Friday, January 8, 2010

Season Preview #4: Salisbury

General Team Discussion - Salisbury has been a fixture behind Mary Washington in the CAC. They almost broke through two years ago and won the regular season match between the two, but they were unable to win the conference and get the NCAA bid. This could be their year. Mary Wash has their weakest team since pre-Bristow days and Salisbury has two senior leaders at the top of their lineup. It's not often that Salisbury is the more experienced team. I think the Sea Gulls have the potential to be a top 20 team, but top 15 is a stretch. Their schedule is littered with out-of-conference opportunities but I doubt they can win enough of those matches to qualify for NCAAs through the very competitive Pool C. I think this could be the height of the Salisbury program looking into the future. This is their year if they are going to make NCAAs any time in the near future. If they manage to qualify I don't think they would pose a real threat to a Hopkins or CMU or anyone else who might be the 1 seed in their region.

Where They'll Win - Burtzlaff/Thomas qualified for NCAAs last year and are probably a top 15 doubles team in the country if not top 10. They should be able to beat whoever UMW brings at 1. Burtzlaff is a potential NCAA Singles qualifier and has some experience playing 1 singles after the past couple years. Thomas and Lupinetti at 2 and 3 are the key in my opinion. They need to get wins against Mary Wash in singles because the Gulls are overmatched in the bottom of the lineup. If Salisbury can win the top 3 spots, I think they can win the conference. #1 doubles and 1 through 3 singles are their strongest spots.

Where They'll Lose - The bottom of the lineup is still a question mark, particularly in singles. These guys now have a couple years under their belt so they will improve under pressure. Their doubles were up and down last year but didn't come through when they were needed. The good thing for the players lower in the lineup is that Salisbury has a very tough schedule, so they will be more than ready for Mary Washington when the match arrives. I think they need to find a win 4 through 6 against UMW to win the match and potentially 2 or 3 doubles as well.

Schedule Analysis - A loaded schedule starting with a tough season opener against NC Wesleyan. I think the match against Bowdoin in California will tell Salisbury if they can hang with teams in the 10-15 range so keep an eye out for this one. A home match against Kzoo in late March is a match that they should win. The regular season match against Mary Wash is important because it will determine who hosts the conference final. If they can get that home court edge for the conference final, this could be their ticket to NCAAs. And obviously the biggest match of the year will be the CAC final on April 23.