Monday, January 18, 2010
Season Preview #11: Amherst
General Team Discussion – Amherst played their two biggest matches of the fall without 2 of their top 6 players and it showed in the results as the Jeffs lost to both Kenyon and CMU and dropped to #10 in the national rankings. I have no doubt that Amherst will quickly find its way back into the top 5 in the country and this 2010 team is certainly one of the top national title contenders. I consider Amherst to be the most complete team in the country, I don’t really see any weaknesses. They return almost all of their 2009 team and it seems as though Mark Kahan will be a very capable replacement for Zach Lerner, playing in either the 1 or 2 spot and possibly 1 doubles as well. Amherst has one of the deepest teams in the country and they have to be hungry to get their season started after the disappointing fall. Their national championship hopes, similar to the other contenders, come down to how well they play in nationals. They certainly have the tools to win, it’s just a matter of being on the same page on the right day. A NESCAC title could be another goal that Amherst should look at.
Where They’ll Win – Amherst is definitely one of the deepest teams in the country. I think their true strength is the bottom of the lineup with a potential Waterman-Koenig-Gross combination at 4-5-6 singles. The top of the lineup is very strong as well and I consider Chafetz a top contender for nationals, but I have to go with the bottom as their strength. If fall results are any indication, Waterman could be the best 4 in the country and Gross could also be the best 6. Kahan hasn’t truly been tested yet but if he’s at 3 singles this could be considered a strength as well.
Where They’ll Lose – Although I don’t consider it a true weakness, if you are going to beat Amherst it will be in doubles. What their teams will look like this Spring is unpredictable, but I think they will have trouble putting together 3 teams that can consistently win against top 10 competition. They certainly don’t have any weak spots throughout the singles lineup. Last year’s Amherst team had the dominant 1 doubles combo and I think they will have trouble replicating those wins with the loss of Lerner.
Schedule Analysis – They start in California with a nice warmup match against Salisbury before two big tests against Redlands and CMS. After these three, they have a few weeks of downtime before road matches against Bowdoin and Williams on consecutive weekends in early April. They also play both Trinity (CT) and Middlebury on the road but the big advantage for the Jeffs is that they will be hosting the NESCAC tournament and I would call them the favorite in that because of the home court advantage.