their conference, and therefore Polster will have time to make the transition to the top of the lineup. The hope is that he will be fully adjusted by the post-season, in time for Kenyon to get back to the Elite 8.

Felix Sun, Williams - Projected to play 1 singles and 2 doubles. Nicknamed "The Magician," Sun is one of the most talented players in D3. He was supposed to do big things for Williams last year, but fell short when he was at the #1 spot. With Williams losing two key players to graduation, Sun is definitely the Ephs' #1 player this year. #1 is especially tough in NESCAC, and we saw that last year with Sun going 0-3 at the #1 spot. He had a fantastic fall, winning the New England ITA before making the final of nationals. This is the level at which he needs to play if Williams wants to get back to the top 10 this year. I'm sure Coach Greenberg will work with Sun so he's ready for the likes of Chafetz, Sullivan and Peters. I have very high hopes for Sun's sophomore campaign after his fall season and I believe a lot of Williams success rests on his ability to create wins at the top of the lineup against top 15 teams. He's half of a good #2 doubles team, which will hopefully turn into a great #2 doubles team. Williams had a bad year last year by their standards, and Sun is the main guy who has to lead them back to the Elite 8.

Sam Wichlin, Mary Washington - Projected to play 1 singles and 2 doubles. Maybe more so than anyone on this list, I believe a lot of pressure is on Wichlin, due to his seemingly weak supporting cast. Mary Wash has really fallen the past couple years and Wichlin is supposed to be the next big thing for Eagles tennis. For not being a highly touted recruit, Wichlin really surpassed expectations as a freshman. He went a respectable 3-5 at the #1 spot against ranked teams last year and qualified for NCAA singles. Now he's a year older, and with that, the expectations are growing. If Mary Wash wants to get back into the top 15, they need to get wins at the top of the lineup and Wichlin is their guy. With some work on his doubles game, he has the potential to become the best player in the AS region outside of the Emory guys. Unfortunately for Wichlin, he has to start his D3 season against Dillon Pottish at Indoors, and its imperative that he doesn't get discouraged after this match. Mary Wash is hungry to gain backed some lost respect, and Wichlin is the key to them becoming a great program again.

Ray Worley, Cal Lutheran - Projected to play 4 singles and 2 doubles. Much like Egan, Worley is really an afterthought when you think about Cal Lu. So much attention goes to their top 2, that Worley flew under the radar as one of the best freshmen in the country last year. He made some noise at the Fall ITA this year, which is a big reason he made this list. Cal Lu still has high expectations for themselves, and only so much can be asked of Ballou and Giuffrida. Worley needs to get wins against some big time teams for the Kingsmen to remain in the top 8 this year. Maybe more important than Worley's singles results, is his doubles game, as he will be the anchor of what seems to be an inexperienced #2 doubles team. The good thing for this sophomore is that he will be tested over and over and he will certainly be ready for NCAAs when the time comes. He's well coached and passed the adjustment to college tennis with flying colors. He's now a year older and once again, with that comes bigger expectations.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Current NCAA Selection Process For DIII Tennis: An Argument For and Against

This is something I've referenced in many articles, but not something I've addressed directly with a post. With this post, I hope to explain why it is the way it is, why people hate it, and what can be done. The NCAA Handbook has yet to be released for the 2011 Championships, but if you go by last year's process, there are 28 AQs (teams who win their conference), 9 Independents (teams who don't have conference affiliation or are from non-AQ conferences) and 5 spots for teams from AQ conferences that don't win their conference. I'll now discuss both sides of this and I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.

Pro: The NCAA tournament is about crowning a champion. How that champion gets the trophy is irrelevant. In the end, #1 is going to beat #2. If you look at my pre-season top 25, with the current process, #13 in the country would not make the tournament. Why, though, does this matter at all? During the past three years, how many Pool C teams that were not top seeds in their NCAA region made it to the Final 8? The answer is 0. There have been a total of 18 Pool C teams compete in the tournament over the past 3 years. 8 of them were top seeds in their regional and 10 were not. All 10 who weren't lost in the Sweet 16 or before. So why then, does everyone make such a big fuss about teams ranked #15 not making the tournament when they have no impact on the eventual outcome? D3 tennis is not like D1 basketball, where you have so much depth that a Butler can come out of nowhere and make the finals. The team who wins the tournament will always be one of the top 4 or 5 teams in the country. That's just the way it is.

The NCAA's theory for D3 is to give a fair chance to compete in the post-season to all teams, rather than selecting the "best" teams. In an average year in D3 tennis, 12 or 13 AQ conferences will be represented in the ITA's top 30 teams. With the old system and a 32-team bracket, that means 15 of the current AQ conferences wouldn't have access to the post-season. Why should those teams even bother having a season? What's the end result? They win their conference tournament and that's it? In doing a little research for this article, I was looking at last year's NCAA bracket and noticed something interesting. There was one undefeated team out of the 42. It wasn't Middlebury, or Emory, or Amherst. It was Western Connecticut State. Without the current system, how would WCSU get rewarded for their undefeated season? It must have been a treat for them to play in NCAAs. Before the 2010 season, what if the WCSU coach called Amherst or Williams and asked to play them during the regular season? He would get laughed at. Unknown teams from small conferences don't have access to ranked teams and this is their argument for the current system. Williams doesn't want to waste their time playing the weak teams in New England. A coach's job is to make his team the best they can be. The coaches of top 25 teams take their jobs very seriously and they want to play each other so their teams can be battle tested when it comes time for the post-season. This leaves little to no exposure for the other 250 teams in D3. The top 50-75 are in their own little bubble and they often forget that they make up 1/5 of the entire division. D3 is in a way an old boys club, where the traditional powers get together and beat up on each other every year at Indoors and during spring break in Claremont. Its very difficult to break into that elite club if you're not an academically elite school, but we have seen a perfect example over the past 2 seasons.

NC Wesleyan has come from not having a program to being a top 10 team and the #6 seed at this year's ITA Indoors. Why did we take notice of NC Wesleyan two years ago? Because they happened to be in the same conference as Christopher Newport, a team everyone is familiar with. What if a team in the middle of Iowa suddenly recruited a great team of foreign players? How would we know? The best team on their schedule would probably be Grinnell or Luther, teams we don't pay much attention to. With the current NCAA system, we can see the exponential rise of a team like NCW. They can gain access to the post-season and we will take notice when they crush Mary Washington and make Emory sweat. The point of D3 is to play for the love of the game, and the winner of the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference may care just as much about their tennis as the winner of the UAA. So how then, can we not give everyone a chance to compete in the post-season?

