Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Season Preview #8: Washington & Lee

General Team Discussion - After a series of 13 straight ODAC championships, the Generals slipped in 2009 and fell to Hampden-Sydney, marking the end of what was a very disappointing season for W&L. Last year, their problem was that they lacked a superstar and this hurt them in both doubles and singles. They rarely won the top spots against any ranked opponent and they were dominated by rivals Mary Wash and CMU, both of whom they usually have close matches with. The good news for the Generals is that they are very young and they may have found the superstar that they were looking for in Hayden White. He had a very impressive run winning the ITA Fall Regional, beating some very respectable opponents. Whether White can save the Generals is a different question. I would expect them to return to 1st place in the ODAC this year and they will be a borderline top 20 team. They have good depth and traditionally they have excellent doubles, but they seem to be lacking doubles players on this current team. W&L should qualify for NCAAs but I wouldn't expect them to pose a threat to any top team once they are there.

Where They'll Win - White will be an NCAA Singles Qualifier and a potential quarter or semifinalist. He should have an excellent season near the top of the lineup. After him, it seems to me that W&L has a lot of players who are fairly equal. Given this fact, they should be somewhat successful in the bottom of the lineup at 5 and 6. I would expect whoever takes the reigns at 2-3-4 to struggle against tough competition. They lack a good doubles combo, but once again they are deep so I think #3 doubles could be a potential winning spot for them if they can get the right combo there.

Where They'll Lose - As I said above, I think the middle of the lineup is going to be the achilles heel for the Generals this year. Last year they traditionally lost the top 3 spots, and even with White shifting those players down a spot, I still think they won't win all that many matches. The top of doubles is also going to be a problem, given that White and his partner didn't get out of the first round at ITAs. I doubt they can put together two top doubles teams to take on their Atlantic South rivals. W&L needs to be tough near the bottom if they want to have a chance against other top 20 teams.

Schedule Analysis - The first match on their schedule that catches my eye is their annual clash with UMW, which they will be hosting this year. This will be a great test as to how tough W&L is this year. Not even a week later, they have to travel to Hampden-Sydney for a preview of the conference final. This should be more of a feeler match for them rather than being concerned about wins and losses. They should get rolled by JHU this year but they may be able to hang with Chicago on their home courts in late March. Their most important match of the season will be the NCAA qualifier against HSC in the ODAC finals and they finish with a tough match at CMU in early May which should be good NCAA prep.