Saturday, January 23, 2010

Season Preview #17: Hampden-Sydney

General Team Discussion - To be honest, I didn't take HSC seriously until their win in the ODAC finals last year. I had been told they were a potential team to watch, but they didn't have a very good regular season. Their win to end the Generals' streak of 13 consecutive conference titles certainly got my attention along with many others and they are now a dangerous team entering the 2010 season returning almost their entire team. They play the top Atlantic South teams this year so we will get some idea of how good they are, but the unfortunate thing for HSC is that their season really comes down to about 4 hours on April 25. They beat W&L and they are in the tournament and ranked again, they lose and they miss the tournament and could end the season unranked. This is definitely a downside of the new NCAA selection process. HSC just doesn't have the team to gain a Pool C bid, so a conference win is a must. HSC has one of the best 1-2 punches in the country that no one knows about because they always seem to be injured. If he's healthy, I expect Moss to make NCAAs. If I were to make a prediction, I would say HSC comes up short against a deeper W&L team, but I was certainly wrong about this match last year.

Where They'll Win - This is about as simple as it gets. The Tigers have two of the most unknown players in D3 and both of these guys can hang with anyone in the country. Moss probably even has top 10 potential judging by some of his results, especially a dominant win over Hayden White in the fall. He should be a top AS player and an NCAA qualifier. Rich Pugh is a very strong #2 and should be able to win against Salisbury and W&L at the top of the lineup. This tandem is also a very strong doubles combo that should beat any team that W&L could field.

Where They'll Lose - HSC needs to find two more wins. Where those will be, I have no idea. They have a decent middle and bottom of the lineup but it certainly isn't the caliber of their ODAC rival. HSC could definitely be helped by jumping ahead in doubles again and then they need only 1 win in the 3-6 spots to beat the Generals. HSC needs one of their lower guys to step up and play some very inspired tennis on April 25th if they want to qualify for the tournament again.

Schedule Analysis - They start their season fairly late and their first tough match will be their regular season contest against W&L on March 19th. As I said in the W&L preview, this should be used as a feeler match and wins and losses should not be that important. Another tough test a week later vs Salisbury, I would expect them to lose 6-3 or 5-4. The Gulls will have too much depth. Two end of the season matches against UMW and JHU should prepare them for conferences. And April 25th is the big day.