Sunday, February 28, 2010

Weekend Cancellations

Both matches I previewed were cancelled and rescheduled over the weekend. Rain prevented the match in California from being played so it has been rescheduled for Monday at 2PM PT. This will be running at the same time as the UMW @ P-P match tomorrow so I'm looking forward to both of those results tomorrow evening. If anyone will be present at the matches and wants to e-mail me occasional updates it would be greatly appreciated. I will post them on the blog.

TCNJ had some issues with their indoor courts so CNU did not begin their week-long road trip as planned. Therefore they will end at Vassar rather than begin there. CNU still plays at Carnegie Mellon on Tuesday and I'll have some thoughts about that tomorrow. The CNU @ Vassar match is rescheduled for Friday morning at 11AM ET.

Another thing to note is the Claremont/Pomona area is experiencing unseasonably cold temperatures and there's also the occasional rain shower predicted for next weekend. Temperatures for this week and early next week are in the low to mid 60s and this could definitely play a role with some important matches coming up out there.

I will post a weekly schedule tomorrow.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

CNU @ Vassar Pre-Match Thoughts

I don't have a whole lot to say because we haven't seen much from either of these teams this season or last season. They have both added new players and are completely different squads from the past. I think the doubles could define this match because singles seems fairly even. The only thing that I'm fairly sure of is that Heyer will probably win the 3 spot for CNU and Ben Guzick will probably win the 2 spot for Vassar. The doubles should be very close and I'm going to give the edge to CNU at 1 as a team who's experienced and has played together before and I like Vassar to strike back at 2. 3 may as well be a coin flip. 1 is a match between two potential NCAA qualifiers and I'll go with Shulman at 1. I would expect Vassar to strike right back at #2 singles as well as #4 singles. 5 and 6 could go either way. Both of these teams are top 25 material and they are both sleepers this year. This will be a good early season test to see who gets the confidence going forward.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Redlands at Cal Lutheran Pre-Match Thoughts

Cameron Spearman, Redlands

It's not often that the Bulldogs have to leave the very friendly confines of the Verdieck Tennis Center. In fact, this is the only match this season where they play a ranked team away from home so this is some strange territory for Redlands. Call me crazy, but I'm on upset watch this Saturday. I don't think CLU will win, but it will be a good match. Redlands hasn't played a tough D3 team and CLU just finished struggling in doubles and then wiping the floor in singles with Pomona-Pitzer. We don't have a lot of information and past years have shown that both these teams don't start the way they finish. Many teams performance is consistent throughout a season, these two are exceptions to that. #1 dubs I have to go with CLU and I'm also going to take them at #2 dubs because of the experience and home court advantage. Redlands will strike back at 3 dubs keeping themselves within striking distance. This is where things get interesting. One thing Redlands lacks is that strong top of the lineup and I think CLU has it. Giuffrida is the closest thing CLU has to a lock at #1 and I would be surprised if Ballou doesn't win at #2. This would then give CLU a 4-1 edge, but I think this is where the Bulldogs take over. They are so good deep in the lineup and I'm not saying CLU doesn't have good players 3 through 6, but they can't match Redlands. That's why the Bulldogs are top 12 in the country and CLU is around 20-25. I'm taking Redlands in 3 through 6 singles to give them a 5-4 win. If the Kingsmen can get 1 of these spots, they can pull an upset. It is possible, but someone really needs to step up for them because Redlands is very tough. Redlands has their 1 from 2 years ago now playing 6 so we know they have the depth. As a final note, does anyone know the status of Reading? He could really turn this match giving Redlands that strong #1 doubles team and a very good chance to win at #2 singles.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Power Rankings - February 22

Note: This year, I'm giving up on "rankings" and focusing on "power rankings." I will let the ITA take care of ordering teams according to results. Too many instances last year where my rankings and the ITA rankings were nearly identical, so there is no need for me to be doing those. I will instead focus on power rankings. This is just an order of teams according to my view of them. This is my personal view and in no way reflect the official rankings. Results do play a part in my power rankings, but a very small one. It's more speculation. This is a blog, so this is just me expressing my opinion and I will let the ITA take care of the official stuff.

1. Middlebury
2. Amherst
3. Wash U
4. Emory
5. UC Santa Cruz
6. Williams
7. Johns Hopkins
8. Kenyon
9. Carnegie Mellon
10. CMS
11. Redlands
12. Trinity (TX)
13. NC Wesleyan
14. DePauw
15. Bowdoin
16. Trinity (CT)
17. Chicago
18. Mary Washington
19. Kalamazoo
20. Cal Lutheran
21. Salisbury
22. Christopher Newport
23. Gustavus Adolphus
24. Whitman
25. Vassar

Team By Team Discussion from Indoors and Other Weekend Thoughts

Gustavus Adolphus - The Gusties did about as well as they could this weekend. If you told me they would get 5 points over 3 matches, I may not have believed you. I thought it would be more like 2 or 3. I think this is encouraging for them going forward when it comes to winning the conference. With a homecourt advantage I think they could sweep doubles against Carleton and also manage to find 2 singles wins. Gustavus could finish the year in the top 20 but they have work to do.

DePauw - The Tigers played great against Emory and wilted a bit after that loss. I expected them to take 2 of the doubles against Hopkins and when they didn't do that they were done. They have a huge weekend next weekend and we will really see what they are made of. They could get a really nice jump towards an Pool C NCAA Bid if they can knock off both Chicago and Kzoo on their homecourts. If I'm the Tigers I'm pretty happy with my weekend because we saw flashes of brilliance from them on Day 1.

Carnegie Mellon - I should have mentioned the word volatility in their season preview. I thought CMU would be a new team after their Fall Amherst win but they were the same old team this weekend. They let Cruz off the hook and weren't nearly as close as I thought they would be against Hopkins. They need to watch out for a tricky CNU team next Tuesday. Also, we will see what they learned from this weekend when they go to Cali. 3 top 15 teams out there. 0 wins = very overrated, 1 win = their typical 12-15 season, 2 wins = potential Elite 8 contender, All 3 wins = national championship contender. I'm not sure if that near upset of Cruz was a fluke or not.

Johns Hopkins - Yes they went 2-1, but the Day 1 match is the one they really needed for their confidence. They beat 2 good teams on Day 2, but they are also better than those teams. They have a month of down time from D3 play and their next match is against a very dangerous NCW team. This is a must win for Hopkins. I expected a lot more from them at the 3 through 5 singles positions. This is supposed to be their strength and the wins weren't coming. They need to start winning at these spots if they want to make a national title run. Doubles has room for improvement but they got better as the weekend progressed.

