Austin Chafetz, Amherst
March 20th is probably the biggest single day of the regular season, but to get there, we have to get through this week first. The upcoming week has several story lines headlined by the first matches for Amherst and Bowdoin. Both of these teams must transition from indoor practice to outdoor matches and they both face stern tests immediately. Monday brings an excellent warm-up match for the Jeffs. Salisbury is a team they should beat, but they will certainly be tested. I would expect the Sea Gulls to steal a couple points from Amherst and push them in a number of the matches. The bigger match on Monday is the contest between Bowdoin and Trinity (TX). Trinity is 0-4 in California so far and will find themselves out of the top 20 come Tuesday. They have almost 0 chance at qualifying through Pool C so they need to focus all of their attention on their conference tournament. Trinity's meltdown puts incredible pressure on Bowdoin to win this match. If the Polar Bears lose, they most likely fall below Trinity (TX) in the rankings, and this could mean 23 or 24 in the country. A loss Monday could eliminate Bowdoin from Pool C after their first match unless they come up with some magic later in the season. This is an absolute must win for Bowdoin and it's a tall task for their first match of the season.
One thing that hasn't been mentioned is that Andrew Jung won't be competing for Amherst this spring. This certainly puts Amherst in a tough spot losing their #3 player, but they are deep enough to handle it. The match I'm most looking forward to this week is Amherst @ Cal Lu on Tuesday. CLU is by far the hottest team in the country, but they will face by far their toughest test of the season when they host the defending runner up. I'm on upset watch and a win here could potentially catapult the Kingsmen into to top 10. Cal Lu also must beat Salisbury on Thursday. The Sea Gulls beat CLU last year so Cal Lu will be looking for revenge. If CLU gets through this week still undefeated, I won't hesitate to call them a national championship contender. They have really impressed me so far this year and they deserve a ton of credit. I vastly underestimated them.
Wednesday brings three more good matches. Amherst will play against a struggling Redlands team. Redlands beat both Texas teams, but they still aren't where they want to be this season. A win against Amherst could turn the season around for the Bulldogs so this is an important match for both teams. Redlands has looked tough in doubles lately so if they can get ahead 3-0, an upset is very possible. NC Wesleyan will be tested for the first time this year when they travel to W&L. The Generals are coming off a big win against Mary Wash so they look to carry that momentum into this match. NCW is a big question mark for me and they have two big matches Saturday as well. They have to remember not to take W&L lightly or this could be an upset. The only match of top 10 teams this week is a rematch of Indoors 3rd place. I would expect Emory to handle Kenyon on their home court although I'm expecting a close match. If the Lords can pull the upset, we could see Emory drop from the top 5 for the first time in a very long time.
The last match I'll have my eye on is W&L vs. HSC on Friday. This is a preview of the ODAC final and W&L looked strong over the weekend beating Mary Washington. If W&L loses this match, it could really throw the bottom half of the national rankings into a tailspin. I think an upset is possible if the bottom of the lineup can come through for HSC.
I will provide coverage throughout the week and I'll start preparing for a blockbuster weekend on Wednesday with previews of several of the matches. I'm really looking forward to the next 6 days so stay tuned.