Friday, April 30, 2010

Weekend Preview: May 1-2

A quick note before the weekend preview is a match I actually didn't make a note about and I didn't have on the calendar. Must have missed it when I was putting in all the matches pre-season. Williams traveled to Hartford to take on Trinity (CT). This was the last chance for the Bantams in the regular season to prove that they belong in the tournament. This was one of the closest matches of the year. The box score is here. I don't know if I've ever seen a match where the winner of the first set ended up losing the match in 5 of 6 singles matches. This match really came down to the wire and this was quite close to being a 6-3 victory for Trinity (CT). In the same breath Williams probably could have won 8-1 just as easily. The bottom line is that Bowdoin will meet Trinity (CT) in the first round of the NESCAC tournament next weekend. To make the tournament, I see Trinity needing not just 1, but 2 wins, and that would include beating Middlebury. Bowdoin has out of conference wins against Redlands and Salisbury and Trinity (CT) can only boast a win over Pomona-Pitzer. With this result on Wednesday, I think Bowdoin has all but locked up the 6th spot in Pool C for the tournament and Trinity will be left out for the 2nd year in a row.

Washington & Lee @ Carnegie Mellon

Despite the fact that this is #8 versus #25 in the country, I think it could be close. CMU has been so up and down in doubles so anything can happen. Carnegie can lock up a #1 seed and hosting for NCAAs and at the same time I don't really think W&L could benefit even if they end up winning. Doubles is so unpredictable but I'll give CMU a 2-1 lead heading into singles. The Generals will have a hard time keeping up in the bottom of the lineup and I don't see how they can possibly get anymore than 3 singles wins. I think 1 or 2 singles wins is actually more realistic. The only real chance for the Generals here is to sweep the doubles and that hasn't happened to CMU all season. I'll take CMU in a somewhat close 7-2 tomorrow to give them confidence heading into NCAAs. The Generals did what they needed to do and should be pleased with their season after taking back the conference title.

DePauw @ Wash U

The Tigers should be playing with a lot of desperation in this match. They lost their conference, but a huge upset would probably catapult them into the tournament through Pool C. That being said, I just don't know if there are 5 wins for DePauw in this match. The Tigers would somehow have to get up after doubles and although unlikely, this is possible. DePauw nearly swept Emory in doubles at the Indoors so the potential is there but they would need to play 3 perfect doubles matches. Even if this happens, I still think it would take a big effort to get 2 singles wins. They are the underdog at every spot in the lineup. I think they have an outside chance to win at 2, 3 and 6 and after those the Bears should dominate. I'm taking Wash U 7-2. I think the Bears may be playing with a chip on their shoulder after moving from 2 to 7 in the national rankings. I suspect DePauw will get a singles win and a doubles win. A tough season for the Tigers and they will miss the tournament for this first time in several years.

Middlebury @ Williams

Williams is one of the few teams in the country who I believe can play with Midd in the bottom of the lineup. Where Williams will fall short is Midd's strength - the top 4 spots. I think the Panthers will come out and dominate there top 4 spots and the only place where I'd say Williams has a chance is probably 2. Williams hasn't been good in doubles this year and this is where you need to get Middlebury if you want to stay in the match heading into singles. Results point to this being a blowout and I'm not going to argue otherwise. Midd just has too much firepower at the top of the lineup and I'll take them in a 7-2 victory. Williams played close with Trinity just a few days ago so they have a lot of work to do if they want to qualify for the final 8 this year.

Middlebury @ Amherst

#1 vs #2 in the NESCAC and finally Amherst has moved into the top 5 in the country after being out of the top 10 for a bit. The Jeffs are playing to their potential and they seem to have found the form that got them to the national championship match last year. The one thing I'm still not sold on is Amherst's doubles. They miss Jung in the #3 spot a lot I think. At the same time, they could have arguably the best #2 doubles team in the country in Kahan/Koenig. Amherst has to play a pretty perfect match to win against Middlebury and their 5 and 6 guys really need to step up. 3 and 4 singles are pretty much a lost cause for Herst. I think they will get either 1 or 2 and 2 doubles. That means they need to find 3 points within the other 2 doubles spots and 5 and 6 singles. I just don't think they can pull it off. Herst will be pumped up on their homecourts with a nice crowd, but I think Midd will be too much. 6-3 Middlebury.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Bracketology Issue #2

My field of 42 as of now:

Pool A
ASC - UT Tyler
CAC - Mary Washington
Centennial - Johns Hopkins
CUNYAC - Staten Island
Colonial States AC - Marywood
Commonwealth Coast - Roger Williams
Commonwealth - Elizabethtown
Empire 8 - Ithaca
Freedom - Wilkes
Heartland Collegiate AC - Transylvania
IIAC - Luther
Landmark - Drew
Little East - Western Connecticut
MIAA - Kalamazoo
Midwest - Grinnell
MIAC - Gustavus
NESCAC - Middlebury
NCAC - Kenyon
Northern Athletics - MSOE
NWC - Whitman
Ohio AC - Mount Union
ODAC - Washington & Lee
Skyline - St Josephs LI
SCAC - Trinity (TX)
USA South - NC Wesleyan
UAA - Emory

Pool B
1. Santa Cruz
2. Vassar
3. MIT
4. Skidmore
6. Eau Claire
7. Whitewater
8. Lacrosse
9. Carthage

Pool C
1. Cal Lutheran
2. Wash U
3. Carnegie Mellon
4. Amherst
5. Williams
6. Bowdoin

1. Middlebury*, Vassar, MIT, Roger Williams, Western Connecticut
2. Emory*, NC Wesleyan, Washington & Lee, UT-Tyler, Transylvania
3. CMS*, Cal Lutheran, Santa Cruz, Whitman
4. Wash U*, Trinity (TX), Luther, Grinnell, Carthage, MSOE
5. Carnegie Mellon*, Mary Washington, TCNJ, Mount Union, Wilkes, Marywood
6. Amherst*, Bowdoin, Skidmore, Staten Island, St. Josephs LI
7. Kenyon, Kalamazoo, Gustavus, Eau Claire, Whitewater*, LaCrosse
8. Johns Hopkins*, Williams, Drew, Ithaca, Elizabethtown

In quarters: 1 vs. 8, 4 vs. 5, 3 vs. 6, 2 vs. 7.
* denotes host site

There are several questionable moves which I took in making this bracket but overall I'm pleased with it. The New England regionals were fairly simple and since Williams isn't a 1 seed this year chances are good they will get shipped South to take on Hopkins. TCNJ could potentially be a host site for this match because I know the Hopkins facilities aren't the best. If Hopkins did put in a bid to host, I'm assuming they will get to host and Williams will travel South to play them since there are a plethora of teams in New England. Vassar is ranked and good enough to be a 2 seed, and I see them going to Midd since the Panthers are the top team in the country. That leaves Bowdoin no place to go but Amherst.

The job of the NCAA bracket making committee is to limit the amount of flights. Three flights must be done, those being Whitman, Trinity (TX) and UT-Tyler. After those three, the bracket should be done so there are no more flights regardless of whether the top teams get to host. With the emergence of NC Wesleyan, Emory can now host a regional and W&L as well as Transylvania can also go to Emory within the 500 mile rule. I used one of the flights to fill out the Emory region and although this is a tough region, I think 2 4-team regions may be pushing it. Unfortunate for NC Wesleyan, but I'm pretty sure they will end up at Emory simply because of geographic proximity. They are 11th in the country but they will most likely end up having to play the #2 overall seed in the Sweet 16. Washington & Lee is ranked high enough to be a 2 seed in the Emory region and it's possible you could send NC Wesleyan North, but that would leave only a 4 team bracket and I think the committee will want to avoid that if possible.

Next you notice Whitman traveling to California. The 3 Cali teams will obviously stay there and then one the flights needs to be used to send a team there. The obvious choice would be Whitman. In theory you could send Whitman to Atlanta and UT-Tyler out to California instead. I think Trinity (TX) is ranked high enough where they won't have to worry about being shipped to California. A 4 team region with everyone in the top 14 in the country would be ridiculous. Unfortunate for Whitman because they could have done some damage elsewhere. I'm pretty confident this is where they will end up for the 3rd year in a row. There just aren't enough teams in California and you obviously can't have a 3 team region.

That leaves the last flight for Trinity (TX) and my guess is they will go to St. Louis. I looked at flights for them to Pittsburgh potentially but they can't get there on a direct flight. San Antonio to St. Louis is pretty cheap and there are also a lot of teams in the Mid-Atlantic who can go to CMU. A lot of the Midwest schools may also end up traveling South to St. Louis. Several of these schools may be ones that normally end up at Gustavus.

I have mixed feelings on Region 5. CMU is a pretty central location and I'm quite sure they will get to host as they deserve it, but the options for their 2 seed are realistically Mary Wash or Kzoo. Since Kzoo has to be shipped to be packaged with Kenyon, that leaves Mary Washington as the obvious choice for Carnegie's 2 seed. This is a nice region for the Tartans and I guess they could potentially draw Trinity (TX) as well, but that would leave the St. Louis region extremely weak and also Mary Washington would have to go elsewhere creating a loaded region. TCNJ may be grouped with Williams and Hopkins but I figured Mary Wash should be challenged in the regional semifinals since TCNJ can make the trip to Pittsburgh. Let Williams have the easy road to the regional final as the higher ranked team.