Kenyon - Maybe the most disappointed team after this weekend. A good showing against GAC, the doubles loss is expected against the fired up Gusties. The Cruz match is the one I thought they would run through. Their seniors let them down and this is the core of their team. If they are down 2-1 in doubles, their top 2 need to win or they are done. They just don't have the depth to match the other top 5 teams in my eyes. I still think this team can win a national title, I just expected a Finals appearance from them this weekend and they didn't produce.

Emory - Overall, a pretty shaky tournament from the Eagles. They could have lost to DePauw, but used their experience to grind through that one. The Eagles are always a national championship contender no matter what happens in the early portion of their season. They lost to their heated rival, but bounced back nicely against Kenyon. The good thing about this weekend from Emory is they will see all 3 of these teams again during their season so they will find out how they've progressed a team. I'm still searching for an update on Lopp because I think he can make a huge difference.

Wash U - An amazing first 2 days from the Bears followed by a poor finals performance. They were just flawless on Day 1 crushing a potential top 5 opponent and then followed it up by beating a very good Emory team with a doubles sweep and some good singles play by the bottom of their lineup. They showed they have the depth to compliment Watts at the top of the lineup. They play Kenyon in 3 weeks so we'll see if they learned from the Cruz match. I was expecting them to roll through the finals but it goes to show that even the top teams still need work.

Cruz - What can we say about these guys besides what a performance. They won 3 matches which they should have lost and took home another Indoor title. They funny thing is if they played Wash U every day for the next 10 days at a neutral site, I'll take the Bears in 8 of those. Just an amazing coaching job by Hansen and unbelievable leadership by Pybas and Vartabedian taking the team on their shoulders and leading them in all 3 matches. Even though they won the whole thing, as Hansen said in the match recap, a lot of work still needs to be done before they can defend their national title. A great 3 day performance, but I'm not a believer yet.

Besides the final of Indoors, the most surprising result for me is Kzoo over Chicago. The first thing that pops into my head is it's not even March and Chicago is already in a huge hole for NCAAs. Pool C is too deep to have losses like this, even if Kzoo ends up being a top 20 team. Chicago needs to rebound and beat DePauw next weekend or they can basically count themselves out of the tournament already. How do you go from losing 5-4 to the Indoors finalists to losing 7-2 to a team outside the top 20? I give Kzoo credit. They played a decent match against Kenyon and this match showed they are making great strides as they won every match easily. This is a top 20 team to me after this weekend and they could pull an upset this year when we are least expecting it.

CMS lost to an NAIA team 5-4. That same NAIA team was beaten by Cruz 8-1. This worries me a little bit. CMS isn't getting production from the middle of their lineup. They need to step up given the depth in the top 10 this year.

Cal Lu is a team to watch, as is CNU. Both have started well this season and both have top 20 potential if all their players play well. CLU got a good start with a win against Pomona-Pitzer on the road, winning 5 singles matches. CNU has been playing mostly D1 teams and they have a match that I'm really looking forward to this Sunday against Vassar.

Indoors Recap and Thoughts

Since Gustavus was doing live stats and everyone was following, I decided to save my recap for the tournament and thoughts for after. Bear with me because this will be a pretty extensive post.

I'll start with Day 1. You all read my predictions so I had some idea of what I thought would happen. The first two matches were shockers to me, particularly in doubles. We have Wash U come out and destroy Hopkins with 8-4 across the board. I attribute part of this to Hopkins not playing a match before Indoors and the other part is the Bears just being ready to play after their rough weekend last weekend. I expected more out of Hopkins 2 team this weekend because this is a huge spot. Maldow/Wang won't win enough carry Hopkins in doubles and I believe their 3 team of doubles specialists could be broken down by two very good singles players. Wash U jumped to the early lead and the match wasn't really in doubt. Watts made a statement at 1 and 2 and 3 were close as expected with Wash U winning both to win the match. The bottom of the lineup was also a surprise. I expected Hopkins to be much more competitive at 4 and 5 and I think these are two very important spots for them going forward. The Bears were my favorite to win the tournament after Day 1. Emory took my advice and split up Goodwin and Pottish. This ended up backfiring for the Eagles and they found themselves almost down 3-0 in doubles. The absence of Lopp really hurts the Eagles in singles and doubles so when he is back Emory will be a much better team. Emory took top 2 as expected and managed to get a tough win at 4 to take the lead. Redmond clinched the match for the Eagles at 6. I think we knew that DePauw needed the doubles sweep if they were going to win. The afternoon matches brought what I expect was a large Gustie crowd to the Swanson Tennis Center creating an intense atmosphere. Gustavus used the crowd to hang with Kenyon in doubles and almost managed to come out on top 2-1 after the doubles. Like I expected, the good news ended there for Gustavus as Kenyon swept singles. We knew this would happen, Gustavus was just overmatched at this tournament by the other 7 teams. The other match was more interesting. #3 doubles was a huge spot for Cruz this weekend and I don't think many people realized that. This was supposed to be an iffy spot for the Slugs and they won handily on Friday giving the Slugs a 2-1 lead. CMU looked like they were coming back after taking first sets at 1 and 4. The Slugs always fight though and came back at both spots to wrap up the match 5-1 before CMU would win the final 3 matches which are pretty irrelevant in my opinion. It's 5-4 on the scoreboard but I don't think things were all that close. Looking back, CMU won 4 first sets in singles and they just weren't able to finish. I wasn't all that impressed with Cruz even though they got the first win.