Con: What happened to Western Connecticut State last year? They lost to Ohio Northern 5-0. What happened to Ohio Northern? They lost to Carnegie Mellon 5-0. I can predict with great accuracy who the top teams are going to be in D3 this year. Maybe not in perfect order, but generally, everyone knows who's going to be good. Let's look at the other side of the argument about Pool C teams not making an impact. For argument's sake, let's say that the top 32 teams in the country would qualify for the tournament under the ideal scenario. How many teams, in the past 4 years, who would not have made the tournament under the 32 team system, made it to the Sweet 16 or farther? Restated, how many unranked teams have made it out of the second round of the tournament? The answer is 1 and that's Luther in 2009. Let's say 20 of your NCAA teams are ranked. That means 22 are unranked. Multiply that by 4 years and that's 88 unranked teams who have played in the tournament during the past 4 years. 1 made it to the Sweet 16, and no further. Haven't we proved the point that these teams don't belong? How can WCSU possibly feel good about stealing a spot from Bowdoin, a team that would absolutely wipe the floor with them anytime and anywhere.

This system is uniform across every D3 sport to the best of my knowledge. I want to examine why it doesn't work in tennis and compare that to basketball and soccer. It's become extreme in men's tennis, now having only 5 teams qualify through Pool C. In women's tennis, I believe 9 still qualify through Pool C. I could live with 9, at least we would go down to #17 or #18 before someone wouldn't make it. Tennis, for the most part, is a rich person's sport. The kids who are going D3 are mostly from wealthy families who can afford a private university. A wealthy family typically means emphasis on education. Look at the teams who made the NCAA finals last year: Middlebury, Amherst, Emory, Wash U, Trinity, CMS, Carnegie Mellon, and the 8th could have easily been Johns Hopkins. You may as well rename it the Academic Bowl. The best academic schools dominate tennis, and there are a high density of those schools in the same conferences. You rarely see a school that's not an academic powerhouse break into the top echelon of D3 tennis. Cruz is there because they've been doing it for years and NCW is there because they get foreign players. Gustavus and Kzoo are weak now because they don't have the academic draw to get top recruits. Soccer and basketball are not as expensive to play as a kid. Due to those sports having more D1 scholarships, you get a weaker crowd in D3, not necessarily kids who are just looking for academics. Soccer has 4 academically elite schools currently in their top 10. Basketball has only 2 in their top 10. I have 8 of 10 in my rankings. There are still second-rate academic schools dominating those sports in D3. This just doesn't happen in tennis.

The NCAA system for D3 just doesn't work for tennis. It's unfair that Cruz can basically tank their season and still make the tournament, whereas Redlands and Chicago have incredible pressure to win every time they step on the court, because if they don't, they don't make NCAAs. If the average person saw that the #13 team in the country wasn't qualifying for a 42-team tournament, they would laugh. Think about that and think about how ridiculous it is. The Pool system just doesn't work for tennis. Even the coaches of the terrible Pool A teams know that. You should not omit a team from the NCAA tournament when they would beat 2/3 of the field easily. The NCAA system for D3 tennis needs to be changed immediately, even the teams who it benefits know that. The problem is that the NCAA is too ignorant to see it.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

2011 Preliminary Rankings - October 18th

As of now here's what I have for my preseason power rankings. These could easily change as there is often a lot of off-season activity with teams losing and gaining players or other news. Despite having 4 months until the season really kicks off, I feel there is always something to discuss. A lot more effort and preparation is going into the season previews too. I'll be posting a lot of tweets as well.

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

Just missed the cut: Denison, Skidmore, Carleton, UT-Tyler, Vassar, Kalamazoo, Bates

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Article for on Advantage of D3

Currently, there are so many tools and services available to help parents and players successfully navigate the recruiting process. While these are all wonderful methods for finding the right school for each player, I believe a large group of schools may sometimes be overlooked when many top juniors look at college. Those would be the 300+ programs that make up NCAA Division 3. Today, I'll discuss why Division 3 can be a great option for American juniors all the way from 1 to 5 stars, boys and girls alike.

I'm a big believer in statistics, so let me start by providing three sets of statistics that briefly highlight Division 3 tennis.

To begin, I looked at 4 and 5 star players in the classes of 2006 and 2007. Among these players, 242 went to Division 1 from high school and 30 went to Division 3. Of those 242 to D1, only 134 consistently started for their team, 86 played in the NCAA tournament and 68 have either transferred schools or quit the team. Of the 30 who went to Division 3, 27 consistently start for their team, 23 have played in the NCAA tournament and 5 transferred or quit the team.

To get a larger sample size of D3, I looked at 3, 4 and 5 stars who went D3 in the classes of 2006, 2007 and 2008. There are 133 total players in this category. Of those 133, 94 consistently start for their team, 80 have played in the NCAA tournament and only 17 have transferred schools or quit the team.

My last statistic is a demographic of D3. I looked at the top 6 singles players on each of the top 20 teams in Division 3. The breakdown is as follows.
5 stars: 2
4 stars: 39
3 stars: 40
2 stars: 19
0 or 1 star: 10
International: 10
I will also mention that there are currently 9 kids in this breakdown who transferred from Division 1.

So what does all of this mean? Typically, when a junior tennis player thinks of Division 3, they think of strong academics and not-so-strong tennis. The former is definitely true. If you look the top 75 National Universities and the top 75 Liberal Arts Colleges according US News and World Report, nearly half of them compete in NCAA Division 3 tennis. When choosing Division 3, players will definitely be able to get a great education but will also be able to play top notch tennis. A great part about D3 is the variety among programs. If a player wishes to train 3-4 hours a day, the opportunity is there to do so. If a player needs to miss practice for an academic conflict, that is also extremely acceptable. D3 typically doesn't mirror the rigid practice schedules of D1, and there is a lot more flexibility when it comes to athletics.

I spoke with Matt Solomon, a recent graduate of Whitman College, about the differences between D1 and D3. Matt played at Whitman for his first two years as well as his senior year, but transferred to Boise State for the spring of his junior year because he wanted to experience D1 competition. During this season, the Broncos defeated Alabama in NCAAs before falling to Ohio State in the Round of 16. Matt started at #3 doubles for Boise and commented on the student-athlete experience as well as the difference in level of play between the two divisions.