Region 6 I'm pretty sure will happen. It's possible Williams and Amherst will be in the same region, but unlikely. Bowdoin is the clear choice to be Amherst's 2 seed and the only way that may change is if Williams stays in New England instead of traveling South to take on Hopkins. Bowdoin may then have to travel to Middlebury, but again this is an unlikely scenario.

Region 7 is where things got tricky. The problem here is that Gustavus cannot travel to any school that is in line to be a #1 seed, so this would therefore create another flight. They are just barely out of driving distance to Wash U at 535 miles. Therefore, a school between Gustavus and a #1 seed will have to host. The obvious choices are Wash U and Kenyon and I gave Wash U the host because they are the higher ranked team. Unfortunate for the Lords, but at the same time they have a pretty easy region for being the #7 overall seed. Whitewater has very nice outdoor facilities so I think they would be a great candidate for a host institution. The Lords shouldn't have to travel as a #1 seed and they have hosted the past 2 years, but things got thrown off with Gustavus being weak this year. To eliminate a flight for Gustavus, this must happen.

I really hope Region 8 happens because I would love to see these 2 teams square off the in Sweet 16. I think they are similar teams and quite evenly matched. I would hope that Williams doesn't get stuck with Amherst in a region. As I noted earlier, TCNJ could be a potential site for this region because I don't have confirmation that Hopkins put in a bid to host. The #3 seed here is weak but that's okay in my opinion because a 2 seed as strong as Williams deserves an easy first round.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Singles & Doubles National Rankings

These are quite difficult to do but I'm going to try my hand at them because many people have asked me to do so. Obviously these are up for interpretation and everyone will have a different order for their rankings. You can email me arguments about why player A should be ahead of player B and you are probably right, but there is a reason the ITA doesn't do mid-season national rankings for individuals and that's because they are very hard to do without a computer ranking system.

1. Dillon Pottish, Emory
2. John Watts, Wash U
3. Andrew Giuffrida, CLU
4. Brian Pybas, Santa Cruz
5. Mike Greenberg, Kenyon
6. Chris Goodwin, Emory
7. Robbie Erani, CMS
8. Andrew Peters, Middlebury
9. Austin Chafetz, Amherst
10. Andrew Lee, Middlebury
11. Nick Ballou, CLU
12. Mark Kahan, Amherst
13. Mikey Lim, CMS
14. Sam Sweeney, North Central
15. Marc Vartabedian, Santa Cruz
16. Spencer Feldman, Trinity (CT)
17. Matt Solomon, Whitman
18. Steve Sullivan, Bowdoin
19. Eric Shulman, CNU
20. Max Frey, Trinity (TX)
21. Tommy Meyer, Pomona-Pitzer
22. David Maldow, Johns Hopkins
23. Hayden White, W&L
24. Antti Saari, NC Wesleyan
25. Nick Lebedoff, Williams

1. Ballou/Giuffrida, CLU
2. Pybas/Vartabedian, Santa Cruz
3. Lee/Thomson, Middlebury
4. Stein/Woods, Wash U
5. Erani/Wu, CMS
6. Brody/Greenberg, Kenyon
7. Cocanougher/Kowal, Trinity (TX)
8. Goodwin/Jordan, Emory
9. Filonov/Saari, NC Wesleyan
10. King/Muliawan, CMU
11. Moshevich/Solomon, Whitman
12. Burtzlaff/Thomas, Salisbury
13. Boyd/Jadun, Kalamazoo
14. Hammond/Wong, Redlands
15. Feldman/McCook, Trinity (CT)

Weekend Recap: April 23-25

UAA Champion Emory Eagles

A couple big results of note on Friday. The match that was scheduled for Sunday between Amherst and Trinity (CT) was moved until Friday due to poor weather being forecasted. Amherst was the favorite here but as I've stated over and over Trinity needs to make something happen if they want to make the tournament. Trinity had an opportunity but slipped as they lost a tiebreaker at 3 doubles to give Amherst the momentum going into singles. The Jeffs were too strong and came away with 4 easy singles wins to wrap up the match. Amherst has their chance at Middlebury next weekend so we will see if they can make some magic happen. It would be a big win for Amherst because as of now they are in line to play CMS or Wash U in the NCAA quarterfinals. Moving on, a very surprising result happened in the first round of the UAA tournament. Although Brandeis had some decent results earlier this season, they had just lost to 26th ranked MIT so I didn't consider them a real threat to the Maroons. Chicago jumped out to a lead after doubles and looked like they would run away with the match. Chicago's 1 William Zhang was unable to play and this pushed everyone up a spot for Chicago. This was bad news for Chicago and a 3rd set tiebreak win at #2 singles would prove to be the difference and give Brandeis the win. A tough end to a pretty good season for Chicago and they will miss the tournament once again after underachieving for the 3rd year in a row. A great win for a Brandeis program that looks to be on the rise. The biggest match of the day was the CAC final as Salisbury took on Mary Wash. Although the singles were highly contested, I was pretty sure Mary Wash would win after they took 2 of 3 doubles. They were playing without one of their best players and still managed to win. They just deserve to be in the tournament more than Salisbury. Look at the top 2 singles spots. You have freshman for UMW against senior for Salisbury and UMW takes both spots. Great stuff from the Eagles but Salisbury can't expect to win against good teams turning in performances like that. The Eagles win their 11th conference title in a row.

Three pretty big matches on Saturday with the first being a regular season NESCAC match between Bowdoin and Williams. I expected a competitive match but with Williams at home and needing a win, the outcome was not as I expected. Bowdoin isn't deep enough to play with Williams in singles or doubles and this showed as Williams won comfortably. The outcome was never in doubt. Willams partially solved their doubles woes in this match but their 2 and 3 teams need to keep up the good play. I don't think they have a combination that is effective at 1 and this could hurt them down the road. They've put themselves in good position to make the tournament after this win and probably will enter the NESCAC tournament as the #3 seed. The SCAC semifinal between DePauw and Rhodes I thought was a potential danger match for the Tigers. Rhodes struggled this season in doubles and that continued as DePauw got the doubles sweep. They still had to battle to win the match but chances were good that DePauw would win. In D3, you can't win if you're not winning in doubles and this is where Rhodes fell short all season. DePauw was tested but advanced to the championship to face Trinity (TX). The final match of the day was a top 10 clash between Emory and Carnegie Mellon. The doubles was closely contested but Emory took an expected 2-1 lead. I think CMU needed to get up in doubles if they wanted to win because of Emory's 2 big guns at the top of the singles lineup. Emory closed with 3 quick wins in singles and showed that they are playing well at the end of the season as always. This was stopped at 5-1 but I'm guessing it was probably headed for a 7-2. A dominant performance by Emory and they would face Wash U in a much anticipated final.

3 conference finals took place on Sunday and I'll run through each of the results.


Washington & Lee entered the conference tournament in very unfamiliar territory: as the #2 seed and the underdog. The good news for the Generals is that they hosted the match and this was a big advantage for them. HSC played tough doubles and took a much needed 2-1 lead with wins at 1 and 2. In their regular season match, it was 2 wins in the bottom of the singles lineup that propelled HSC to a win. It looked like they only needed one of those this time around. For me, the turning point in this match was the victory for Hayden White at #1 singles. Moss is the heart of the HSC team and it's tough to watch your best player lose to a guy he's beaten twice this year. This win at the top of the lineup put W&L in control of the match and a comeback win at 4 singles all but sealed it for the Generals. They were dominant at both 5 and 6 and were able to win the match despite a loss at #2 singles. W&L brought the ODAC title back to Lexington and will be headed to the NCAA tournament. I think the better team won in this match and the Generals deserve the title.


The UAA final was obviously a nerve-racking experience for both teams but I couldn't imagine something tougher than having to play with your season on the line against your biggest rival. The ODAC final also had this, but DePauw and Trinity (TX) are two teams that are so used to success, it's hard to think one of them won't be playing in the NCAA tournament. DePauw had a streak of 3 straight conference titles and last year DePauw knocked Trinity out of the NCAA tournament for the first time in many years. Trinity was out for revenge this year and they found it with some amazing doubles play. They surrendered only 11 games in a doubles sweep to put themselves in complete control of the match. DePauw looked like they would fight back and took the next 3 matches, but after being swept in doubles it's very difficult to complete the comeback. Trinity showed a lot of resiliency and got a 3 set win at 4th singles to seal the match. This win has to feel great for Trinity as they finally took back the conference title. DePauw has one last chance to qualify for the tournament but it would take a win over Wash U next weekend on the road. A great college match which will send Trinity (TX) back to the NCAA tournament.