The morning of Day 2 brought 2 results which were expected and don't need to be discussed all that much. Hopkins had a fairly routine win over DePauw, it was never really close and CMU destroyed the Gusties in doubles and this was never really close either. Without the crowd's energy, GAC wasn't able to produce the same level and only won 8 games in 3 matches. CMU won 5 of the singles as expected. Hopkins also had a good singles performance, but losses at 5 and 6 had to be alarming for them. The afternoon was where the real action was. Wash U came out firing again and won all 3 doubles. Emory mixed up their doubles teams putting their all-star combo back at 1, but this just didn't work out for them. The Bears were able to take a 3-0 lead and we thought Watts would be an automatic win at #1 so I was pretty sure the Bears would cruise in singles. About 90 mins later, Emory looked like they could win this match. They got a masterful performance from Pottish, and Egan redeemed himself after a poor Day 1 showing to make things 3-2. Here is the turning point. If Emory completes their comeback at #5, I think they win this match, but they weren't able to do so. Two freshmen were battling and Parizher came out on top to put the Bears in excellent position needing only 1 of the remaining 3 matches. Levy was able to clinch the win and send the Bears to the finals. I'll address doubles sweeps later in this post because I have some commentary on it. I think Wash U is the better team and I'm anxious to see these two play again after they both have a chance to mature as teams and particularly after Emory gets Lopp back. Going into the second semifinal, I thought the Lords would have no trouble with the Slugs. Hansen just works magic and gets his guys ready to go. They ran through 1 and 3 dubs. I actually expected the Slugs to win both of these spots but not with the ease that they did. Kenyon kept themselves in it with an expected win at 2 from what I still think is their best team, and should be their #1 team. Burgin looks to be one of the best freshmen in the country and he tied things up 2-2 at #5. The two huge matches that allowed the Slugs to win this match were 1 and 2. If I'm a betting man, I don't think Greenberg and Piskacek both lose. After winning those top two spots, the Slugs were in control. My hat goes off to Vartabedian for easily handling Piskacek. Clearly the MVP of the tournament in my eyes. The Slugs were able to get their 5th win and wrap up the match for their 2nd upset in as many days. Yes they were the #1 seed, but if you get right down to it, I don't think they were as talented as CMU or Kenyon, yet they managed to get wins in both. The night matches were both as expected for me. DePauw rested some guys but they were still able to beat Gustavus 6-3. This was the most competitive match of the tournament got GAC and it has to be tough for them to take 8th at their own tournament. I think it will be a long spring for Gustavus and possibly a short career for Valentini if he doesn't turn things around with the tradition that this program carries. DePauw played two good matches in their first two, so they got a much deserved win. They are a team that I wouldn't want to see later in the season. #3 doubles was the huge spot in the CMU-Hopkins battle. CMU needed to be up 2-1 if they wanted to win and they couldn't do so. Hopkins won at the top 2 spots as expected and after this we knew they would get at least 1 of the bottom 4. I'm looking forward to a match between these two later in the season, but I think Hopkins is the better team. I think they are both deserving of their top 10 rankings at this point and both have the potential to improve.

Day 3 brought two intriguing matches. In the 3rd-4th, I expected a pretty routine win from Emory and that's what happened. Kenyon matches up very poorly against Emory and after the doubles sweep, we knew things were over. The Lords really weren't close at any position. I think some team switching could be in order for the Lords and I expect to see some different doubles teams their next time out because what they are doing now just isn't working. Emory rebounded nicely from the day before. They got two good wins from the best 1-2 punch in the country to seal the match. This result was as expected. I was so sure that Wash U was going to destroy Cruz, and the opposite happens. UCSC played magnificent doubles, surrendering 11 games in 3 matches. Even after the doubles sweep, I still thought Wash U would win. If they could survive the top of the lineup and get 2 of 3 in the top 3 spots I thought the Bears would be well on their way to victory. Watts did his part making the score 3-1. Koening just came up huge for the Slugs and won another battle between freshmen to give the Slugs a 4-1 lead and put the match in the hands of Vartabedian. I want him on the court if I'm Bob Hansen after all the great things he has done. Vartabedian didn't disappoint and gave the Slugs their 3rd upset win and the National Indoor title.

I'm going to do a team by team discussion in the next few days but for now I just have some general thoughts. I don't know how else to say this, but I think the 9 point system has to be re-evaluated. 1 dubs is ahead, 2 dubs gets a fluke break and 3 dubs get a huge momentum burst. Boom, the match is over, don't even bother playing singles. Things can be decided in 10-15 minutes and I don't think it's fair. These teams are so evenly matched that it is so rare that a team will come out and win 5 singles matches. Mentally, it's nearly impossible to come out of an 0-3 hole.

I think we are in for another 2008 where anyone can beat anyone else. I got pretty much no feedback from the results this weekend about who's strong and who's not because they just didn't make any sense. Yes, Cruz won the tournament but on paper they are probably the 8th or 9th best team in the country. If the tournament is played again next weekend, they can easily lose 1st round. If you want my best teams in the country after this weekend, the answer is Middlebury and Amherst. Not that I wasn't impressed with the 8 teams this weekend, but there is no one that stood out, even Cruz. I think any of the top 5 finishers, and maybe even CMU, could have won the tournament. There is a lot of tennis left to be played and I think we are in for a very unpredictable and crazy season if this weekend is any indicator.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

National Indoors Preview: #3 Wash U vs. #6 Johns Hopkins

Definitely the best first round match and I think this could end up being one of the best first rounds in history when we look back on the season and the accomplishments of both teams. I am less impressed with the Bears than I was in pre-season after they struggled with Chicago. Hopkins has yet to play a match so I consider this a disadvantage. I thought Hopkins was going to change their doubles teams for the spring, but it seems that isn't the case. I'm taking Woods and Stein at #1 for Wash U, and I think Barnaby/Blythe will beat Farah/Watts at #2 doubles, but this could be a big swing match. I'm shocked that Hopkins decided to remove Elgort/Hersh from the 3 spot and instead have two doubles players there. Wash U looked very weak at #3 doubles and I consider this a huge swing spot as well. I'm going to give the edge to Hopkins, but it could go either way. Watts will win for sure at #1 singles and I like Wang over Stein at #2 singles. I'll take Elgort over Putterman at #3 singles as well giving Hopkins a 4-2 lead. Wods will use his experience to get a win at #4 to keep Wash U in it and I would also be surprised if Levy doesn't come through for Wash U at #6 singles. This leaves things at 4-4 with #5 singles left and I know it's biased but I always pick against the freshman in the case so I'll take Grist to win it for Hopkins 5-4 in an upset.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

National Indoors Preview: #1 UC Santa Cruz vs #8 Carnegie Mellon

If you don't see a trend in these previews, I'm going from least competitive to most competitive and this one is where things start to get tough. Don't let the seedings fool you because Cruz is a completely different team than last year and CMU is a much improved team from last year. Starting with doubles, I have to give #1 to Cruz. Both teams had good Falls, but I think Pybas and Vartabedian will come through for their team. The King/Miller team of CMU has been very good and I would expect them to even up the score at 1-1. 3 doubles is a big swing match and could end up being very important, but I'll give it to Cruz because I think Hansen will have his guys ready to go. This match should come down to the wire though and I think we see at least an 8-6 if not closer. Top 2 singles spots I give to Cruz. They may be close but I think the Slugs will be on top at the end of both. 3 through 6 is where things really get interesting. CMU seems to have the superior depth. I think they will win 3, and they will probably win 4 and 5 as well. This would knot things up at 4-4 with 6 singles being the decider. I believe both teams will be playing freshman in the #6 spot if I'm not mistaken. I'm going with Cruz in a nail biter giving them the 5-4 win. A lot of people are picking an upset and I won't be surprised if it happens, but it's hard to ever pick against the Slugs no matter what their team looks like.

