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.