Monday, February 15, 2010

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.