"In my experiences, the balance is tilted significantly towards athletics for a D1 athlete and contrarily, is tilted heavily towards academics for a D3 athlete. At Boise State, practice lasted either 2 or 3 hours depending on the day. Three times a week we would go to the gym for one hour for weights and running... At Whitman, I was provided with ample opportunity to grow as a complete person. For example, this past year I was advertising manager for our school newspaper and I was on the executive board of the Whitman investment club... I expected the #3 doubles spot at places like Pepperdine, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Virginia to be at a considerably higher level than top doubles teams in Division III, however this was not the case. I think it’s a huge testament to Division III tennis that I was able to go from D3 to D1 and be competitive with some of the best #3 teams in the country."

I pose the following question to all junior players. Unless your goal is to become a professional player or a tennis coach, why would you choose a school that emphasizes tennis over academics? The NCAA ad campaign of "almost all of us are going pro in something other than sports" exemplifies this point quite well. D3 gives you the opportunity to concentrate on your schoolwork while still playing a high level of tennis. You will be prepared for the real world, whether it be at a larger research university or a small liberal arts college. You don't need to be academically outstanding to be accepted into a D3 school and there are often financial aid packages that can take the place of an athletic scholarship that you would receive in D1. The thing that is guaranteed is that the emphasis will be placed on student, before athlete, and you will come out of college as a more disciplined person.

I spoke with Coach Chuck Willenborg of Johns Hopkins University about the academic and athletic success of his program. Coach Willenborg just finished his 6th season at the helm of Hopkins Men's and Women's programs. He played at the University of Miami and had previously coached at his alma mater as well as Pepperdine University. The Johns Hopkins women climbed as high as #10 in the country this year their men were as high as #8.

"One thing I feel that gets overlooked when talking about Division III is the graduation rate of players leaving the program. All the rules are geared for the players to do well in school and feel that we take advantage of this. In Hopkins case, we take a lot of pride in our teams having very high GPAs while winning conference titles and competing on a national level. In my six years at Hopkins, we have placed 12 players in medical school at a 100% rate. The national average for students going to medical school is under 35%. This success is possible because of reduced amount of practice time."

On too many occasions, I believe naive junior tennis players are steered in the wrong direction and blinded by the prestige of being a Division 1 athlete. They are pressured by parents and often coaches to maximize only their tennis ability without exploring their other talents. Unless you are a highly recruited blue chip player, the chances are good that you may never win a conference title or play deep into an NCAA tournament. D3 gives you the opportunity to be competitive on the national level and really feel like you are playing for something when you step on the courts every day. With international players filling up more and more roster spots of the top D1 teams, the American juniors are being pushed to the lower ranks of D1 and often to the middle or bottom of their lineup and conference. Top D3 programs would be competitive with most of the Ivies and could compete for a title in an academically strong conference such as the Patriot League.

While D3 may not be right for everyone, it is certainly worth a look for many incoming college tennis players. The tennis continues to get stronger and we can still advertise numerous teams and players that qualify for Academic All-American status. Just take a look at the quality of players that have entered D3 over the past four years and you will realize that it is a great place for incoming college tennis players to develop, and more importantly it truly reflects the term student-athlete.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

2010 Recap and 2011 Preview

There wasn't a whole lot of mystery as to who would win the national title this year but I think Midd was extremely deserving starting 5 seniors at the nationals. Amherst obviously had a great run and Emory's streak of 8 consecutive Final 4's came to an end. 3 Western teams had surprisingly good seasons and don't forget Trinity (TX) who also had a great season. NCW and CMU also cracked the top 10 for the first time in school history and there's a good chance they will stay there for years to come.

I mentioned in a piece last year that I thought the high school graduating class of 2006, and now the college graduating class of 2010, changed D3 tennis for good. There were many high profile recruits entering D3 and now they are departing, but their teams have become stronger and all these teams have attracted more highly ranked juniors. Looking to 2011, most teams get hit with key graduations, but there's also a very impressive freshman class entering and I'm sure there will be transfers that I don't know about yet. Amherst has lost in the national title match 2 years in a row now, but from the looks of it they will just be sick next year. They return all 6 starters from their runner-up team and they also get one of the best recruits D3 has ever seen. Amherst looks to be a level above everyone else heading into next year but there's no such thing as a guaranteed win and that's why they play. I'm going to look at a season recap for each of my top 25 as well as a quick look at next year.

Washington & Lee - The Generals had a decent year, about what I would expect from them and their team seems to be maturing. They took back the conference title and made it to the Sweet 16 so I think they have to consider this season a success. They are still a very young team and I think they could have top 20 potential next year. Hayden White was probably playing a little over his head in the fall. I consider him a good 1, but not a great 1. Their doubles was streaky all season and they are traditionally strong here so it needs to be fixed for next season. They just don't have the talent to hang with the big boys in the Atlantic South right now and I expect that to continue for several years. The Generals should be somewhere between 20 and 25 next season.

Salisbury - The Gulls had a good season getting up as high as #14 in the country with wins against Kalamazoo and Washington & Lee, but they were unable to defeat their nemesis Mary Washington as they went 0-2 against the Eagles this season. This was probably about as strong as Salisbury gets and about as weak as Mary Wash gets yet the Eagles were able to win the conference for the 11th consecutive year. The Gulls get crushed with graduations and they bring in 1 player who's probably a potential starter. Salisbury has good player development but I see them struggling to be in the top 30 next year. They probably won't make the tournament unless the NCAA selection is changed as they get significantly weaker and Mary Wash gets stronger.

Mary Washington - One of the worst seasons in program history for these guys as they just haven't been themselves the past two years. A 2nd consecutive round of 32 loss in NCAAs to a team ranked below them and they will finish outside the top 20 for the first time in many years. For Mary Wash standards this was a bad year, but if you look at the inexperience on this team it's not a terrible year. The Eagles have great player development and they return 5 of 6 starters. They bring in their typical class of 2 3-star recruits and I would expect at least one of them to make an impact on the starting lineup next year. I'd be very surprised if UMW doesn't break into the top 20 next year but I think they have a couple years to go before they see the top 15 again. This team has a bright future and they are a team to watch next year.

UT-Tyler - The Patriots had a very young team this year and they lost their top 2 from a team that finished just outside the top 20 in 2009. I didn't expect a lot from Tyler this year and in the regular season they didn't really produce. I don't think they beat a ranked team yet they still managed to win their conference for the 3rd year in a row and qualify for the tournament. The ASC is no pushover and the Patriots are establishing a dynasty. This was a young team but you knew they had potential and it showed as they beat Mary Washington 5-3 in NCAAs even after trailing 2-1 heading into singles. This was the only ranked team they beat during the season but it was the biggest match of the season. If you told Tyler they would make the Sweet 16 before the season began I think they would have taken that result. They should be similar next year as they lose their top player but they are also fairly deep. A good end to the season for Tyler and expect similar results next year.

