Alex Dombos, Kalamazoo
7 matches of note that I'll be discussing in this post. To begin, I'll say I'm quite disappointed that the Hopkins-Chicago match was cancelled on Friday because it was a match I was looking forward to. Chicago doesn't have any tough matches until UAAs so they will hope that their Pool C competitors beat up on each other. Now, moving on to the Friday matches we had Trinity (CT) wrapping up their spring break at Pomona-Pitzer. I said this was a do or die match for both teams as far as NCAAs are concerned and the Bantams came out on top with an easy victory. If they are losing to Trinity (CT) in this fashion, I don't think the Hens are top 20 material. They showed promise early in the season but weren't able to keep up the level of the Mary Wash match. Another year where P-P will fall victim to the poor NCAA selection process. Trinity (CT) stayed alive, but just like last year, they now need a win over a top 3 NESCAC team (possibly more than 1), if they want to make the tournament.
The Midd-CMS match Friday had a lot on the line, most importantly the #1 ranking in the country. Midd continued their incredible play and came away with a fairly routine 7-2 victory. The Panthers will sit at #1 in the ITA rankings on Tuesday and they look to continue their domination in conference play. An undefeated regular season for Middlebury would certainly be an impressive feat. Their weaknesses were supposed to be the bottom of the lineup and doubles and these were both strengths on their trip. If you can rest your 3 and 4 and still win 4 singles against Redlands, you are a very good team. They look untouchable at this moment and if they continue this level, then they will be national champions. CMS needs to start preparing for the Cal Lu match in 2 weeks because this could determine the host institution for the NCAA Regional.
I didn't think Saturday would be all that competitive, but we had three matches won by a 5-4 score, including one of the biggest upsets of the season. Cruz was reeling entering their match with Redlands on Saturday and I felt the Bulldogs would be ready to go because they knew they needed a win like this to get back into the NCAA hunt. Cruz just dominated and got back on track. They won't see any D3 competition until the NCAA tournament, but we know they will be training hard. The Slugs know they have a lot of ground to make up if they want to come out of the West Regional playing on the road. As for Redlands, they just aren't the same team that they've been the past few seasons. They lost some key players and weren't able to recover. They aren't completely out of it yet but the future doesn't look bright this season. The other fairly lopsided match was Hopkins over Washington & Lee. I expected Hopkins to win easily and they did, once again securing their top 10 ranking. W&L needs to regroup after their in-conference loss and get ready to play HSC again in their conference tournament.
We also had three competitive matches Saturday. I expected Carnegie Mellon to crush Mary Washington, but they continue to struggle in doubles. I believe they have played 6 top 25 teams this year and they have been down 2-1 after doubles all 6 times. They've come back to win 3 of those times but losing doubles over and over will catch up with you. That being said, they dominated at the bottom of the singles lineup which is also Mary Wash's strength. I don't think the outcome was ever really in doubt despite the 5-4 score. Mary Wash has to be worried now after Salisbury's big win this weekend. I don't think the Eagles have another gear and at this moment it seems like they won't win their conference. The last two matches of note took place at Salisbury. Kalamazoo finished their spring break trip with two matches against Salisbury and Newport. I was following live stats for the morning match and Salisbury jumped out to an early doubles lead and never let up. They ended up winning 5-4 with #4 singles being the clincher when the match was tied 4-4. I don't know if I've said this before, but I hate results like this. It's a huge flaw of the 9 point system. Kalamazoo wins this match 5 years ago, but again that's just the way things are. This result was important not only for these teams, but it was felt across the country. I didn't take Salisbury seriously after they got crushed by a short-handed Bowdoin team, but I forgot that the Sea Gulls are always very tough on their home courts. Now we have Chicago and DePauw with losses to Kalamazoo, and therefore they should both move behind Bowdoin in the rankings. This pushes Chicago out of the tournament at the moment, even though they've been winning. Kalamazoo was looking really good, but I'm doubting them after this result. I think Salisbury could move into the top 15 on Tuesday. In one of the weirder results I've seen, Kzoo beat Newport 5-4 later in the day. Newport was without one of their top players and Kzoo was able to pull out a win to save themselves from another loss.