In Wash U's last two victories over Emory they have swept the doubles and barely held on for a win. The way Emory has been playing, I felt the Bears may need another doubles sweep if they wanted to win. Pottish just owns Watts right now and Goodwin is untouchable at 2 singles. This is a huge advantage for Emory because Wash U basically needs to win 5 out of 7 matches and that's just not possible against a team as good as Emory. Emory got a shocking win at 1st doubles, which was the spot they lost the previous day. When Emory got the win at 3 doubles, you knew things weren't looking good for Wash U. Emory made the score 4-1 with quick wins at the top and Wash U closed the gap with a win at 3. All eyes turned to #4 singles, but Egan was able to complete a great comeback and win 7-5 in the 3rd to give Emory the UAA title after a one year hiatus. Emory also captured first sets at 5 and 6 singles so this match looked to be well on it's way to a 7-2 final score. A dominant performance from Emory and you could tell they really wanted this win. Wash U needs to regroup and get ready for DePauw this weekend. They hope to turn in a dominant performance before heading to NCAAs.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Crucial Weekend

To date, I think this is the most important three day stretch of matches this season. Indoors has blockbuster matches, but this weekend has blockbuster matches as well as seasons on the line. There are 4 automatic bids to the tournament from major conferences on the line as well as two huge NESCAC clashes. We are also going to have two matches take place between top 7 teams. This is going to be a great weekend so let's take a look at the action.

I've had this match circled on my calendar since the beginning of the season and it's finally here. The CAC final between Salisbury and Mary Washington. Mary Wash holds a streak of 10 consecutive conference titles but this is probably the closest these two teams have ever been in both ability and ranking. The Eagles have had a terrible year but the one bright spot for them was a 7-2 win 3 weeks ago against Salisbury which knocked the Sea Gulls out of the top 20. Mary Washington is hosting this match but I'm sure both teams will be ready to play. After looking at the results from the last match, Salisbury knows where they need to improve. If Mary Wash can get ahead in doubles, I think they can cruise to victory. If Salisbury is up, I see this match coming down to the wire because another singles sweep by the Eagles is very unlikely. It's simple for both teams. Win and you go to the tournament or lose and your season is over. Live stats for the match will be at

Next on our list is a match taking place only a few hours away in Lexington, VA and it's a very similar situation. The season of both teams is on the line. Washington & Lee had a streak of 13 consecutive ODAC finals broken last year by their opponent, Hampden-Sydney. HSC is a pretty average team, but when they play W&L they become a much better team simply because of the rivalry. Whenever HSC plays a top 25 team they get trounced, but they always come to play against W&L and that's why this match will be great. Both teams have a natural dislike for the other and all of their matches come down to the wire. HSC should have 3 wins but they need to find those other 2 from the bottom of their singles lineup. I think W&L will manage to pull it out but this will be close as always.

Two NESCAC matches that I've had my eye on will be taking place this weekend. Home court traditionally helps a lot in NESCAC and both underdogs have the home court this weekend. On Saturday, #12 Williams looks to get their first quality win of the season against #13 Bowdoin. Bowdoin got crushed by Midd last weekend so they will be looking to rebound. This is close to do-or-die time for the Ephs as they need to start producing if they want to make the NCAA Tournament this year. Not making the tournament is unheard of for Williams tennis and unacceptable for a program filled with prized recruits. Bowdoin stands at 13 in the country and they've been doing good work all season without their star player and defending NCAA doubles finalist Oscar Pena. I think a win on Saturday would lock up the #5 spot in Pool C for Bowdoin. They would also avoid a 4-5 match in the first round of the NESCAC tournament. The second match takes place on Sunday with #8 Amherst traveling to take on Trinity (CT). Much like Williams, Trinity is in desperate need of a win and they will need to play their best tennis if they want to beat the Jeffs. Amherst is fresh off a 7-2 rout of Williams and Trinity hasn't done anything special this year. I think Trinity will come close but the Jeffs will be a little too deep. I'm going with the traditional powerhouses in both of these and taking Williams and Amherst to win.

In Arkansas, we have the SCAC tournament taking place and everyone has their eye on the potential final between #14 Trinity (TX) and #16 DePauw. Before we get to the final, DePauw will have to get past a tough Rhodes team, who's a real sleeper this year. I think Rhodes will challenge them, but DePauw should come out victorious. They have to be fresh for the biggest match of their season on Sunday so an extended match against Rhodes is not what they want. Despite some losses, I've been big on Trinity all season and I still am. This is a good and complete team. The thing that worries me about Trinity is that they haven't really been tested in over a month. Rhodes is a good team and a good win, but they aren't the quality of DePauw. On the other hand, DePauw is pretty fresh off the GLCA tournament where they battled Kenyon and Kalamazoo. I would expect DePauw to be more in form but I don't know if this is enough to trump Trinity's advantage in talent. Trinity is desperate to take back the conference title after DePauw has won it 3 consecutive years and I predict that Trinity will do just that this weekend.

The biggest event of the weekend will be the UAA tournament taking place in Pittsburgh. One can make an argument that the UAA is the strongest conference in the country this year with 3 teams in the top 7 in the country this year and a 4th at #15. The first semifinal on Saturday should have #2 Wash U playing against #15 Chicago. The Maroons gave Wash U all they could handle in an early season match but came up just short of what would have been the biggest win in the history of their program. Chicago has another chance to pull the upset but they won't have the element of surprise this time. The Bears have been playing well lately and Chicago hasn't seen any tough opponents in a while. I think Wash U should win in a convincing 8-1 or 7-2 victory. The other semifinal has #3 Emory taking on host and #7 Carnegie Mellon. CMU has been a pleasant surprise this year and many don't believe Emory is deserving of their #3 ranking. CMU matches up fairly well against the Eagles since depth is their strength and the Eagles weakness. I think CMU has the potential to take 3 of the singles, but that would mean they need to come up with 2 big wins in doubles. My guess is that Emory will win a close 6-3, but if CMU can jump on top in doubles this could get interesting. I'll have finals and 3-4 predictions on Saturday after the matches are set.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Weekend Recap: April 16-17

7 matches of note took place and 2 automatic bids from major conferences were awarded for the tournament. Starting with Saturday, the SCIAC final was a match that we expected between CMS and Cal Lu and a battle between 2 of the top 5 teams in the country. Both teams took care of business against respectable teams on Friday so I was looking forward to a competitive result. CMS did to CLU exactly what the Kingsmen did to Cruz earlier this season. Came out very hot and put the match out of reach after doubles. Cal Lu was able to take 4 first sets to make things interesting for a while but CMS closed quickly with wins at 2 and 6. The 9 point system strikes again, but at the same time, most teams have been victimized as well as benefitted from it. CLU lost 2 of the 3 spots they needed to win the match and this proved to be the difference. In all likelihood, these teams will see each other again in a few weeks for the 3rd and final time.

One the other side of the country, Middlebury put together it's most dominant performance to date absolutely crushing a tough Bowdoin team. They looked not only dominant in singles but also in doubles and after this weekend it makes me think once again that no one will come close to the Panthers this year. Bowdoin needs to regroup and get ready for an upcoming test against Williams that could make them close to a lock for the tournament. Midd looks tough but they will probably face their most stern test yet when they take on Williams and Amherst on back to back days in 2 weekends. Midd once again cemented their place as the country's top team.

Mary Wash had a convincing win against Hamden-Sydney. I believe the ODAC final is this weekend and HSC and W&L will face off for the automatic bid. Also, Mary Wash will host Salisbury on Friday for the right to the CAC automatic bid as well. It is possible that both of these teams seasons could be over a week from now, but it's also possible they could both be headed to the tournament.

A match that I didn't have on the schedule but probably should have was the USA South conference final between Newport and NC Wes. I think both teams needed a win to get in the tournament and I was scratching my head a little bit when Newport managed to win 2 of the doubles to take the lead. The problem for CNU just like it has been all season is that they aren't deep enough in singles. With the illness of Widing, they don't have enough players who can compete against the likes of top 15 teams. Their top guys have taken care of business but they haven't been getting wins anywhere else. This showed as they won I think 7 combined games in the bottom 4 singles spots which just doesn't get it done against a team the quality of NCW. Wesleyan takes their 2nd consecutive conference title and will be headed to the tournament.

Mary Wash tried to use the momentum of the last two matches to upset Hopkins but they were in trouble before the match even started because one of their best players, arguably their most valuable player, wasn't able to play due to cramps the day before. Probably a good call by their coach to rest him for the upcoming week. Mary Wash was able to get their lone win at the 1 doubles spot, but besides that Hopkins crushed them. A much needed win for Hopkins and the 2nd year in a row that they have destroyed Mary Wash. I have mixed feelings on both of these teams going forward and we will see if UMW is up to the challenge this week.

Kalamazoo has really been struggling lately and it looked like that would continue when Gustavus was able to jump on top of the Hornets with 2 doubles victories. Riley had to be pretty upset with his guys because Kzoo is playing nowhere near their potential right now. His speech between singles and doubles must have work because Kalamazoo came out and swept the singles, which was actually somewhat of a surprise for me. I think this was a closer 7-2 than the score, but Kzoo got the job done. Gustavus needs to focus on beating Carleton again so they can defend their conference title and make the tournament. Kzoo needs to find their game from early in the season.