Pomona-Pitzer - The Hens started pretty well beating Mary Washington but they just can't get over that hump and into the elite teams in the country. With the current selection process the Hens have almost no chance of making the tournament given the top teams in their conference and their inability to recruit really top players due to the college's stringent admission standards for athletes. P-P is still a tough team who can knock off a top 15 opponent on the right day. They have established themselves as a consistent top 30 team in D3 and I expect them to crack the top 20 next year. The thing that they need to focus on most is competing with Redlands and CLU. This is a tall task but it's not impossible. Pomona-Pitzer has a great coach and some strong players at the top of the lineup. They add a solid 3-star recruit and they should have a very respectable team next year that should be in the 17-25 range.

Chicago - These perennial underachievers kept underachieving in 2010. This is clearly a top 15 roster and although they cracked the top 15 for a portion of the season, they are lucky to end the season inside the top 20. They actually had a good beginning to the season with a close 5-4 loss against Wash U and then a 7-2 win against a strong DePauw team. They didn't have Zhang for their opening round conference match and this cost them as they lost to Brandeis to all but end their season. They lose some good senior leadership but they bring in a very strong class consisting of 3 4-stars and 2 foreign players. Recruiting hasn't been the problem for Chicago but rather developing the players they get. It seems as though a lot of their guys get worse or quit the team. Chicago will have what amounts to a top 10 quality roster next year, it's just a matter of them putting it together for a whole season. I'd be surprised if they aren't top 15 next year and I think they can make a run at the top 10 as well if their recruits don't succumb to their outrageous academic workload.

Whitman - This is the definition of a solid D3 program. These guys are often overlooked but they are top 25 every year and almost always win their conference. This is a perennial D3 power that attracts second-level recruits and turns them into very strong players. They are very consistent but they are going to have a hard time breaking into that next level of teams will all the great teams in D3 now. They lose arguably their best player in school history in Matt Solomon along with a few other starters, but they get a top 200 recruit and one of the best to ever attend Whitman. They should be somewhat similar to this year because I know they are very deep. They are a shoe-in for the top 25 in 2011 and I wouldn't be surprised if this team gives some higher ranked teams trouble. Again, this is a very solid program one that should hover between 20 and 25 for most of the 2011 season.

Kalamazoo - I think Coach Riley did a great job with this team this year. They definitely surpassed my expectations moving up to #13 in the country and even giving Wash U a scare in the Sweet 16. What Kalamazoo wasn't able to do was put a complete season together. They had a bad stretch in the middle and as I said in the pre-season preview, the next few years may determine the future of this program. They lose 3 of their top 4 and it seems they only have 1 recruit coming in. If this is the case, I don't see them as a top 30 team next year. I find it hard to believe that a team like this would fall off the map in D3 tennis, but it did happen to Gustavus this year so it can happen to anyone. Without a great academic draw, recruiting is tough for Kzoo, but extremely important for the next few years. If they can fill those big shoes left by Boyd, Jadun and Brown we can see them in the top 25 next year but as of now it looks like they may have their worst year in quite some time.

Redlands - The Bulldogs haven't missed NCAAs since the early 90s and a finish of 16 in the country is actually respectable for all the things that went wrong this year. Usually Redlands has some of the best development in the country but their players didn't seem to improve much this year. One of their best players, Mike Reading, also took time off from school and didn't play. I think a lot will depend upon if he returns to the team for the 2011 season. The good thing for Redlands is even in a bad year they finished top 20. I think this is a real momentum-based team and they never got it going this season. They have to battle every year to make the tournament and came up short this year. With the emergence of CLU, they will have a very tough time making it next year as well. Redlands brings in one solid recruit and graduates a very solid player in Liebman. This team is still pretty young and if they can stay healthy and get confident early in the season next year, I think we could see a return to the top 15 for the Bulldogs in 2011.

DePauw - I think the Tigers season shows how little margin for error there is when competing for a Pool C bid. The Tigers started off well giving Emory and Hopkins a hard time at Indoors, but they slipped shortly thereafter with home losses to Kalamazoo and Chicago. A #15 finish is about what I predicted for the Tigers as they had a bad hour of tennis at SCACs and got swept by Trinity in doubles. They lose 2 starters from this year's team and these will be big shoes to fill. DePauw is a team with above average development and this is the first year in the past decade that they have missed the tournament. The Tigers don't have the academic draw of some other schools yet they manage to compete with the best every season. This team plays good doubles but I think they will be in trouble next year against a very tough Trinity (TX) team. I would expect a finish between 16-20 for the 2011 DePauw squad and with the current selection process they will probably miss the tournament. They bring in 2 2-star recruits but this won't be enough to crack the top 15.

Trinity (CT) - My prediction for these guys was pretty accurate this season as their lack of an out of conference schedule kept them out of the tournament. This is a very good team but I don't think they got quite enough out of their 3 and 4 guys, although the NESCAC was very tough this year. You could almost say they were done after they lost their early season match to Bowdoin. Hopefully they will schedule some more teams in California and this will allow them to make a better run at making NCAAs. They lose their best player in Spencer Feldman and I'm surprised to see they have no recruits listed as entering for 2011. 3 of their top 4 this year are transfers so they may be able to attract another top player to replace Feldman. It's tough for Trinity because with the current NCAA selection process it's nearly impossible for them to make the tournament unless they have an outstanding year. They should come back with another top 25 team and their freshman class could decide whether they break the top 20.

Bowdoin - Bowdoin got two very unlucky breaks this year. The first was an injury to Oscar Pena and the second was the NCAA rule change at the end of the season which kept Bowdoin out of the NCAA tournament. This team was just as solid as any other year, they just got unlucky. I was impressed with their early season wins against Trinity (CT) and Redlands, but the loss to Trinity (TX) is the one that probably kept them out of the tournament. This is becoming a very consistent top 15 program and I don't see that changing anytime in the next few years. The Polar Bears needed to focus on breaking into that next level of teams. I doubt they can do it next year, but a good goal for Bowdoin is the single digits in the national rankings. They continue to bring in solid recruits and this is a necessity if they want to compete with the top 3 in the NESCAC. I expect them to be stronger that Trinity (CT) next year, but I doubt they will finish higher than 4th in NESCAC. I expect a similar year in 2011 for Bowdoin and hopefully they can sneak into the NCAA tournament somehow.