National Indoors Preview: #2 Emory vs #7 DePauw

This is unconfirmed, but I've heard that Lopp is not playing this weekend. They should be okay in this match but this could be big news for the semis and finals because he certainly is a huge loss in singles and even more so in doubles. That being said, let's take a look at some of these matches. I'm not sure what Emory is going to do with their doubles teams but I'm assuming they will be able to win at 1 if they have a Goodwin/Pottish combo. DePauw is strong at 1, but I think Emory will be a little too talented. I think DePauw will most likely win either 2 or 3 doubles, probably 3 that seems like a pretty strong team. I'll take Emory up 2-1 at worst heading into singles. Top 2 spots go to Emory for sure. This puts them up 4-1 with 3 through 6 left to play. I think Egan will most likely win at 3 for the Eagles as well. 4 and 5 I feel like DePauw can compete if Lopp isn't in there and I'd expect them to take 1 of those 2 spots. Emory is probably a little too deep and wins at #6 singles. I'll take Emory with a 7-2, but I think 5 of Emory's wins will be close. The top 2 singles should be blowouts. The Eagles advance to the Semis.

Monday, February 15, 2010

National Indoors Preview: #4 Kenyon vs #5 Gustavus Adolphus

Mike Greenberg, Kenyon

Normally, this is Gustavus' tournament. They are always a threat to win it, even when other teams clearly have stronger rosters than them. This year is the exception to that, especially since the courts were resurfaced after the '08 season. This evened the playing field quite a bit as we saw last year with GAC having a first round loss before recovering nicely for 5th place. The Gusties first result certainly isn't promising for their chances this weekend after beating UWEC 5-4 on their home courts. No amount of fans and no amount of energy or confidence will enable to Gustavus to win this match. They are just too weak this year and this is a true rebuilding time. Starting with doubles, if Gustavus is going to win anywhere, it has to be at #1. Kenyon switched their lineup last match and went with a Greenberg-Brody team at 1, so that's what I'm expecting to see this weekend. Vandenberg and someone should be good at #3. GAC doesn't have a chance at #2 and they have a chance at #3, but it's small. Because it's Indoors, I'll spot the Gusties a win and say Kenyon leads 2-1 after doubles. The good news for GAC ends there. Greenberg and Piskacek both win in straights and Polster, Burgin and Brody definitely win the bottom 3 spots. GAC may have a chance against Vandenberg at 3 but I doubt it. I'll take Kenyon 8-1 with a singles sweep, they may surrender 1 set.

Weekend Thoughts Feb 12-14

A few observations and then Wash U-Chicago thoughts...

-Redlands had two matches. Reading and Hammond were both nowhere to be found. They had a lot of new guys in their lineup so I was surprised by this.

-Trinity (TX) took my advice and picked up their singles play a little bit. They lost 5-4 to the #1 JuCo school, which I feel is a very strong result for the Tigers and good to see for them going forward.

-Christopher Newport is a team to watch this year after seeing their lineup this weekend. Heyer at #4 singles is very tough and they could actually pose a threat to NC Wesleyan in the USA South.

-CMU had a good win over a ranked D2 team sweeping doubles which is promising for them going into this weekend.

-CMS was excellent at the top of the lineup against the #5 D2 school. I was very impressed by Erani and Lim. A great start to the year for those two.

-Whitman barely snuck by Pacific Lutheran. Take nothing away from PLU, but I expected a bit more from Whitman. After this match, I'm actually less impressed with Santa Cruz, because PLU was also able to take 2 of the doubles from Whitman, actually in more dominating fashion than Cruz.

I was shocked at Wash U's result with Case Western on Saturday. It was actually a pretty close 8-1. I thought the Bears may have just underestimated them and weren't ready to play, getting out some early season jitters. I was on target with the doubles results in the Wash U-Chicago match, but the singles was a shocker. This was an extremely close 5-4 which Wash U could have easily lost. I thought Woods could be the best 4 in the country but he lost, and Levy certainly is not back to his old form. If the Bears don't raise their level, they will lose to Hopkins. I can understand Putterman losing, but Chicago's 3 was also a freshman so that has to be alarming for the Bears as well. The other possibility is that I am really underestimating Chicago this year. They could be quite a bit stronger with 4 new guys in their starting lineup from last year including a new 2-3-4. My guess is they played very well and Wash U wasn't on top of their game. I'll be interested to see how the Bears respond because they barely got by on Sunday.

Season Preview #32: Gustavus Adolphus

General Team Discussion - The once powerful Gusties have seen their program fall off in recent years due to an improving D3. 2010 may be one of the biggest years in their history as far as turning points are concerned. The legendary Coach Wilkinson has departed and he is replaced by his assistant. In the mean time, the Gusties lost their top 5 starters from a team that made its 10th straight NCAA quarterfinal appearance. They had a very poor fall and find themselves at #25 in the country with an inexperienced team and an inexperienced head coach. Wilk's secrets to success are still at Gustavus, but can the rookie head coach work his magic with this young team? In my time following college tennis, Gustavus has never been anywhere close to this weak. They host Indoors again, and this is often the tournament that makes their season. This year however, everything points to them finishing last and having to work hard to even beat Carleton for a MIAC title. They had a match Saturday and barely squeaked out a win against a UW-Eau Claire team who they traditionally trounce. I think they'll win the conference but I don't think they'll be at home for NCAAs this year.

Where They'll Win - GAC just doesn't have that superstar like they have in past years so they have to win with their depth this year. We know they have a large team and we also know they aren't going to produce wins at the top of the lineup against ranked teams. The other spot where Gustavus has to be strong is what they are best known for, their doubles. It's not a promising start to lose 2 of 3 dubs at home to UWEC, but if the Gusties want to have any chance against top 20 teams, it is imperative that they jump out to a lead in doubles.

Where They'll Lose - The top and middle of the lineup could be issues. They have a freshman at 1 in Donkena and he was a pretty good junior who could win a couple matches against good teams. After him, they struggle in the 2 and 3 spots and I don't think they have the players to win at those spots. Gustavus is used to excellence and if they want to compete with the top 15 in the country, they really have a lot of work to do.