The biggest match of the day was the heated rivalry between Amherst and Williams. Williams has yet to do anything of note this season and with a home match I expected a lot out of them in this match. They just haven't been producing in doubles and this continued as they struggled to win games at the top 3 spots. Amherst is obviously a strong team but if Williams wants to do anything on the national scene this year and even qualify for the tournament, they have got to pick up their doubles play because it's a joke right now. Credit to Herst who went into Williamstown and took care of business. Williams now faces an absolute must win against Bowdoin this weekend or their season could be over very soon. Much like Trinity (CT), the lack of an out of conference schedule is killing Williams right now and they could find themselves out of the top 15 next week if they don't bring it this weekend.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Update and a Few Previews

The ITA Rankings were released on Wednesday. Most of you are aware that I thought some mistakes were made in the last rankings, but I personally have no problems with this set of rankings. I still think Wash U and Emory are overranked, but I also didn't expect that to change from the last set of rankings. The one thing that is now confirmed that I previously suspected is that Chicago will have to get a big win at conference next weekend if they want to qualify for the NCAA tournament. It now gets to the time when rankings become important for NCAA seedings and every match is huge because your team may not get another chance.

Had a busy week and didn't get to make a post, but at the same time there hasn't been much action. The only notable match that took place this week was on Wednesday, when Kenyon d. Denison 8-1 with the one loss being Greenberg at #1 singles, which was quite a surprise. That could spell bad news for some lower ranked guys in the Central region if the Denison player now qualifies for NCAA Individuals.

Today, there will be 3 matches of note taking place. The first will be when Bowdoin travels south to take on #1 Middlebury. I don't think this will be a very competitive match because Middlebury has just been too tough this season, but Bowdoin could potentially squeeze out a win or two. I don't think an upset is a real consideration here. Secondly, we have an Atlantic South battle between Hampden-Sydney and Mary Washington. These are two teams that could both use a win heading into their conference tournament. I would think UMW will win with their depth in this one and it's possible that the Salisbury win got the Eagles back on track for this weekend. The biggest match on Saturday is the SCIAC championship between #4 CMS and #5 CLU. Of course a conference title is on the line, but more importantly than that I think hosting for NCAAs is also on the line and both of these teams love their home courts. Giuffrida lost to Spearman from Redlands yesterday which was a shocker since Spearman hasn't done much this season. I don't know if Giuffrida is suffering from some health problems or injuries, but his team needs 2 wins from him today if they want to beat the Stags. I'll stick with the same prediction as last time and say that CLU must win #1 doubles and both of the top 2 singles spots if they want to win this match.

Sunday also boasts 3 big matches with the first being another AS clash when Johns Hopkins looks to continue their mini win streak as they travel to Mary Washington for their annual match. This match is big for Hopkins not only for confidence, but they could potentially lose their regional top seed in NCAAs if they lose. The Eagles will most likely be coming off a big Saturday win and they will be hungry for an upset. My guess would be Hopkins is a little too strong at the bottom of the lineup, but I am on upset watch in this match because I don't think it will be as routine as some people think. If Mary Wash can get an edge in doubles, they can win. Confidence wise, I don't think JHU can afford to be upset heading into NCAAs. The 2nd match of note is Kalamazoo vs Gustavus at a neutral site. GAC has won this match in recent years but I have to call Kzoo the favorite tomorrow. The Hornets are another team that desperately need a win after their poor results lately. It is also to their advantage that the match is being played at a neutral site. I think Kzoo will have a little too much talent and I would expect a 6-3 victory for them. The biggest match on Sunday is between the 2 and 3 in the NESCAC and bitter rivals Amherst and Williams. Williams will be hosting and I'm sure they will have a nice crowd. This is a big match not only for bragging rights, but also NCAA seeding and hosting. Williams could make a splash in the top 10 if they win this match and if I'm Hopkins and Kenyon, I'm rooting for Amherst so they both can keep their regional top seed. Both of these teams are very deep in singles and I see the matches as pretty even. Amherst may have a slight edge due to experience but I think this will come down to doubles. Herst should be a bit too strong and I'm going to take them 5-4, but I'm not surprised if Williams wins. #12 in the country is unfamiliar territory for the Ephs so I'm sure they are looking to get back in the top 10.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Power Rankings - April 13

1. Middlebury - We haven't seen a team this dominant since Santa Cruz in 2007. They have the best 3 and 4 in the country, probably a top 5 #1 doubles team and a top 5 #1 and #2 singles player. They are just really good everywhere and has showed in their results so far this season. I don't see any team winning more than 3 singles matches against these guys unless they have an incredible day. If you are going to beat Midd, it has to be in doubles. Their 2 and 3 doubles teams are good, but I don't consider them untouchable. With the 7-point system, I think Midd is a lock for a national title, but that's the beauty of the 9-point system. Middlebury should focus on an undefeated regular season and winning their conference tournament because they definitely have some stiff competition still to face in the NESCAC. As of right now, no team has shown that they can challenge the Panthers and until this happens, Midd is my favorite to win a national title this year.

2. CMS - Looking back, their loss against Amherst really puzzles me. I'm not exactly sure what happened to the Stags in that match, but besides that one blemish on their record, they've been playing good tennis, even in a 7-2 loss to Midd. I consider the Stags the 2nd best team in the country right now and they are probably also the deepest team in the country. The main problem I see is that despite having 2 very good players at the top of the lineup, I don't know if their guys can win against the likes of Emory and CLU. Their doubles is also quite streaky and with that 2-1 edge, they are very tough to beat because of their depth. The bottom of their lineup hasn't been rock solid, but rather it's their middle that has been carrying them. They have a tough task this weekend defeating CLU for the 2nd week in a row. That win would certainly pay off though and they would avoid Cruz in the semis of regionals and they would also host the regional at their great facility. I don't think they can beat Midd unless they have a great day, but the Stags are my favorite for national runner-up at the moment.

3. Cal Lutheran -I love it that a team predicted to finish 20th in the country can move up as high as 4th in the country. This team got a few big early season wins and they began to believe in themselves. After that started, the wins just kept coming and didn't stop until they finally lost to CMS. Along with Emory, they have the best top 2 in the country and they also have by far the best doubles team in the country. When they play other teams in the top 8, they need those 3 points every match and I feel like that's where they may fall just short. The teams that they would see in the Final 8 (and even in their regional) are very deep and can probably beat them at the bottom of the lineup as CMS just did. There's an awful lot of pressure of Giuffrida and Ballou to perform every time they step on the court and I think this wears on you. If they beat CMS in the conference final this weekend, it is possible they will have NCAAs at home. If not, they will have quite a task beating Cruz and CMS back to back days to make it to the Final 8. This team can win a national title, but all of the pieces need to fall into place perfectly.

4. Wash U - Wash U hasn't played that difficult of a schedule this year and that's why I'm not sure about this team once they get to the Final 8. They haven't been in many close matches. These guys were my preseason pick to win nationals but they haven't turned out to be quite a dominant as I expected. Watts has lost 2 D3 matches this year which is a shock and their doubles has been up and down as shown by their performance at Indoors. They will be tested twice next weekend at the conference tournament so this will help them a lot, win or lose. They've put themselves in position to make the Final 4 but if you look at Midd, CMS and Emory, Wash U would be the most likely candidate to be upset in the quarters. They have yet to prove that they are rock solid at every spot. That being said, I think this team is as good as anyone and if Watts can get 2 points for his team in big matches, they may see Midd in the NCAA finals.

5. Emory - Emory has had a good season and put itself in position to make their 9th consecutive Final 4 appearance. I think they are the one team that can potentially scare Middlebury because of their firepower at the top combined with their depth, but I'm still not sold on Emory's doubles. I think this is what will make the difference for them. If they get up 2-1 in doubles, I don't know if they can be beaten. It seems to me the only team who would be able to hang at the top 2 spots against the Eagles is Cal Lutheran, they are just that dominant. Emory is basically up 2-0 before the match starts and they have a lot of talent after that, it's just a matter of them getting those 3 other wins. They have locked up a #1 seed and right now they should set their sights on taking back the UAA championship. Emory always plays their best tennis at the end of the season and that's why I like this team going forward.

6. Santa Cruz - I think that even the Slugs knew they were playing over their heads at Indoors. They had wins over 3 great teams and then they went home to California where they should be at their best. They were dominated twice and also beaten by CLU. The Indoors champions now find themselves at #6 in the country and the probable 3rd seed in their region for NCAAs. Their doubles that looked untouchable at Indoors faltered against CLU and I think this really shook their confidence. We've seen the potential of this team and it's about putting it together for 2 consecutive days during regionals. They most likely will have to get through CLU and then CMS and they won't be playing at home. That's a tall order, but if any coach will prepare his players for it, it's Bob Hansen. No one has really been paying attention to Cruz or giving them much respect lately, but remember they were #1 in the country a month ago.