Johns Hopkins - Everyone knows Hopkins had a bad year and didn't meet expectations but the most important thing is that they need to learn from it. I said in my season preview the expectations may get to JHU and this is what happened. They started well, but when they had to pick up their level to compete with the best in the country they couldn't do it. I think they have to forget about this season and the thing to look forward to is they will probably have little in the way of expectations next year. This is still a very good and dangerous team and I don't expect them to leave the top 15. I'm not sure if they are going to enter back into the top 10. They lose a great senior leader in Maldow but bring in a strong class of 5 players highlighted by a Finnish recruit who could see time near the top of the lineup. If their middle of the lineup and doubles can hang with the best in the country they can be dangerous next year. I actually expect a similar year to this one for Hopkins and I wouldn't be surprised to see them around 12 or 13 at the end of 2011 as well.

Kenyon - Kenyon had a very good previous two years, but they fell just short this year. I expected big things from the Lords this year and I'm not exactly sure why they weren't able to produce. The Lords started off well with close matches against Emory and Cruz as well as a near victory against Wash U. This was their season in a nutshell though as they were very close but couldn't get over the hump. I was questioning them, but they came out and beat Hopkins in a 9-0 route in a match that had them looking like a national title contender. The match that made their season go sour was the 5-4 loss to CMU where Kenyon led 2-1 and had 5 first sets. After this I think they may have stopped believing and I think Trinity just wanted it more in the Sweet 16. The Lords lose 4 great seniors who turned them into a national power for the past 3 years. All indications point to Kenyon falling back down to #20ish since they only return 2 starters, but they are supposed to get a transfer from VCU who will potentially play #1. I expect the Lords to hover between 15 and 19 for most of next season and they need another Greenberg to get them back into the top 10. They will miss his play but more important they will miss his leadership.

Williams - Looking back, their season was so short I'm not even sure what went wrong with the Ephs in 2010. This is a program used to being in the Final 8 every year and they weren't able to do it. The good news is this team is very young as they were starting 4 freshmen by the end of the season. Poor doubles play plagued them early in the season and I feel like the loss to NCW really got to them. They struggled against Trinity (CT), but they did have some flashes of brilliance when they killed Bowdoin and beat Amherst on the road in the NESCAC semis. The Amherst win is what makes me see promise in next year's Williams team. The bad thing is that I think they are slipping down to 3rd in the NESCAC and will struggle to get back to the top. Amherst and Midd are widening the gap and Williams is getting the recruits, but they aren't producing. They lose two great seniors and bring in a strong NorCal recruit who could see time at the bottom of the lineup. This is still going to be a young team but hopefully the year of college tennis under their belt will help them improve. I'm expecting Williams to be between 8 and 12 for most of next year but a deep run in NCAAs may be tough if they end up in tough regional.

Trinity (TX) - A very interesting season for the Tigers. I had high hopes for them coming into this season but they didn't start well with losses to CMU and Redlands and a blowout loss to CMS. This team has a lot of heart though and their tennis is so important to them. Despite playing some weak Texas teams, the developed throughout the season particularly in doubles and they were ready to go against DePauw. They used their strong doubles play to win 5-3 and take back their conference after 3 consecutive runner-ups. The highlight of their season was obviously the routine 5-2 against Kenyon in the Sweet 16 and they gave CMS all they could handle before falling in a match that featured some spectacular doubles. The Tigers return their whole team next year as well as gaining 2 good 3-star recruits. They actually don't get big time recruits like other schools but their development is some of the best in the country. The Tigers are going to be extremely dangerous next year and to me they are a shoe-in for the top 10 in the country. Depending on the performance of their freshmen, the top 5 isn't out of the question. They have to wait and see if they get a bid to Indoors next year, but if they do they will certainly be a threat to win it.

NC Wesleyan - Some of the mystique of this team is gone for me and they have now officially announced themselves on the D3 national scene. They still don't play an elite schedule although they did pick it up a notch this year with matches against Hopkins, Williams and Mary Washington. They also had a scheduled match against Wash U rained out. They started very well with a great win against Williams but they were blown out by Hopkins and this gave them motivation for revenge later in the season. They got through their conference comfortably and had the biggest win of the season in the Sweet 16 up to that point. With the exception of the NCAA quarterfinal, that match was the only match of the season where a team came down from 3-0 to win. A great effort in the Sweet 16 but the Bishops were just outplayed by the eventual champions in the quarters. A great season for NCW and they look the continue their time in the top 10 by bringing in another top notch recruiting class, although I have heard they may lose a few guys on their current team. NCW should just sneak into Indoors and they are dangerous once they get there. Keep an eye out for these guys and they will grow as a team as they get older and get more experience against top competition.

Carnegie Mellon - We saw something this year from them that we hadn't seen in the past and that was consistency. They had their best season in school history and had many good wins playing a very tough schedule. They showed resiliency after a shaky Indoors and had good wins against Trinity (TX), Hopkins and Kenyon. After Indoors and prior to NCAAs, their only losses were to CMS and Emory and they beat numerous ranked teams. They played good doubles and were only swept once the whole season and that was the NCAA quarters. Their depth really carried them in singles and they should be very pleased with this season. Looking forward, they lose 2 very good players and I am shocked to see them bringing in no recruits. If this is the case, they may slip a little next year, but even one guy who could play in the middle of the lineup would probably allow them to remain in the top 10. As of now, I expect them to slip down to #11 or 12. They will qualify for Indoors and this could be a good chance for them to get revenge on Cruz as it looks like that's a potential 1st round match. CMU had a good season, but the most important thing now is to keep the good seasons coming and carry this confidence into next year.

Cal Lutheran - In the beginning of the season, every time CLU was challenged they rose to the occasion and took away the match from their opponent. They were playing unbelievable tennis and beat Cruz and Amherst getting contributions from everywhere in the lineup. However, once they ran into CMS and finally lost a match, all the confidence seemed to disappear. It's as simple as Cal Lutheran peaked at the wrong time during the season as they came out of the gates hot and finished poorly. I'm tempted to say they were playing over their head early season but I guess we will wait until next year to find out if that's true. They should finish 7 or 8 in the country which is obviously an amazing year for them since most expected them around #20. They lose two starters and it is imperative that these guys be replaced if this team wants to remain in the top 10. They have a knack for getting good transfers so we will see if they can bring in another one to complement their big two. Despite a great season they were still the 3rd best in the West. Similar to CMU, they had one of their best years in school history but the key is to see whether they can keep it going. They too will be invited to Indoors and it could be a big confidence boost if they do well.

