Monday, February 22, 2010

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.