7. Carnegie Mellon - After Middlebury, I don't know if anyone is playing as well as CMU right now. In their last few matches, they've beaten 4 top 15 teams. Finally we are seeing consistency, something that has been lacking the past few years. We know they are loaded with talent and it's finally showing. I don't think they've ever been ranked this high and the thing that's making the difference is that they are getting contributions from everywhere. Just when we thought their doubles was weak, they sweep Hopkins and Kalamazoo. When they lose in doubles, they win 4 singles against Mary Wash and Kenyon. They have conference on their home court next weekend where they have beaten Amherst and Hopkins this year. Right now they look like a Final 4 team but we will see if they can keep it going. They will be a 1 seed in their region and I think Mary Wash or Salisbury is the most likely 2 seed in their region.

8. Amherst - I wouldn't be impressed by this team, but the fact that they beat CMS in Claremont makes a believer out of me. The 3 other top 10 teams who have played the Stags at Biszantz have scored 2, 1 and 3 points in that order. Herst's fall losses are now well in their past, but they are still reflected in their ranking. The loss of Jung hurts this team and they aren't as good now, but they are still very deep and can knock off any team in the country on the right day. I said at the beginning of the season I thought the Jeffs were the most complete team in the country. I think their doubles is a potential question mark after being swept by Cal Lu. For me, the potential for a national title is there, but it's only come out one time this season. They still have matches against Williams, Midd and Trinity (CT) before their conference tournament and I would not be surprised if this team makes another unexpected NCAA run.

9. Kenyon - With a great group of seniors, I had high expectations for the Lords and I know they had high expectations for themselves entering this season. While they have played quite well, they haven't done what they needed to do. They fell just short against Wash U and Emory twice and recently they had a surprising loss to CMU. The ability for a Final 4 showing is clearly there shown by their close results with top teams as well as their pounding of Hopkins. They will have good practice for NCAAs playing against Denison in their conference and I would suspect they could see Kalamazoo as their #2 seed at NCAAs. I think the Lords will repeat their performance of the last two years, but as of now I don't see them going any further than that. As far as who's winning, it's really been up and down. Greenberg got two points on Sunday and they still lost. I was really big on their 2 doubles team, but they haven't been coming through of late either. Kenyon has another month to get it together and they are obviously dangerous at NCAAs.

10. Johns Hopkins - Despite their loss to Wash U at Indoors, I was still high on Hopkins after that tournament. I thought they definitely had top 5 potential. In the pre-season and early part of the season, I constantly praised Hopkins depth and referred to their 3 through 5 singles as arguably the best in the country. This has proved to be far from true and that's what is killing this team. They aren't winning that middle and bottom of the lineup where they are supposed to be so strong. Now it's possible that they just had a bad weekend and will regroup, but those are two wins they needed to convince me that they are a contender. They are still in line for a top seed at NCAAs so that is good for them and I feel as though they will most likely be grouped with NCW, which is a team they beat 8-1. Hopkins needs to rethink doubles and win at the bottom of the lineup if they want to make an impact in the Final 8.

11. NC Wesleyan - I was unsure what to expect of this team pre-season but I think they have performed quite well. They got the win that really made them believe against Williams, but faltered against Hopkins. They still don't play that strong of a schedule so I don't see them moving above 11 for the rest of the year. This could potentially be bad because they will now be a 2 seed in their region. I think a region with them and Hopkins is quite likely, but they could also see Emory due to geographic proximity. Newport is no pushover, so the Bishops need to play good tennis in the conference final. They seemed to improve as last season progressed and I would assume the same is happening this season. They can't afford to get down to Hopkins in doubles again or their season will end in the Sweet 16. This is definitely a program on the rise and one to watch in the coming years.

12. Williams - The Ephs didn't get the start they were looking for with a surprising loss against NC Wesleyan, but the fact that they are traditionally good is keeping them in the top 12 for the time being. They got a much needed win over a tough Vassar team but they still have to play the top 4 NESCAC teams. I think they must go 2-2 in this stretch to make the tournament. Unless they happen to beat Amherst or Midd, they will be a 2 seed in their region and from the looks of it, Amherst may be their #1 seed. This is a good team, but they continue to struggle in doubles. They can play with anyone all the way through the singles lineup, but they were swept in doubles by the 2 top 15 teams that they have faced. I'm still a believer in Williams, but they need to fix their doubles immediately. One big win can turn around their season and with the tradition this program carries, I won't be surprised if they get it.

13. Trinity (TX) - They probably won't find themselves this high in the ITA rankings, but this is a really good team. They have some of the best doubles in the country and are as strong at the top 3 spots as other teams in this range. Bad scheduling did in their Pool C chances with a loss to Redlands, but they are still in good position to win their conference and make the tournament. If they can avoid the West region, I think this team could end up in the Final 8. I think a region with them and Hopkins or Kenyon could prove to be very interesting. The team they have to worry about right now is DePauw and I think it's all about doubles for them in that match. They get up in doubles and I think they will be just fine. The Tigers are still in a good spot and they are on a mission to take back the SCAC title.

14. Bowdoin - The Polar Bears did what they needed to do in the early part of their season and got key out of conference victories against Salisbury and Redlands, as well as a much needed win against Trinity (CT) in what is arguably the biggest match of their season. The impressive thing is that they did all of this without their most valuable player. If Pena is back before the end of the year, this could be a top 10 team. They still have a shot at Williams this season which will be a big match for them and if they don't win it, a win against Trinity (CT) in the first round of the conference tourney will get them in the tournament barring Chicago does nothing spectacular. Bowdoin has impressed me and they are in a good spot right now because they really need to play their way out of the NCAA tourney, rather than into it.

15. Chicago - It's a shame, but one loss could keep them out of the tournament this year. With Pool C being so competitive, that 7-2 loss to Kalamazoo early in the season will most likely keep the Maroons out of NCAAs this year. They don't have as strong of a resume as Bowdoin and if the Polar Bears get another win over Trinity (CT) in the NESCAC tourney, the Maroons won't have a prayer. The unfortunate thing for Chicago is they have 3 of the top 7 teams in the country in their conference and they have to beat one of them in about 10 days if they want to make the tournament. I just don't see it happening. This is clearly a great team but they fall prey to the bad NCAA selection process. If they can beat Wash U or Carnegie, they deserve to make the tournament.

16. Trinity (CT) - I mentioned in their pre-season preview that scheduling will kill the Bantams this year. They don't play a strong out of conference schedule so they won't have wins on their resume for the NCAA tournament. This forces them to beat one of the top teams in the NESCAC. They have already failed against Bowdoin and Midd, and that leaves Williams and Amherst. This is a strong and top-heavy team, but their season comes down to whether or not they can pull off an upset against one of those two. They would also need to follow this up with a good showing in the NESCAC tournament. I just don't see them being able to do this and I think they will fall just short of the tournament. They need to schedule more out-of-conference matches if they want to make a splash in Pool C. It's unfortunate, but it's how the system works.

17. DePauw - The Tigers had a good year last year and qualified for the National Indoor tournament but they finished 7th because of a very difficult draw. They had one weekend on their schedule that I knew would define their season. That was home matches against Kalamazoo and Chicago. They were struggling with injuries that weekend and lost both matches 7-2 on their home courts. After this occured, we knew they would have to win their conference to get in the tournament. I think they are pretty evenly matched with Trinity (TX), and they have won 3 consecutive conference titles. Their season comes down to one match, but they also have to be careful to not overlook a tricky Rhodes team in the semis. The Tigers are strong this year, it just depends if they can come through when it matters most.

18. Redlands - The Bulldogs expect to be a top 10 team every year and a finish out of the top 15 is a down year for them. They have also made the NCAA tournament many years in a row so this should be quite a shock for them this year to miss it. I was expecting a big year from Redlands because of their strong recruiting class. I also thought Spearman could improve and become one of the best players in D3. The thing that killed this team is the loss of Reading, their #2 player. That coupled with some early season losses shook their confidence and they weren't able to recover. They should manage to finish 3rd in their conference and in the top 20, but this year doesn't live up to the standards of the great tennis tradition at Redlands.

19. Kalamazoo - Kzoo shocked me at the beginning of the season when they came out and gave Kenyon a hard time and then followed it up with dominant wins against Chicago and DePauw. I didn't even consider them a top 20 team, but they peaked at #13 in the ITA rankings. Things went downhill after that. They were swept in doubles against Salisbury and then barely got a win against Newport. They were beaten routinely by CMU and then lost to DePauw to finish 4th in the GLCA. Right now, this team is struggling but we know they have it in them to play with the best in the country. I would expect them to find their early season form for the tournament and give the top seed in their region a hard time.

20. Whitman - I actually expected pretty big things from this team this year. They stayed undefeated in their conference and played Cruz pretty tough the second time around. The one match I think they will be disappointed with is the 7-2 loss against Redlands. I thought this was a winnable match for a team this strong. Solomon is a very good player and he's been a good leader for them. If they can manage to avoid the West Regional in NCAAs, they are potentially dangerous to the top seed in their region because they are experienced and have a good balance of top players and depth. This is a good, experienced team and one to watch in the tournament.