Emory - Despite a very good season, these guys are still scratching their heads as to what happened in the quarterfinals. For a big portion of the season, it seemed to me that the Eagles would be on a collision course with Midd in the national finals. They started a bit slow with a semifinal loss against Wash U at Indoors but the rest of their D3 season went well as they had wins against Kenyon and Williams before beating CMU and Wash U on back to back days to retake the UAA title that they had held between 1990-2008. Going into the tournament, Emory was the second favorite to win the whole thing. They had the best 1 and the best 2 in the country along with one of the best 4s and arguably the best 3 doubles team. They were all set to take on Midd in the final but I think they forgot that they had to work hard to get there. The match against Amherst just slipped away and its one that the team won't forget. They return their top 4 for next season and get a couple recruits who should see time near the bottom of the lineup. With Goodwin and Pottish on your team anything is possible. The end of this season didn't go as planned and their streak of 8 Final 4's came to an end, but you can be sure they will be back next season and ready to compete for another national title.

UC Santa Cruz - I had zero expectations for Cruz coming into this season after they graduated their top 5 from their 2009 National Title team, but they proved early on that I was mistaken. They blindsided the entire country and had 3 great wins in a row to take the Indoors title and remain as #1 in the nation even though I had them at 10 in my pre-season rankings. The rest of their season was nothing to write home about as inexperience caught up with them and they were beaten 3 times mid-season, twice by teams they would need to beat to qualify for the Final 8. I think Cruz peaked at the wrong time and they didn't have a chance to get the bottom of their lineup swinging against foes the quality of CLU and CMS. They entered their regional as the #3 seed and had an easy win against CLU before falling in 5-3 to CMS in a match where they had plenty of opportunities. I think there are definitely positives to take from this season because Cruz had only 2 experienced players and still managed to be #1 for a portion of the season, and they will probably finish top 5. Looking forward, Pybas will be back next year and Koenig will turn into a D3 superstar. The bottom of their lineup is still a bit suspect and I would predict a similar season to this one. I think they need to pick up their recruiting a bit to hang with CMS and another Indoors title next year would be a shocker. I also expect the Slugs to finish runner-up in the West again.

Wash U - My preseason pick to win nationals had a good season, but not a great season for their standards. Looking at the big picture, I expected a bit more from all of them. They were the overwhelming favorite to win Indoors heading into the final and they got swept in doubles winning only 11 total games. They snuck out a very close win against Kenyon and I actually expected them to win the conference but they were beaten fairly comfortably by Emory. They will finish 4th in the country for the 2nd year in a row but they were fairly inconsistent in my opinion. They played great matches in the quarters and semis of nationals blanking CMU and nearly upsetting the national champs after having several match points at 1 doubles which could have turned the match. It's hard to criticize a #4 national ranking but I will say again that I expected a bit more. Replacing Watts just can't be done as he's been an automatic singles win for 4 years. They bring in a decent class, but my guess is they won't quite be as good as they were this year. They will definitely be a fixture in the top 8 but I wouldn't call them a true threat to win a national title. They could get confidence with a good showing at Indoors and I think a potential trouble spot could be the middle of the lineup if Woods is moving up to the top. They have to get their doubles going and I expect a slight drop for Wash U and a finish between 6 and 8 next year.

CMS - I actually didn't have very high expectations for the Stags coming into this year since they had a lot of youth of their team, but they really performed well with their only losses coming to the eventual national champion and runner-up. The Stags played a very tough schedule as usual and had great early season wins against CMU and Trinity (TX) before dominating their conference and barely escaping their regional. Although they were somewhat inexperienced, the Stags used the experience they did have to take out Cruz on their home courts in the regional final. They didn't panic after trailing in doubles in the quarters but the one they will remember is 7 match points in the semifinals. They haven't won a national title in nearly 30 years and they fell just short again. Another 3rd place finish is nothing to be ashamed of, but that Amherst match in the semis will be talked about for years. One of these years, the Stags will get over that hump and win a national title. They have a very promising team next year despite losing two important seniors. The Stags are so deep but they get 3 potential starters in a 4-star from Oregon, a transfer from Bucknell, and an international recruit from the Philippines. I've heard all these players could see the top 6. If they can remain consistent in doubles, they should be the main contender to knock off Amherst next year with their outstanding depth. If Erani steps it up a level and generates wins against top teams, this is a potential national champion in 2011.

Amherst - What a roller coaster season for these guys. They were really inconsistent all year long and they looked like they wouldn't match their great run from 2009. They proved all the critics wrong and finished 2nd in the country for the 2nd year in a row but let's take a look at how they got there. They decided to play their fall matches again and they went 0-2 against the good teams after going 3-0 the year before. We will see if they continue these fall matches. They started the spring with a loss against CLU where they really got blown out before being only 1 of 2 teams to beat CMS this year. They were between 7 and 10 in the country for the majority of the season but everyone knew they were better than that. They were inconsistent in all parts of the lineup although they did have a very good NESCAC regular season. With the NESCAC tournament on their home court I thought they had the potential to knock off Amherst. They ended up not making it that far after losing to Williams but with the luck of the NCAA draw they got to host regionals and got another chance at Williams. In one of the best matches of the season, Amherst won 5-2 and al 6 singles matches went 3 sets. The Jeffs had two incredible wins at nationals which don't need to be discussed again and they were really just overmatched against Midd in the finals. As I mentioned, 3rd time should be the charm for Amherst as they look like clearly the best team. They get the top recruit coming into D3 who should be great at 2 or 3 and they also get another 4-star who should be an excellent 4 or 5. Their whole team is back and they get several great additions which will make them very hard to beat.