Schedule Analysis - I think it would help their confidence if they could at least be competitive at Indoors. As is, I'm expecting them to get crushed three times. After Indoors, the next real tests will be Pomona-Pitzer, Redlands and CMS in California. It's important that Gustavus get a win in those three to help their confidence as well, because nationals is played outdoors. They have a regular season match against Carleton as well as a tough test against Kalamazoo before the conference tournament which they host. They have to beat Carleton in the finals to secure an NCAA bid.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Season Preview #31: Williams

General Team Discussion - Williams had a disappointing year by their standards in 2009 and the past few years they haven't been able to match their success from early in the decade. This year's team has a lot of talent and Williams boasts the best D3 freshman class including Felix Sun, who looks to be the best freshman in D3. Williams underwent a coaching change and Dan Greenberg is now in charge after a very successful career with Williams that ended in 2008. He looks to add a lot to this program and lead them back to the Final 4. As everyone knows, Williams is one of the "Big 3" in the best conference in the country and their ongoing rivalry with Amherst and Middlebury is one of the best story lines in D3 this year. I mentioned this team is talented, but I'm not quite sure what to expect from them this year. They have been a consistent quarterfinalist in NCAAs and on paper this is a great team, but I wasn't impressed with the fall results. They had a trip to California in 2009 and Texas in 2008, but they do neither of these this year. They only play 2 teams out-of-conference who are projected to be top 20 and this could hurt them if they don't beat the top NESCAC schools. I think Williams will float between 6 and 11 in the rankings for most of the year and I'm unsure about their NCAA outlook as of now.

Where They'll Win - Williams has a great top of the lineup to go along with outstanding depth. Nick Lebedoff was a very established junior player and he is now the senior leader for this team at #1 singles. Jeremy Weinberger will most likely fit into the #3 spot and he is another senior. They mix their experience with youth and as I said above, Felix Sun beat Chafetz in the fall and most likely will spend time in the #2 spot this spring. They also have a very tough 4 through 6. Williams just doesn't have any holes and on a good day they are competitive at all 6 singles spots against anyone in the country.

Where They'll Lose - Doubles has been a big issue for the pas few years and I think it could become an even bigger problem this year after graduating Bret Thacher, who played #1 doubles for a good portion of his career. Williams has the talent, they just can't seem to put it together in doubles. Too often, they find themselves down 2-1 or 3-0 and can't recover against teams who can match them in singles. They need to get their doubles figured out or they won't have a chance against Amherst or Middlebury.

Schedule Analysis - I'm not sure why Williams doesn't play more of a non-conference schedule. They travel to NC Wesleyan and Emory in the beginning of their season before NESCAC play. They have to be careful that they don't go winless in those two matches. During NESCAC play, they have Amherst and Middlebury at home so this goes to their advantage. They need to watch out for a dangerous Bowdoin team on the road though, and they also have to travel to Trinity (CT), who upset them two years ago. The NESCAC tournament will be big for Williams to see how in form they are heading to NCAAs.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Season Preview #30: Whitman

General Team Discussion - Whitman had a great 2007 campaign finishing around 15 in the country but they haven't been able to find that level since. They have been hovering in the 22-28 range given their results this year it doesn't look like they will be able to break the top 20. This is one of the only teams who has played 2 big D3 matches so far with a loss to Cruz and a 5-4 against Pacific Lutheran today in a nailbiter. Looking at Whitman's lineup I think they should be better than they are, but they are struggling so far this season. They aren't traditionally a slow starter so maybe this team isn't as strong as it seems. After a semester at Boise State, I expected Matt Solomon to come back as a top 10 player in D3. I think he needs to be absolutely dominant if Whitman wants to have a chance at top 20. They play mostly in-conference matches but will get a shot at a few other top D3 teams later in the season. This is a strong program with a rich history and they will certainly be a fixture in the top 30 for the entire season, but I'm not sure how much more they can do after that. This team has a lot of experience so I certainly wouldn't want to see them in NCAAs. A lot of their success will depend upon where they are sent for NCAAs.

Where They'll Win - The top of the lineup is the clear strength in my opinion. I said I expect Solomon to improve throughout the season and be an NCAA qualifier in the West. Moshevich was a solid #1 last year so I also expect big things out of him in the #2 spot. Both of these guys have had nagging injuries so a lot depends upon their health. Tolman is probably one of the top 15 freshmen in the country and he needs to step up in the middle of the lineup. #1 doubles is a potential strong suit as well as #2, but I feel like Whitman's doubles struggles a bit with consistency.

Where They'll Lose - Their bottom guys have a lot of experience and this will certainly help, but I think they will have trouble matching up with top 20 teams in the bottom of the lineup and this is where they fall short. They played Cruz fairly tough in the bottom so that was a good sign. All of their doubles spots are really a question mark in my mind. They won #3 dubs against Cruz so that was impressive and the top 2 lost close ones. But if they get on a neutral court, this could be a different story without the energy from a large crowd.

Schedule Analysis - The majority of their schedule is filled with conference matches since the rule is that they have to play everyone twice. The only time we will really get to see them in action is when they travel to California. They play at Cruz and at Redlands and they will probably lose these two. The two matches I have my eye on this season are Pomona-Pitzer and Cal Lu. I think these two will be the best indication of how good they are. Today shows they will have a battle with PLU in the conference final so they have to be ready to play to qualify for NCAAs.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Wash U @ Chicago Pre-Match Thoughts

The biggest match of the season to date will be taking place when Chicago hosts Wash U on Sunday. While I don't expect an upset, we could be in for a competitive match. Both of these teams have taken the court this season so we know what to expect from them. As far as depth is concerned, I'm not all that concerned if I'm the lower ranked Maroons. I think where Chicago will fall short is the top and middle of the lineup. Wash U is just stronger in the top 4 spots as well as the top 2 doubles spots. I would expect Wash U to grab the top 2 doubles spots easily. #2 dubs has the potential to go Chicago's way but I doubt it will happen. Chicago must win 3 doubles to keep themselves in the match. Watts-Zhang is a potential NCAA Final matchup, but I have to go with Watts the way he's been playing. At #3 and #4, Putterman and Woods should be a little too much for their respective opponents. A spot I think Chicago could potentially win is #2. Stein is a good player for Wash U, but whether he can win at #2 is still unsure. Chicago also must win #5 and #6. They can definitely match Wash U's depth. A prediction from me will be 7-2 for Wash U. I would expect Chicago to win 3 dubs and 5 or 6 singles. The Bears just have too many big guns near the top of the lineup.