21. Salisbury - They had an average California swing getting crushed three times by stronger teams, but when they returned home, they had the win that defined their season in an upset against Kalamazoo. They barely managed to get the win after sweeping doubles and this was an early sign that maybe they weren't deserving of their #14 ranking after this match. Salisbury is pretty strong everywhere and I was pretty impressed with them prior to the Mary Wash match. They were swept in singles which is just unacceptable for a team ranked top 15. They have the conference championship coming up and they will have to win on the road to get in the tournament.

22. Pomona - Pitzer - Despite having a strong team and starting the season fairly well, the Hens are a distant 4th in their conference with the emergence of Cal Lu this year. They will miss the tournament but this doesn't mean they aren't a strong team. I think they could upset Redlands on the right day and the fact that they are still young is quite promising for the future. I think this program gains a little bit each year and they were up to #17 in the ITA rankings this year after a convincing win against Mary Wash. About what I expected from the Hens this year, and they still have their conference tournament to play.

23. Mary Washington - Overall a poor season for the Eagles however as I've said several times, they got the win they needed against Salisbury. This team has good depth and could give some of the best teams in the country a hard time. Their doubles has been up and down but I feel like they need to step up their doubles play when they play top 15 teams. If they can beat Salisbury again in the conference final, I would consider this a successful season for the Eagles even if they don't finish in the top 20. They could get a #2 seed in their region and be a potential threat to Carnegie or Hopkins.

24. Vassar - They were one of the hottest teams in the country a month ago but their flaws became apparent when they started facing stronger competition. This team rarely sees the national scene so I consider this a good season for them with two seniors leading the way. With a little bit of luck, Vassar could find themselves as a #2 seed in their NCAA region. They just don't have the depth of the other top Northeast teams and if they can't get ahead in doubles it will be very tough for them to stay competitive with top 20 teams.

25. Washington & Lee - I find their season eerily similar to Mary Washington, however the difference is that the Generals lost their regular season match against the team they need to beat. HSC is clearly not that strong of a team after losing to Salisbury 8-1, but somehow they manage to get pumped up to beat W&L. The Generals lone good win is against their in-state rival UMW, but they have losses to Salisbury, Chicago and HSC. So far a disappointing season for the Generals but they still have a big match coming up in about two weeks that could give them back the conference title and put them into the tournament.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Weekend Recap: April 9-11

I'm pretty behind on a lot of the results so I'll go through important matches that have taken place and discuss their implications.

Mary Washington d. Salisbury 7-2

Just about everything that could possibly go wrong for Mary Wash this season has happened. They went into this match struggling and ranked 26th. Salisbury on the other hand was hot and boasted a #14 ranking. I had little doubt in my mind that this would be the year where Mary Washington's streak of 10 consecutive conference titles would come to an end. I said in my preview that this is the one win that could salvage Mary Wash's season. They not only got the win, but they got it in convincing fashion. The Eagles now get the conference final on their campus and Salisbury who was cruising through their season, now has doubts about their NCAA tournament hopes. I never thought Mary Wash would come out and sweep singles for a 7-2 win. I thought they had to get it done in doubles. On paper and recruit wise, the Eagles are the more talented team and this showed today. The Gulls need to regroup for the conference final because this is a do-or-die match for both teams.

Middlebury d. Trinity (CT) 8-1

Trinity (CT) has four outstanding singles players that could potentially propel them to a win against Amherst or Williams this spring. The problem for the Bantams yesterday was that Middlebury is stronger at those top 4 spots. Midd has established themselves as the clear #1 team in the country but at the same time, I wouldn't say they are unbeatable like the 2007 Cruz team. I would make the claim that no one can win for than 3 singles matches against Midd, but their doubles can be beaten, and with the 9-point system, anything can happen. Trinity has a couple more chances to enhance their NCAA resume and they need to make a move soon. Midd needs to prepare for Amherst and Williams so they can continue their undefeated regular season in D3.

Williams d. Vassar 8-1

I was pretty impressed with Vassar after the Trinity (CT) match. I didn't expect them to do as well as they did. This match, on the other hand, has caused me to doubt if they deserve a spot in the top 20. If Vassar isn't winning at the top of the lineup, they just can't compete with other top 20 teams. Williams strength is their depth, so this is really just a bad matchup for Vassar and playing on the road didn't help. Williams finally got a good win under their belt but they really need to keep it going. I still question their doubles. Vassar will obviously make the tournament with ease but due to geographic proximity, I think it is very possible they will end up playing a regional at Middlebury. A sweet 16 appearance isn't out of the question for Vassar, but they don't have the team to go any further. Williams has 4 tough NESCAC matches remaining and they need to perform well if they want to be in the tournament.

Gustavus d. Carleton 6-3

Not too much to say here besides the fact that I doubt Gustavus will fail to win the conference this year. The Gusties won a match with their singles, which doesn't happen very often. The match really wasn't all that close which surprises me and Carleton has a lot of work to do if they want to win a conference title this year. This is about as weak as GAC will ever be and they still managed to get a win. The box score shows an attendance of 166 which is impressive and I'm sure had a lot to do with a GAC victory. It also mentions that GAC has a win streak of 228 consecutive regular season wins in their conference. If I were Gustavus, I'd consider it a successful season if they ended up winning the conference tournament. This was a much needed win for the Gusties.

Johns Hopkins d. Salisbury 7-2

Both squads were struggling entering this match with Hopkins getting crushed in two winnable matches and Salisbury losing against the one team they need to beat. Salisbury needs to be playing at home to have any chance against a team this good and that showed with the end result being an expected routine victory for Hopkins. 6 of 7 wins for Hopkins in this match were extremely easy. My instinct after their last two results is that Salisbury just isn't that strong this year and got hot against an overconfident Kalamazoo team. I don't know if Salisbury will be in the top 20 in the next rankings and they need to regroup and get ready to go in the conference final if they want to make this a worthwhile season. As for Hopkins, they face one more real test this season and that's Mary Wash on the road. They are sitting in the position of the 8th #1 seed for NCAAs right now and I think it would take some magic from Williams to take that away from the Blue Jays.

Amherst d. Bowdoin 5-4

This match was a bit closer than I expected, but I still think Bowdoin is an underrated team this year, even without their most valuable player. Herst got the win they needed and they will remain in the top 10 in the country. They have 3 huge NESCAC matches still to play so their season is far from over. Trinity (CT) is a team that matches up fairly well with them so the Jeffs need to make sure they stay sharp. They have all but locked up an NCAA bid, but they need to make sure that they remain as #1 seed. With the CMS win over CLU, that win for Amherst is looking quite impressive. It's not completely clear at the moment, but I still think Bowdoin holds the #6 Pool C spot with three wins against top 20 opponents. The Polar Bears will have a good shot to beat Williams soon. I still think Bowdoin is in a great spot and I think it would still take a big win from Chicago to knock them out of the tournament.

GLCA Tournament

I did a pretty good job predicting the scores of the semifinals, but it's about the only thing I've predicted correctly this season. DePauw had a chance to take a 2-1 doubles lead and this is something they needed to do if they wanted to win. Kenyon was just a little too tough and top heavy for the Tigers. Carnegie seems to have completely turned things around in doubles as they absolutely destroyed Kzoo, losing only 7 games in the 3 matches. After a doubles sweep, it was pretty much impossible for Kalamazoo to win. In my opinion, the strongest two teams would compete in the finals. I expected DePauw to get revenge on Kzoo for earlier this season, but I actually expected them to do it in a little more dominant fashion than they did. It took 2 tiebreakers in dubs and a 3-set singles win for the Tigers to get a win. They face a do-or-die in their conference tournament and they will likely be entering as the 2 seed. They will need to get through a dangerous Rhodes team as well as Trinity (TX) if they want to be in NCAAs this year. Kzoo is taking steps in the wrong direction as the season progresses. They started great, but they are now playing the tennis that I expected from them in the pre-season. They won't have trouble making the tournament, but the way they are playing they won't pose any kind of threat to the top seed in their region. They will remain in the top 20 for the moment but I don't know if they belong there. Onto the finals and this is one of the more impressive box scores I've seen this season. If you told me before the match Kenyon would be ahead after doubles, I would have given them a victory. CMU impresses me more and more with each match. When they aren't winning in doubles, they are winning in singles and vice versa. They are playing like one of the best teams in the country right now and I think they locked up a #1 seed in NCAAs after this weekend. I think they will pose a real threat to Emory in the UAA tournament semifinal. Kenyon has to be scratching their heads after blowing a match where they had a 2-1 lead plus 5 first sets under their belt. They need to go back to the drawing board after this one if they want to compete for a national title. I think they also have locked up a number 1 seed and definitely pose a threat to the top few teams, but they have yet to prove they can beat those teams.