Middlebury - In the preseason, I wasn't exactly sure how tough they would be, but when they started their regular season by romping Cruz and CMS, the rest of the nation sensed that they were in trouble. Midd really dominated everyone this season and there's not much more to say. They had some injury issues which turned the Amherst match into a battle and they nearly slipped in the NCAA semis against Wash U. Midd deserved this national title and they had a lot of guys really step up when the going got tough. Their players aren't flashy and aren't all that well known on the national scene, but guys like Andrew Lee, Conrad Olson, Andrew Thomson and Eliot Jia were really outstanding for the whole year. I've been told Lee is the Ironman of D3 after winning the teams then making a run to the semis of singles beating 2 seeds as well as the semis of doubles. I thought a Matt Seeberger Triple Crown could be coming when we were heading into the weekend. Overall, just a great performance by Midd start to finish. The bad news is that they are losing their 2 through 6 players but the good news is they have some depth and an outstanding recruiting class. I doubt they will repeat as national champs or even as NESCAC champs, but they should be top 5 as usual next year. A lot will depend on Midd's incoming batch of 5 freshmen, and don't be surprised to see another national title when they are all seniors as well.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Two More Things This Season

1. For each of my top 25 year-end teams, I'll do a season recap plus a look at next season. Coaches and players, if there are recruits that are NOT listed on, please e-mail me letting me know who you're getting. If I hear nothing, I will just use the recruits. Also, if you are getting any transfers, please let me know. Up to this point, I have not heard of any schools getting a transfer.

2. I'll be writing an article for on the advantages of going D3 over D1. If you wish to share any thoughts on the issue, please e-mail me. I'm going to discuss things such as 5-stars being standouts in D3 versus #7 or 8 on their top D1 team. The ability to compete for a national title versus being in the middle of your conference. And the fact that there's less pressure on non-scholarship players. Lastly, I will talk about the improving quality of D3. If you think I should highlight any other points or have any ideas, please email me.

Thursday, May 27, 2010 Year End Top 25

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

All-Tournament Team

1st Team
1. Cocanougher/Kowal, Trinity (TX)
2. Jia/Olson, Middlebury
3. Pottish/Redmond, Emory

1. John Watts, Wash U
2. Andrew Lee, Middlebury
3. Conrad Olson, Middlebury
4. Max Woods, Wash U
5. Elliot Jia, Middlebury
6. Mac Cahill, CMS

2nd Team
1. Lee/Thomson, Middlebury
2. Caplan/Lopp, Emory
3. Carroll/Murray, Trinity (TX)

1. Austin Chafetz, Amherst
2. Mikey Lim, CMS
3. Moritz Koenig, Amherst
4. Colin Egan, Emory
5. Alex Johnson, CMS
6. Kareem Farah, Wash U

Final 8 Recap

I'll start by saying congratulations to Middlebury and their outstanding core of seniors. They deserve it after a great season.

I'll go through each day starting with the morning quarters on Tuesday. From what I've heard, the effort from NCW was not very good. It seemed as though they thought they couldn't win and gave Middlebury too much respect. After Midd swept the doubles, it was over and there's really not much more to say. Midd romped NCW in singles and this match was over in about 2 hours. The experience for Midd paid off in this one. Much like the other morning quarterfinal, one team was experienced and looking to win the tournament while the other one was just happy to make the Final 8. Midd advances to the semis. The other quarterfinal was the same result, just less extreme. I thought CMU would come out with a nothing to lose attitude, and maybe they did, but it backfired as Wash U's experience on this stage paid off and resulted in an easy doubles sweep. Like I said, the last time I picked Wash U to lose, they swept Hopkins in doubles at Indoors 8-4 across the board. The same exact thing happened in this one. The Indoors first round and this match were almost identical. CMU had a great season but they clearly were not ready to play and they couldn't match the intensity of Wash U. The Bears experience just paid off. After the doubles in this one, I thought Wash U may have a shot at Midd if they could keep that dominance in doubles going. The afternoon matches brought two much closer results. The doubles in the CMS-Trinity match was absolutely outstanding and maybe the highest quality doubles matches of the tournament. I wasn't wrong about Trinity's outstanding doubles lineup, but CMS managed to get the 1 very important point that they needed. CMS' dominance in singles was seen pretty quickly as they took first sets at 2 through 6. Trinity mounted a mini comeback when they won 2nd sets at 3 and 4 but wins at 2, 5 and 6 quickly pushed the Stags to a 4-2 lead before MacColl closed to end it. This is what I expected to happened as Trinity came out fired up, but the better team won in the end. CMS advanced to the semis but they had to be questioning their doubles a bit. The last match of the day will go down as the most amazing result in D3 history. Emory sweeps doubles with easy wins at 1 and 3 and a breaker at 2 which was actually a big surprise for me. Let's go over what Amherst was able to do. They were down 3-0. Emory has the best 1 in the country, the best 2 in the country and arguably the best 4 in the country. Pottish hadn't lost a D3 dual match all spring and Goodwin has never lost in a D3 dual match in his two year career. The chances of Amherst winning this were 1 in 100. Emory seems to be well on its way to its 9th straight Final 4. Despite losing 1st sets at 1 and 2 which was a shocker, Emory wins 1st sets at 3, 4 and 6. The report I got was that the heat and humidity were awful Tuesday afternoon. Amherst turned the match in an hour. The took second sets at 1 and 3 through 6. Despite Goodwin winning the second set to even the match, he was getting tired and Kahan looked on his way to an upset win. This is a big surprise for me given the heat in Atlanta. The comeback began with wins at 5, 1 and 2, but Egan won at 4 to force Amherst to win the last 2 matches. Caplan and Gross were late in the 2nd set but Gross got the set to turn the match and he easily took the 3rd. Koenig was so clutch and pulled off the unbelievable upset for Amherst. Emory was the team that had the best chance to beat Midd and I still am wondering what would happen if they won that match. Amherst just seems to always be prepared for the tournament just like last year. They moved on to take on CMS Wednesday.

