Saturday, January 2, 2010

Season Preview #1: Bowdoin

General Team Discussion - Since Coach Joyner took over just a few years ago, Bowdoin has proved that they are a national power. They have had success in the NESCAC and have found themselves in the Sweet 16 three straight years now. They have hovered in the 10-15 range since 2007 and they probably will be a fixture there for years to come. They had an upset win in the NESCAC tournament a few years ago, but for the most part I think they have established themselves for the time being as a very solid #4 in NESCAC, well ahead of Trinity (CT), but far behind the top 3. This 2010 team could be their weakest in a few years. I consider Sullivan and Pena to both be top 20 players in the country, but I'm concerned about the bottom half of their lineup. Neely/Pena had a great run to the NCAA finals last year and they will need to be a force at #1 doubles if Bowdoin wants to qualify for the tournament out of a very competitive Pool C. If my power rankings hold, they are team #7 from Pool C and miss the tournament. I doubt they have the team to knock off a top 3 NESCAC so they will need to win matches in their out of conference schedule. Bowdoin is dangerous this year as always and if they can manage to find themselves in the tournament, they could give Midd or Amherst a run for their money on the right day. Bowdoin will be competing with the SCAC #2 and possibly the UAA #4 for the last Pool C bid.

Where They'll Win - Bowdoin has 5 spots that they can win against any team in the country on the right day. Their doubles is strong as always with the defending NCAA runner up at #1. Sullivan should be able to carry whoever he plays with at 2 giving them another strong team and potential Anderson/Cranin combo at #3 could be a consistent winner. The last two spots where they are very strong are the top 2 singles spots. Sullivan is a former NCAA Semifinalist and can potentially take out Lebedoff, Chafetz or Peters. Pena is one of the top sophomores in the country and should go close to undefeated at #2 if he's playing to his potential. These two great players give Bowdoin a chance against anyone if they are on their game.

Where They'll Lose - If Bowdoin isn't ahead after doubles, they are in big trouble against any top 15 team. Typically a very deep team, their two graduating seniors really hurt them. They brought in a solid recruit who could see some time at 5 and 6, but I don't think they can get consistent wins 3 through 6 singles against other good teams. Anderson has typically been very good low in the lineup but his NESCAC opposition should be a little too much at the #3 spot. Neely could be a very good 6, but he has been in and out of the singles lineup during his career. Bowdoin needs to jump ahead in doubles to give their 1-2 punch a chance to lead them to victory.

Schedule Analysis - Their first 10 days of the season could determine their NCAA fate. They have huge out of conference matches against Trinity (TX) and Redlands in California. They will have a shot to knock off a beatable CMS team as well. A huge match for this team as always is their showdown with Trinity (CT) and this is a must-win. If Bowdoin comes out of their California trip with losses to Trinity (TX), Redlands and CMS, their NCAA chances look grim. Another match to keep an eye on would be a home match against Williams on April 24. This is winnable and could save their season if they are in a tough spot.