Season Preview #29: Redlands

General Team Discussion - I've seen a trend from Redlands over the past few years. Start off pretty slow, get hot during their very tough March, and then wilt at the end during conferences and NCAAs. Redlands is a very deep team that trains hard and has the potential to play with the big boys, but they have fallen short of CMS and Cruz in the past few years. There are pros and cons of playing the toughest schedule in the country and Redlands has certainly learned that. They have numerous opportunities during March to bolster their NCAA resume and they have taken advantage of this, but at the same time I feel like their team gets beaten up and worn out after playing 15 ranked teams in a season, plus D2 and NAIA schools. This year's team is a typical Redlands squad. No one really strong at the top, but good doubles and good depth. They have the advantage of playing 13 ranked teams this season on their home courts and they fight hard every match. I have them currently at #5 in Pool C according to my power rankings. I think this Redlands team has the ability to go as high as about #8 in the national rankings and I don't see them dropping below 15. I don't think they should have too much trouble qualifying for the tournament but it will be hard for them to escape the California regional.

Where They'll Win - As I eluded to earlier, doubles and depth are the strong spots for Redlands. They return their top 2 doubles teams from a year ago. Reading/Spearman can be an NCAA qualifier in a very tough West and Hammond/Wong have been a good doubles team for a while. They have a good bottom of the lineup with most likely Liebman and Hammond playing somewhere 3 through 6 as well as their top recruit Darren Dahl fitting in there somewhere. Although they lost two key seniors, they have plenty of players to fill in. Redlands can play with anyone in the country in the bottom 3-4 spots.

Where They'll Lose - Take nothing away from Reading and Spearman in singles, but I don't feel like they can hang with the other top teams at #1 and #2. Against top competition, I don't see Redlands generating a ton of wins at the top 2 singles spots and this could hurt them if they run into someone who can match their depth. Another trouble spot could be #3 doubles and if they lose at one of the top two doubles spots they could find themselves in a hole. Redlands is competitive at all 9 spots, they just all need to play well on the same day to pull an upset.

Schedule Analysis - The hardest schedule in the country with 14 teams who will probably be ranked at year's end. I have my eye on a few big matches for Redlands. The first is a road match at Cal Lu and Redlands needs to be ready to play to avoid the upset. During their "March Madness" stretch, I have my eye on 4 big matches. CMU, Trinity (TX), Amherst and Cruz. I think these are all potentially winnable matches for Redlands. if they manage to win 3 of these, I think they are a legitimate threat to make the Elite 8. SCIAC tournament will be big for them because if they beat CMS, they could potentially host NCAA Regionals which would be a big advantage.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Season Preview #28: North Carolina Wesleyan

General Team Discussion - This team is definitely one of the biggest question marks for me coming into this year. For the most part, their players all unknowns due to them being foreign. This team really flew under the radar in 2009, coming out of nowhere to put together an undefeated regular season and steal the USA South championship away from Christopher Newport. Although NC Wesleyan had an undefeated season, they really didn't beat anyone very good so I wasn't all that impressed. What caught my attention was their NCAA performance. They crushed Mary Washington and then gave Emory all they could handle in the Sweet 16. Apparently the Eagles were really sweating. So that makes the Bishops a real contender coming into 2010. They had a young team last year and all those guys now have a year of experience under their belt. Whether they can break into the top 10 is yet to be seen, but I expect a big upset from NCW this year. They start the year as pre-season #15 and I think that could improve. I don't see them falling in the rankings, that's for sure. I would feel much more comfortable assessing NCW's team after they play 3 or 4 ranked teams. As of now, I just don't know what to make of their team in 2010.

Where They'll Win - They have some strong players, but I don't know if the top of their lineup is the caliber of the other top 15 teams in the country. Junior Antti Saari is their leader and top player and he certainly had a good fall regional knocking off some tough Emory players, but whether he can win at #1 against the likes of David Maldow and Nick Lebedoff is still to be seen. If Saari can generate wins at the top, this could be a very dangerous team. I think their true strength is probably their depth. They seem to have a lot of strong players and could be tough to beat in the 3 through 6 positions.

Where They'll Lose - I don't know this team all that well like I said before so I'm not sure where their holes are. They didn't have very impressive doubles results in the fall, so this could be an area where they need work. When they play Williams and Hopkins and even Salisbury, they really need to come through in the bottom of their lineup in both singles and doubles because their opponents have very deep teams. I would feel much more comfortable talking about NCW's strengths and weaknesses about 60 days from now.

Schedule Analysis - Now that they are known on the national scene, they have greatly improved their schedule. They start with an early season match against a good Salisbury team on the road. I would expect a win here. A week later they play the Wash U Bears. The result of this match will tell me a lot about NCW. About 10 days later they have a very difficult day, with Mary Wash in the morning and Hopkins in the afternoon. The JHU match will be another great test. The last match I really have my eye on is a home match against Williams. The Ephs are vulnerable this year and I'm keeping my eye on this one as a potential upset.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Season Preview #27: Carleton

General Team Discussion - Things were really looking up for Carleton coming into this season. They had a strong fall in their regional and they also are ranked preseason #18 by the ITA. This has to be the first time in about 30 years that Carleton was supposed to beat Gustavus in tennis. They were actually the preseason favorite to win the MIAC and grab their third NCAA bid in the past 25 years. Although Gustavus hosts the conference championships, Carleton was still supposed to win. This was their year to overthrow the mighty Gusties...until their best player transferred to Vassar. I'm not sure when the decision was made and I only got the news about 3 weeks ago, but Ben Guzick, the projected #1 for Carleton transferred to Vassar where his brother plays. It's really unpredictable what kind of effect this will have on Carleton. Depth was an issue for them and this certainly doesn't help. On paper, they should be able to beat Gustavus but if you throw in the intangibles, this could push GAC to another conference title. Carleton went from being a top 20 team to barely being in the top 30. If they can still manage to win the MIAC after the Guzick transfer, I'll be very impressed.

Where They'll Win - Their strength against Gustavus should be the top of their lineup. They still have good players in Colin Russell and Winston Park who are seniors and have experience playing Gustavus. Russell has an outside chance for an NCAA bid if he plays well. Their sophomore duo at #1 doubles of Dunn and Vollman are also crucial for Carleton. These four guys could make up their top 2 doubles teams and top 4 singles players so if they want to take out the Gusties, it's probably in the hands of these 4. Carleton needs to jump on top of GAC in doubles.