We now had 4 teams left standing but all 4 knew they would be playing over the next 2 days. With the heat and humidity, there's something in the back of your mind that says save it for the final. This would not be the case as both matches turned out to be marathons. Starting with Midd and Wash U, I think everyone knew that the Bears had to take a lead after doubles to win this match. I knew Watts would win and the Bears had a shot at the bottom of the lineup, but Midd is a little too strong if they have a lead after doubles. 2 and 3 doubles were split quickly and it came down to 1 where Wash U had a match point serving up 8-7 but failed to capitalize and got crushed in the tiebreak. This threw the momentum in Midd's favor but that wouldn't stop the Bears from starting hot in singles. Wash U took 1st sets at 1, 3, 4 and 6 to turn the match in their favor. The first sets from Putterman and Woods were both big surprises to me since Thomson and Olson had both been great all season. Something I haven't mentioned yet is fitness and conditioning. It's something that I rarely discuss but it was certainly a factor during all 3 days of the tournament. Midd took second sets at 1 through 5 in this semifinal and I have to attribute this to superior conditioning. They were able to close at 2 and 5 giving them a 4-1 lead but Wash U was even or leading in all the remaining matches. Watts won as expected and Farah pulled what I would consider an upset at #6 singles to make the score 4-3. Woods hung on for a win but Olson was about to win at #3 to give the match to Midd and he did just that. Looking back, that #1 doubles match could have turned this if Wash U ended up winning. In hindsight, the Bears were only 1 point away from the national championship match for the 2nd time in 3 years. Midd advances in one of their closest matches of the season and they are the favorite in the final no matter who they play. The second semifinal was just an epic match between the underdogs from Amherst and CMS, who was just so hungry to break through and win a national title. The Stags have been to the semis many times but haven't won the title in over 25 years. This was a good chance for them with a very deep team. Both teams trailed in doubles in the their quarterfinal but it was Amherst who was able to jump out to a 2-1 lead with easy wins at 1 and 2. Herst's singles looked dominant the day before so you had to give them the edge heading into singles play. Just like the other semi, CMS comes out and takes 4 first sets to swing the match in their favor. 1, 2 and 5 were all straight sets and after these it was tied 3-3. CMS took a 4-3 lead with a hard fought win at 6 and it came down to 3 and 4. In one of the most amazing comebacks I've seen, Koenig was down 6-1 in the 3rd set breaker. CMS had 5 match points in a row to go to the national championship match and failed to convert. Koenig saved a total of 7 match points and made it 4-4 with an 11-9 win in the breaker. Shortly thereafter, Waterman closed for Amherst to give the Jeffs a 5-4 win and send them to their 2nd national final in as many years. The amazing part of this was that Herst missed the tournament all together in 2008. I don't know which result was more impressive for Herst between the quarters and the semis. An amazing job by Garner and by the team.

Just a quick note on the 3rd-4th match, impressive win by CMS. Every year this is a hard match to play after falling short of your goal of making the finals. Especially in the fashion CMS lost the day before, a very good win for their program. They were probably more ready to play than Wash U. The Bears had come so close the day before against the team that was supposed to be unbeatable and they seemed a little flat in doubles with the exception of the #2 position. The Stags were strong as always but I don't know when they are finally going to get over the hump and win a title. There will always be that cloud hanging over them until they do it and I can't wait to see them fight it out with Cruz again next year. Wash U had a great season but I would say they didn't quite live up to expectations. The semifinal was their season in a nutshell as they had 3 great opportunities and went 0 for 3 in their biggest matches of the season. The Watts loss will really hurt but this is still a young team who will be a contender for many years to come. There's not a ton to discuss when it comes to the final. Midd dominated start to finish and singles was an absolute blowout. I was surprised at the quality of Midd's 2 doubles team throughout the tournament and I give co-MVP honors to Lee, Olson and Jia. I don't know if I can pick 1 because they were all so tough throughout. After about 30 minutes of singles play, this wasn't a match. Amherst needed that lead after doubles but the freshmen Kahan and Sorrell both hit some rough patches and Midd took control with their experience. After doubles, despite the comeback on Day 1, the outcome wasn't really in doubt. A shame for Amherst getting crushed 2 years in a row for the final, but I have them as a huge favorite to win the title next year. Midd was the best team this year. They are probably the best team we've seen since the 2007 Cruz team and they deserved this win. They were only threatened twice during the season, but it's tough to lose when you have 5 great seniors. An unbelievable season for the Panthers and they bring home their 2nd national title of the decade.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Emory-Amherst Preview

I wouldn't have believed you if you said that these two would playing in the quarterfinals 3 months ago. Emory has quietly had a great season with no D3 losses since Indoors. Amherst on the other hand, hasn't quite met expectations but they have shown amazing potential with a 6-3 win against CMS on the road. Herst also gave Middlebury a very tough time in a 5-4 loss, but they also lost 7-2 against CLU and 5-3 against Williams. This match could come down to which Herst shows up on Tuesday. These two took opposite roads to get to this point. Emory cruised through their regional without dropping a match and Amherst played a great match with Williams where all 6 singles matches went 3 sets. Emory is clearly the favorite because of their top two players, and I feel like Herst may have to win 1 of those 2 spots to win. The deceptive part about Emory is the bottom of their lineup is also excellent. They can, however, be beaten in doubles. Amherst needs to have a great hour of tennis during doubles and a lead is must for the Jeffs. No one expected the Jeffs to make their run last year, but they got hot at the right time and they need to do it again this year.

In doubles, Amherst faces a must win situation at #2 doubles and I think they get this spot. Emory's 1 team hasn't been great, but Amherst's hasn't been either. I'm going to give this spot to Emory. The Pottish/Redmond duo haven't lost a match this spring in D3 and I think this trend continues. They should give Emory a 2-1 lead heading into the singles. Goodwin is almost an automatic win at #2 so this should make it 3-1 for Emory. Egan has also been nearly untouchable at 4 so I'd be surprised if he loses here. I think Chafetz needs a win against Pottish for Amherst to win this match and I doubt it will happen. Amherst also isn't deep enough to topple Lopp and Caplan at the bottom of the lineup. I think Emory wins this 5-1 and advances to the semis.

CMS-Trinity (TX) Preview

In my preview of the tournament for, I made a bold statement. I said that at the moment, Trinity (TX) has the best doubles lineup in the country. After dominating DePauw and then almost sweeping Kenyon, the Tigers are really looking tough. They are going to need the lead after doubles if they want to have any chance. This is the only quarterfinal that is a rematch of the regular season and as everyone knows, CMS won 9-0 only dropping 1 set in singles. Trinity is obviously playing better now than they were two months ago, but I would think CMS is as well. Will CMS come out with another 5-0 romp? Highly doubtful. Trinity should be able to hang in doubles if not win 2 or 3 of the matches. In singles, guys just need to step up for the Tigers. CMS is so deep and even a team like Cruz wasn't able to handle it. CMS is just better at every singles spot so Trinity almost needs to get lucky to win. I think the Tigers will really step up in doubles but it won't be enough.

Taking a look at the matches, all 3 doubles spots should be very close. Cocanougher/Kowal haven't been great but they need to win to keep their team in it. Then at 2 and 3, I think Trinity needs one of those spots and 2 is their best chance. The Tigers absolutely need to be up 2-1 after doubles and I think they will be. The good news for Trinity ends there. CMS should just take over in singles. The spots where Trinity has a chance are the top 3 and they would need all of them to win. My guess is that they will get none of them. I think CMS will easily run through the bottom of the lineup and win this 5-2. Trinity would need a massive effort in singles or a doubles sweep to make this match close.