CMS d. Cal Lutheran 6-3

I said in the match preview that CMS needed one of those 3 key points if they wanted to win. Although 2 singles wasn't the decider, it was a huge swing point and CMS did win. They had a little too much depth, but that's where you have to beat Cal Lu. The good thing for the Kingsmen is that they get another shot at the Stags in a week. These teams will also probably meet in the final of the best regional, unless Cruz pulls an upset. If CMS can beat CLU three times in a season, I will be quite impressed. They just have to be careful that they don't slip in the really important one in mid-May. This was a very close match between two top 5 teams and I can't wait for the rematch in a week. After being up in doubles, I think Cal Lu wins this match most of the time, but CMS just came up huge at 5 different spots. A huge win for the Stags and I wouldn't be surprised if they were the new #2 in the country come Tuesday. Despite the loss, a good result for both teams in my opinion.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

3 Saturday Previews - April 10th

The calendar shows a very full weekend ahead of us however only a few of these matches will have implications on the national rankings. I'll go over 3 Saturday matches which I feel are the most important of the weekend.

Salisbury at Johns Hopkins

I was quite impressed with Salisbury until yesterday. This has happened before, but one good hour of tennis made Salisbury into a legitimate team and this can happen with the 9 point system. Play great doubles on your home court against a good team and suddenly people take you seriously. This worked for Salisbury but obviously their season comes down to whether or not they can win their conference. The match this weekend is as simple as who will recover better after recent poor results? Hopkins was blown out twice last weekend but they are now on their home courts against a team who is significantly less talented than them. Salisbury was on a high and riding a win streak but now they are sweating about making the tournament. I don't see how Salisbury can win more than 2 singles matches in this one. Hopkins is just better everywhere. The Gulls need a doubles sweep, and that's going to be difficult on the road. I also wouldn't be surprised if Hopkins makes some adjustments to their doubles lineup after being swept two days in a row by teams they are equivalent to. I'm taking Hopkins in a 7-2 win on Saturday because I'm just not a believer in Salisbury right now.

GLCA Tournament

Four contenders are competing this weekend. Kenyon is the host and top seed followed by CMU, Kalamazoo and DePauw. Weird things have happened at this tournament in the past so I'm not going to speculate about the finals, but I will take a look at the potential semis. DePauw hasn't seen any serious D3 action in a while and they know they are out of Pool C if they don't win this tournament. They actually match up decently well against Kenyon, but the problem is I don't know how DePauw is going to get ahead in doubles. Both teams have strong teams 1 through 3 but you have to like Kenyon. I think Kenyon will manage to get a 6-3 win, but they could potentially get in trouble if DePauw wins 2 or 3 doubles. In the other semi, Kalamazoo has been struggling since losing Patrick Boyd, who played 1 doubles and 4 singles. He was a key to their wins against DePauw and Chicago. Even with him, I don't know if they can beat a hot Carnegie team. CMU has been great in singles and I see Kzoo winning two matches max of the 6. If Kzoo wants to win, they need to sweep doubles. I don't know if the CMU doubles sweep of Hopkins was a fluke, but if CMU plays doubles like they had been in previous matches, a sweep isn't out of the question. I'll take CMU 6-3.

Cal Lutheran at CMS

I've been looking forward to this match for about two weeks now and it's time to determine who the best in the West is. The thing I actually just realized is that these teams will meet again the following Saturday in their conference tournament finals. With rankings out next Tuesday, I don't see how CLU could possibly be denied the #2 ranking in the country if they win this match. They are hungry to make something happen, but can they bring that intensity into Claremont and beat their bitter rival on the road? Despite the excellent top of the lineup for CMS, you have to like CLU to get 1 dubs as well as 1 and 2. I know this is harsh, but Giuffrida and Ballou have both passed test after test. Erani beat Giuffrida in the fall so that's one thing he has going for him. The question is can CMS get 5 points in the remaining 6 matches? I certainly like the Stags at the 4 and 5 positions. The Keiffer/Lim team is a question mark and this could be a huge swing point. CLU has also been rock solid at 3 singles so this could be a 4th point for them. Basically, if Cal Lu wins those 3 automatic spots I gave them, they will win. If CMS manages to steal 1 dubs or 1/2 singles, then I like the Stags.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010 Power Rankings April 6th

Note: In the past when I've done power rankings, I'd say they were 75% speculation/opinion and 25% actual results. Now that it's later in the season and every team has matches under their belt, I'm going to change it to 50-50.

1. Middlebury
2. Cal Lutheran
3. CMS
4. Wash U
5. Emory
6. UC Santa Cruz
7. Kenyon
8. Carnegie Mellon
9. Amherst
10. Johns Hopkins
11. NC Wesleyan
12. Williams
13. Bowdoin
14. Trinity (TX)
15. Chicago
16. Salisbury
17. Trinity (CT)
18. Kalamazoo
19. Redlands
20. DePauw
21. Vassar
22. Whitman
23. Pomona-Pitzer
24. MIT
25. Washington & Lee

Salisbury at Mary Washington Preview

Scott Burtzlaff, Salisbury

Mary Washington has won 10 straight conference titles, but in all of those years I don't think they've had a season quite as poor as this one. If Salisbury is ever going to end that streak, this is their year. The Sea Gulls come in ranked #14 in the country with an extended winning streak and Mary Wash has been losing and struggling with their confidence. As of right now, they may even be out of the top 30. On paper, these teams should be even, but Salisbury just seems to be more focused and confident. This hasn't been a true "rivalry" in past years, because I think Salisbury has only won 1 time in recent memory. These teams don't like each other very much and you can throw the rankings out the window when they play tomorrow because they don't matter. If Mary Wash is going to get up to play any team this season, it's the Sea Gulls. This is the one team they have to beat to salvage their season. Tomorrow's match will determine home court advantage for the conference final which could prove to be important.

Salisbury has been tough in doubles all year and Mary Wash has been decent. The doubles are evenly matched but you have to go with Salisbury at 1, and probably 3 as well. Mary Wash will need that #2 spot to stay in the match, they can't afford to be swept. Burtzlaff should win at 1, but after that things could really go either way. Mary Wash has struggled in the middle of the lineup where they should be strong. The matches are very difficult to predict, but I think Mary Wash could have the edge at 5 and 6. 3 and 4 however look to be going to Salisbury which would be enough for them to get the win. I'm going with 5-4 for Salisbury but I don't think it will come down to the last match.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Current Pool C Situation

An update on Pool C. I never thought a match between Kalamazoo and Salisbury would have an impact on who makes the tournament, but it could end up being one of the biggest results of the season. Let's have a look.

1. UAA #2, Wash U/Emory - In

2. SCIAC #2, CMS/CLU - In

3. Carnegie Mellon - In, barring a 4th place at GLCA and a 4th place at UAA.

4. Amherst - They still have 5 matches to play against ranked teams and although I think the CMS win will carry them quite far, it is still possible that they lose to Bowdoin, Trinity (CT) or Williams. They also play Midd and Vassar. They also will have the NESCAC tournament where they will see a good team in the semis most likely. NESCAC doesn't play for 3rd/4th so they have 6 and possibly 7 more matches that can have an impact on their tournament resume. In the regular season, I think they need wins in 4 of the 5 to be in for sure. 3 of the 5 should get them in because they also have the CMS and Salisbury wins. This team is good enough where making the tournament shouldn't be an issue but I can imagine scenarios where they wouldn't make it. I'm not calling them in for sure yet, but if they beat Bowdoin on the road Sunday, they could be a lock. Chicago or Trinity (CT) would have to do something spectacular to knock them out.

5. Williams - An interesting scenario here because Williams hasn't actually won a match yet. They have the same 5 teams as Amherst to play and the NESCAC tourney as well. Because they don't have Amherst's out-of-conference wins, victories against Vassar, Bowdoin and Trinity are a must. They can afford losses to teams ahead of them. I'm considering what happens if they lose to Bowdoin, and I think it's possible Chicago could jump them if that happens because Williams best wins would be Trinity (CT) and Vassar. It's simple for Williams: finish 3rd in the NESCAC in the regular season and you're in. Finish lower and things will get complicated.

6. Bowdoin - Chicago held this spot, but Bowdoin got quite lucky with a Salisbury win against Kalamazoo. Bowdoin beat Salisbury who beat Kzoo who beat Chicago. This is convoluted, but every match is important. Bowdoin is in a great spot because now they need to play their way out of the tournament rather than playing their way in. The Trinity (TX) loss is acceptable because they have quality wins against Salisbury, Trinity (CT) and Redlands. They can afford losses to the NESCAC top 3. If they enter the NESCAC tourney as the 4 seed, they most likely will face Trinity (CT) in the first round. They may even be able to make it with a loss, but a win would put them in almost for sure unless Chicago beats Wash U or Carnegie.

Still have work to do...

7. Chicago - A very unfortunate situation for the Maroons when Salisbury upset Kalamazoo. There was no way to know it at the time, but that loss to Kalamazoo could keep them out of the post-season. It;s also unfortunate they didn't get a crack at Hopkins. The bad thing for Chicago is they are done with ranked teams until UAAs. They will have Wash U in semis and despite a 5-4 last time, I don't see how they can win. That was a very close match, but it was at home and Wash U is playing much better tennis now. With Carnegie's recent performance, I'm not going to say Emory will win the other semi. Either way, that 3rd/4th match is do or die for Chicago. If they win that match, I think it's possible they could jump Bowdoin, but it's still hard to know. The problem for Chicago is that their best win is DePauw and then after that UMW, W&L and Newport, all of whom may be out of the top 25. Things are not looking good for Chicago but they are still alive.

