Dillon Pottish, Emory
There was a ton of action and a lot of drama this weekend. We learned a lot about many teams and obviously the headliner was the #1 team in the country fell. I'll start with the Atlantic South Region matches.
The morning match was a lopsided affair where NC Wesleyan absolutely dominated Mary Wash. I expected a better performance from the Eagles, but a great job by the Bishops to turn things around in doubles after dropping 2 to W&L. This is just a rebuilding year for Mary Wash, I don't know if there's anything else to say. At this point I see their Redlands win as a fluke after they swept the doubles. This is the only win that is keeping them afloat right now and if they aren't careful they will lose to Salisbury this year. NC Wesleyan looked like a top 10 team for a few hours before getting beaten by Hopkins 8-1. I expected a closer match, but Hopkins won a 9-7 in doubles as well as all 3 3-setters. This was closer than the score but it was still 8-1 and I think it woke NCW up. It showed them that they aren't ready to compete with the best in the country just yet. They have a good shot to knock off a vulnerable Williams team Thursday. I think we've seen that NCW is a little up and down so far this season. A good showing by Hopkins establishing their dominance as #2 in the AS region behind Emory who had a convincing win over DePauw on Saturday. The Eagles went from dropping 2 of 3 doubles at Indoors to sweeping DePauw. A 7-2 result is about what I expected.
The other 4 matches on Saturday took place in the West. Redlands jumped out to an expected doubles lead against Bowdoin but then proceeded to falter in singles. The Bulldogs just don't have anyone who can win near the top of the lineup and their depth isn't good enough to carry them. They are pretty much out of NCAAs this year unless they pull a huge upset. This has to be the first time in a while they miss the tournament. Bowdoin got a much needed victory but they are still playing without Oscar Pena. They face a must win situation early this week when they play Trinity (CT). If they lose, they can count themselves out of the tournament this year as well. Whitman defeated Pomona-Pitzer in a very close match with 4 3-setters. The difference was Whitman winning in the middle. The Squirrels are a tough team this year. If they don't get stuck in Cali for NCAAs, I think they could definitely pose a threat to a top seed in their region. They have a lot of experience and are solid everywhere. They pushed Cruz to a 6-3 match on Sunday which is an improvement from their result 6 weeks ago.
The 2 biggest surprises of the weekend involved the 3 top teams in the West. Amherst rebounded after getting spanked by CLU and beat a CMS team who looked very tough in their first few matches. CMS may have been overconfident going into this matches but I'm very surprised they were beaten at the top 4 singles spots. A good showing by Herst to get them back on track heading into NESCAC play. CMS needs to regroup and get ready for some upcoming tests including the new #1 team in the country, Cal Lutheran. I was getting updates from the match and I was told Cruz was not sharp in doubles. CLU took advantage of this and took the 3-0 lead to basically end the match. Despite the 5-4 score, it was clinched at 5-1. Giuffrida and Ballou both have individual records of 24-0 right now and they are the best doubles team as well as the best 1-2 punch in the country at this moment. CLU is not just beating these opponents, they are winning comfortably. I love the fact that a team who was supposed to be #25 in the country is now ranked #1. Just goes to show what hard work and confidence can do for a team. Cruz had no expectations at Indoors and played loose tennis to win it. Now that they were expected to win, they folded. CLU plays CMS on April 10th and I think they are well on their way to undefeated regular season. Crazy to say it, but at the moment they are the favorite for nationals.