Where They'll Lose - I mentioned above that depth is an issue for Carleton. After their two seniors, they have a very young team with almost no experience in any sort of big match. Although Gustavus is young as well, playing at Swanson Indoor Center with a conference title on the line with a Gustie crowd their could be intimidating. These lower lineup guys need to develop throughout the season to give Carleton a solid 3 doubles team as well as adequate 5 and 6 singles players. These are definitely winnable spots, it's just too early to predict what will happen.

Schedule Analysis - One thing going against Carleton is their location. They play a pretty soft schedule because of this. They have a rematch against DePauw from last year and this is the best team on their schedule. They have a regular season match against Gustavus as well as good tests against Luther and Whitewater mid-season. Their last test before MIAC tournament will be against a good Coe team. The biggest match of the season for Carleton is clearly the finals of the MIAC tournament at Gustavus. This could be a historic year if Carleton can win.

Weekend Thoughts Feb 5-7

We had several top 25 teams in action and I'll just go through each quickly. I'll touch on Trinity (TX), Wash U, Chicago and finally Kenyon vs Kalamazoo. There were other teams in action but I thought these were most important.

Trinity (TX) played three matches and it is extremely clear where they need work even after the first weekend. They played 2 D2 schools both ranked top 30 as well as an NAIA school. They went 7-2 in doubles and 4-14 in singles, including 0-9 in the 3 through 5 singles spots. Now I don't doubt their opponents were good but they won fairly comfortably in doubles and just got steamrolled in singles barely winning sets. They have a while before their first big D3 matches, but if I were the Tigers I'd be working on my singles.

Wash U played an annual D2 powerhouse in Drury University. I really like the fact that the Bears won the #2 doubles match, because I think this will be a huge spot for them this season. An interesting singles lineup for the Bears with Woods moving down to 4 and Stein up to 2, but they played Drury very tough. The match came down to the wire with Drury winning all 3 of the 3-set matches to take a 6-3 win. If I'm the Bears, I like the fact that I was right there at the end. This is a pretty good result for them going to Indoors. I think they need to focus on getting ahead of Hopkins in doubles and if they can do this, they are tough to beat.

Chicago went to Madison to play UW-Whitewater. Although they lost 2 of the doubles, they really were good in singles, winning all 6 matches. Chicago has Wash U this weekend and they need to be ready to play. I'll do a preview of the match later this week.

The big match of the weekend was Kenyon vs Kzoo. I expected a little more out of Kenyon and I thought this match would be 8-1 or 9-0. Although Kzoo lost, they put up a good fight despite the fact they weren't really close to winning. Vandenberg losing at 3 is understandable, but Brody should not be losing at 6 and the 1 doubles spot is huge for Kenyon. If Greenberg/Vandenberg aren't a force this year, the Lords have no shot at a national title. If Kzoo can consistently play this well, they could be a top 20 team this year. I think this match showed both teams they have a lot of room for improvement.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Season Preview #26: UC Santa Cruz

General Team Discussion - The defending national champions and overall best program in D3 loses their top 5 starters to graduation and fields a very young team in 2010. Even in a down year, Cruz is still a contender for a national title. They have a more rigorous training program than anyone else in the country and they also have one of the best coaches in the country to go with it. To put it simply, the Slugs just know how to win. 2010 is the definition of a rebuilding year for Cruz and if the Slugs can manage to sneak into the Final 4 this year, I will be thoroughly impressed. They have two players on their current team who have played in any sort of significant match. They get lucky with the return of Brian Pybas after he took a year off. Vartabedian is their leader and the lone returning starter from the 2009 team. The truth is I'm not really sure what to expect from the Slugs. I underestimate them every year and they always seem to be around at the end of NCAAs. If Hansen can win a national title with this team, then he is a miracle worker. I think Cruz will spend most of the season between 6 and 10 in the country and they will battle it out with CMS for a spot in the Elite 8.

Where They'll Win - I hate to put pressure on individuals, but the success of this team depends upon 2 players. Brian Pybas and Marc Vartabedian will be their top 2 singles players and also combine to form one of the best doubles teams in the country. If Santa Cruz isn't winning 2 of the 3 points in which these two are involved, I think they have a very slim chance of winning. Pybas is a probable NCAA qualifier and one of the country's best players. Vartabedian has quite a jump moving from 6 to 2 in one year but he needs to produce wins. These two have to take Cruz on their shoulders or they simply don't have a chance against top 10 opponents.

Where They'll Lose - The majority of the Cruz team are really unknowns to the D3 community. Chiba has been around a little bit but he still doesn't have a lot of experience. They start at least one freshman, probably two and Hansen needs to do a lot of work with these guys. The success of the bottom half of the Slugs lineup is just too unpredictable right now. I'm sure they will come out as stronger players as the Spring progresses but at the same time this doesn't mean they can hang with top 5 opponents who are much more experienced.

Schedule Analysis - A pretty nice draw for Cruz at Indoors. They enter as the #1 seed and they will be tested by CMU and Kenyon if they get by their 1st round. They don't have another tough D3 match after Indoors until a month later when they play Middlebury, CMS and Redlands in a 5 day span. This is a true test of how good this team is. They will be outdoors in California and we will see if they improved since Indoors. The CMS and Redlands matches are important because they could determine who hosts the West Regional for NCAAs.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Season Preview #25: Cal Lutheran

General Team Discussion - Cal Lu had a pretty good year in 2009 and they matched their 2008 season when they were also nationally ranked. I believe CLU peaked around #20 in the ITA Rankings last year, but I really think this is about as well as they can do. Although they have a strong team, they really can't compete with Redlands or CMS unless the big two in SCIAC are having an off-day. This is another team that is really hurt by the new NCAA selection process because it is nearly impossible for them to make the NCAA tournament unless they pull off some miracle wins during the conference tournament. The Kingsmen finished 3rd in the SCIAC last year and I would expect them to battle it out with P-P for 3rd place again. They play a decent non-conference schedule and they are challenged beginning to end. CLU has good development once they attract players, but they need to bring in a few more recruits to compete with the top 15 in the country. I would expect a finish between 25-30 in the country this year for CLU and either a 3rd or 4th place showing in the conference tournament.

Where They'll Win - CLU has one of the country's best players in Andrew Giuffrida. He made it to the finals of the West regional this fall and he's almost a lock to be an NCAA qualifier and I think he's a contender for the title when he gets there. He should hold his own against the best in the country at 1 singles and I also expect him to be half of a very respectable 1 doubles team. The Kingsmen also get a transfer from Boise State in Nick Ballou who should play in the top half of the lineup this year. After a pretty good junior career and some good D1 training, he may be able to do well at the #3 spot. After those two, CLU returns a couple more starters from last year's team.

Where They'll Lose - I mention they returned a couple starters, but the question is just how good are these players and can they compete with top 15 competition? I think CLU is a little weak in the middle of the lineup despite having experience there. I must say Cal Lu's doubles was strong for most of last season so this is somewhere where they may surprise people, because on paper their doubles teams shouldn't be all that strong. I think the issue for CLU is simply just not having enough strong players to compete with the best in the country.

Schedule Analysis - Cal Lu has two early season tests against P-P and Redlands. They had a strong early part to the season last year and fell off near the end, so I'm not sure if these matches with be appropriate gauges of their strength. They then host a bunch of team in March who travel to California for Spring Break. Some matches which I'd pay particular attention to are Mary Wash, Tyler, Salisbury and Whitman. If they can come out of those 4 matches with a 2-2 record, I think CLU should be pretty pleased with themselves. The SCIAC tournament will conclude their season and a big match is their probable 3rd-4th against Pomona-Pitzer.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Season Preview #24: DePauw

General Team Discussion - The Tigers have been up and down the past few years, but for the most part they are always a consistent top 15 team and very dangerous once they get to the NCAA tournament. They have turned the tables on Trinity (TX) the past few years and won 3 consecutive conference titles. They reached the Final 8 in 2007, but the past two years they fell in the Sweet 16 to a stronger Wash U team. Last year's DePauw team quietly had a very good season with only 3 losses, all of those coming to top 8 teams and they had several strong wins to go with it. They got a bit unlucky with their NCAA draw though. This year's team loses Swanson and Heck, both of whom were very valuable players, but the Tigers bring in a strong freshman class and judging by fall results it looks like at least 2 if not 3 freshmen will be in the starting lineup for DePauw this upcoming year. While I don't expect a top 10 finish from the Tigers, I would be very surprised if they dropped below #15 and I think they will hover at 13 or 14 for most of the season. They have an unlucky draw at Indoors. If my power rankings hold, they should sneak into the tournament as the #6 Pool C team and should be a tough out once they get there. They will look to make it 4 consecutive SCAC titles as well.

Where They'll Win - As is the case with most years, the Tigers are pretty solid everywhere with no real holes in their team. They probably overachieved slightly at the ITA Regional. If I had to pick a few spots to me that stand out, the first is #1 doubles. The Gates/Sandager team finished 2nd in the Regional and I think they have a great chance to be an NCAA Qualifier in 2010. Sandager also had some impressive singles results last year so he could be a potential force at #2. Their middle of the lineup looks to be very tough and Schouweiler didn't play the Fall, but if he plays the spring they are solid 3 through 5. #2 doubles should be a tough team as well.

Where They'll Lose - As I said, the Tigers are pretty good everywhere. One thing that bothers me is they played a freshman at #1 in the Fall. I don't think this is such a great strategy and when they get into big matches it may backfire. I would doubt he's so much better than everyone on their team that they can't move him back to #3. I'm not sure what their 3 doubles team will look like either, but they need to come up with something pretty good to take down Trinity (TX) in doubles at all 3 spots.

Schedule Analysis - A very tough Indoors draw. Emory 1st round then probably Hopkins. They should find themselves playing for 7th and 8th against a Gustavus team which they will easily beat. Chicago comes to town 2 weeks later and this is a must-win for DePauw for NCAAs. They have beaten Chicago the past few years and they need to do it again. They travel to Emory before having a pretty easy Spring Break trip. The GLCA is always tough and a potential semifinal with CMU could have NCAA implications. The biggest match of the season will be the SCAC finals against Trinity (TX) where DePauw hopes to lock up an NCAA spot.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Season Preview #23: Wash U

General Team Discussion - Over the past two season, the Bears have really become a powerhouse in D3. They were good in the early part of the decade, but not quite what they are now. Coach Follmer has just done a great job with this program. The Bears were national champions in '08 and last year they ended Emory's 19 year streak of conference titles with a shocking win in the UAA Finals. For the second year in a row, they entered the NCAA tournament as the top seed, but they were upset by Amherst in the semis. Coming into this year, the Bears are my preseason pick to be national champions. They return 4 players from last year's team, including John Watts, the most dominant player in D3, currently ranked #1 in the country. Not only do they have Watts+supporting cast, they also brought in another outstanding recruiting class. At least 2 of their freshmen if not more should see time in the starting lineup consistently. Wash U's goals this year are probably the same as always. Beat Emory and win a national title. Another accomplishment that could be added to that list is a National Indoors title, something that has eluded them the past few seasons. They will have quite a tough road to the title but that would be a great start to the season for the Bears.

Where They'll Win - Watts is the heart of the team and I think it's important that he comes through not only in singles, but also doubles. He mostly likely will be in the 2 doubles spot and Wash U needs to dominate that spot if they want to win another national title. They have an excellent top 4 in singles and a strong #1 doubles team to go with it. Cutler is tough to replace at 2, but I think the Bears are hoping freshman Adam Putterman can fill that void after a strong fall. That would leave Woods and Stein at 3 and 4 and they are some of the best in the country at those positions. They should also combine to be a top 5 doubles team in the country and NCAA Championship contender.

Where They'll Lose - The bottom of the singles and doubles lineup could be weak for Wash U. Levy went from being an amazing 3 to an average 5 in one year. If he can produce big wins at 5, Wash U will be very tough to beat. If he can't then I don't know if they can beat Amherst or Middlebury. 6 is still up in the air and I'm not sure who will fill in there. Wash U also doesn't have a 3 doubles team set in stone so I'll be interested to see how they fair at this position during the Indoor Nationals.

Schedule Analysis - A match I've been looking forward to since it was announced the 3-6 match in Indoors between Wash U and Hopkins. This will be such a good test for the Bears and we will really see what they are made of. If they get by this, Emory awaits in the semifinals so it could be a very tough 2 days. Before Indoors, they have to pass an early season test against Chicago, and a few weeks after Indoors they have a tough 2-day stretch facing Kenyon and NCW in Hilton Head during spring break. They don't have another big match in D3 until the UAA championships where they will certainly have a tough semi and most likely final against Emory.