8. Trinity (CT) - The good thing for the Bantams is that they still control their own destiny. They got a much needed win against Vassar, but I think they need to beat Amherst or Williams to get in. I don't think a win against Bowdoin in the first round of the NESCAC tourney will do it for them. They would then have offsetting wins, and Bowdoin has two other top 20 wins on their resume. The Bantams need to make something happen and they certainly have the team to do it.

Out barring a miracle: Redlands, DePauw

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Weekend Recap: April 2-4

7 matches of note took place over the past three days which I'll discuss in this post. I'll provide a few thoughts on each of the results.

Bowdoin took out MIT 6-3 on Friday in a fairly competitive match. Both of Bowdoin's doubles victories were extremely close and if even one of those goes MIT's way, things could have been very interesting. I've heard Pena is done for the season and I don't know if it's true or not, but that certainly hurts Bowdoin. MIT is a tricky team with good depth that could pose problems for some higher ranked teams. I believe they deserve their top 30 ranking and this is certainly a team to watch in upcoming years. Bowdoin enters NESCAC play on a high note and if the tournament started tomorrow, they would be in. They really have to play their way out of it and I think that will be tough. Things are looking bright for the Polar Bears.

Rhodes was a sleeper coming into this year and we saw that they could play with the best in the country when they split singles in a 6-3 loss to Kenyon. Their doubles needs improvement and this showed once again today in a 6-3 loss to the 16th ranked Trinity (TX) Tigers. Trinity was able to win #1 and #2 doubles 8-0 and complete the sweep with an 8-6 at 3. Rhodes won 4 first sets to stay in the match but Trinity proved to be too strong at the top of the lineup. I think Rhodes could pose a potential threat to DePauw and Trinity in the conference tournament if they can improve doubles. They can play with the best in the country in singles but they can't afford to be down 2-1 or 3-0 every match.

I think Hampden-Sydney just gets pumped up to play Washington & Lee. They got trounced at home by Salisbury in a match that was never close. I expected Salisbury to win, but not like this. HSC is all about beating W&L and that's good, but they need to produce against other teams as well. Obviously they are a strong team, but this result certainly didn't show it. Salisbury reinforced their #14 national ranking in this match and they are playing great tennis heading into their Wednesday clash with Mary Washington.

I was quite surprised when Redlands jumped on top of CMS in doubles because I think this is a real strength for the Stags. Even with the 2-1 lead, I had a feeling CMS would win comfortably. I've referred to this many times before, but Redlands isn't a complete team this year. They don't have the top of the lineup and they also aren't winning with their depth, so there's just no way for them to compete with the teams they normally are competitive with. A tough year for the Bulldogs, but give credit to CMS who played great singles. They see Cal Lu in a week in what will be an absolute war. I expect a great match next Saturday from both teams, but CMS needs to watch themselves in doubles after their Saturday performance.

Vassar was undefeated going into their match at home against Trinity (CT) on Saturday although they hadn't faced a real test yet. Trinity (CT) is a strong team and they proved to have a little too much firepower in singles. This was a much needed win for Trinity (CT) who is still looking to jump Bowdoin and Chicago for an NCAA tournament spot. I like this result for both teams, but the thing that jumps out to me is that Trinity (CT) is still struggling in doubles. They aren't going to beat a Williams or Bowdoin if they keep losing doubles because those teams can match their firepower in singles. Vassar proved they are a good team who can knock off a top 15 opponent on the right day. They have a shot at Williams this upcoming weekend so we will see how they do.

I'm just as guilty as everyone else, but I'm pretty sure the majority has been wrong in the weekly poll almost every time. We had 57-41 in favor of Johns Hopkins as a prediction for Saturday. Not only did Hopkins lose, they didn't win a match. I read that Kenyon was down 7-4 at #3 dubs and came back to win and when this happened, the match was over because we knew Greenberg was getting a win. Hopkins has the ability to come back being down 2-1, but not 3-0. This was Kenyon's first big win of the spring and they did it in very convincing fashion. If they play like that every match, they can beat anyone in the country. We knew Hopkins had tough back-to-back matches and after I saw this result I was sure they would bounce back on Sunday.

Carnegie has been struggling with doubles over and over and they decided it was finally time for a change. Despite only flipping two of their players, it worked and they came out and swept Hopkins in three close matches to go up 3-0. Hopkins won 4 of 6 singles against CMU at Indoors, so I thought it was still a possibility that JHU could win. CMU played just as well in singles highlighted by a win at #1 singles to take the match 7-2. They proved that they too can beat anyone in the country on the right day and they deserve to be in the top 10. If they keep up the good doubles, they will be very tough to beat. Hopkins just had a rough weekend and needs to regroup. I think they will only drop to #10 so they are still in line to be a top seed in their region for NCAAs. What they can't afford is another loss to a team ranked below them and I have no doubt this is still an excellent team.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Bracketology: A Work in Progress

My field of 42:
ASC - UT Tyler
CAC - Salisbury
Centennial - Johns Hopkins
CUNYAC - Hunter
Colonial States AC - Neumann
Commonwealth Coast - Salve Regina
Commonwealth - Elizabethtown
Empire 8 - Stevens
Freedom - Wilkes
Heartland Collegiate AC - Transylvania
IIAC - Luther
Landmark - Drew
Little East - UMass Dartmouth
MIAA - Kalamazoo
Midwest - Grinnell
MIAC - Gustavus
NESCAC - Middlebury
NCAC - Kenyon
Northern Athletics - Concordia Wisconsin
NWC - Whitman
Ohio AC - Mount Union
ODAC - Hampden-Sydney
Skyline - St Josephs LI
SCIAC - Cal Lutheran
SCAC - Trinity (TX)
USA South - NC Wesleyan
UAA - Wash U

Pool B
1. Santa Cruz
2. Vassar
3. MIT
4. Skidmore
6. Eau Claire
7. Whitewater
8. Lacrosse
9. Carthage

Pool C
1. CMS
2. Emory
3. Amherst
4. Carnegie Mellon
5. Williams
6. Bowdoin

I am stumped. This year is very tricky to do without Gustavus being a #1 seed. They have to host a regional because there are so many teams around them.

Including only ranked's what I have right now...

1: Middlebury*, Bowdoin, MIT
2: Wash U*, Trinity (TX), Luther
3: Emory, Gustavus*,
4: Cal Lutheran*, CMS, Santa Cruz, Whitman, UT-Tyler
5: Kenyon*, Kalamazoo
6: Hopkins*, Salisbury, TCNJ
7: Amherst*, Williams, Vassar
8: NC Wesleyan*, Carnegie Mellon, Hampden-Sydney

* denotes host

Note: Assume Bowdoin gets 6th Pool C spot and Williams gets 5th. Assume Trinity wins SCAC, Salisbury wins CAC and Hampden-Sydney wins ODAC. Also assume Gustavus wins MIAC.

My first instinct is to send Emory to Gustavus since they aren't close to anyone in Atlanta, but why should Emory get such a weak 2 seed when Midd would have to play Bowdoin? The problem is to give Emory a strong 2 seed, you'd have to fly Trinity (TX) up to Minnesota as well and maybe send Whitman to St. Louis only leaving 4 teams in the West Regional. Then I remembered that Emory hosted a regional last year with NCW, HSC and UMW all traveling to Atlanta. It's not out of the question that this could happen again if Mary Wash makes the tournament, but should NCW have to face Emory in the Sweet 16 when they are ranked 10 and it's avoidable? Too many thoughts going on for me to put down all of them but I would love to discuss with anyone who has ideas to improve this. Feedback on this would be much's a first draft and needs a ton of improvement.

Johns Hopkins at Kenyon Preview

Mike Greenberg and Will Vandenberg, Kenyon

This is just a very even match and one that I had circled on calendar at the beginning of the season. A chance for both teams to get a good win against a top 10 opponent. All season, I have been questioning Kenyon's depth and talking highly of Hopkins depth, but I think the Lords depth may just be what gives them a win. Kenyon is known for their large and rowdy crowds and this could play a big part in the outcome of doubles. Greenberg-Brody have been up and down at the #1 position and they take on the very steady team of Maldow-Wang. There is a ton of experience on this court but I think Kenyon should come away with a win at home. 2 of the best #2 doubles teams in the country will be squaring off and this is also a very tough call. #3 doubles is very even as well. I would expect Kenyon to come away with 2 of the 3 doubles at home. If Hopkins wants to win this match, #1 doubles may be a spot they need to win.

Greenberg should take care of business at #1 and #2 is a huge spot. Piskacek is in a bit of a slump and Wang has been having good results despite his recent loss to Kzoo. I'll come back to this. Elgort and Polster face off in a match between two of the most underrated #3's in the country. I'm going with Hopkins in this. At 4, Vandenberg takes on Hersh and you have to go with the senior over the freshman to give Kenyon their 4th point. Burgin and Barnaby should be a good contest at 5, but I'll take Kenyon to clinch the match. 6 could go either way. #2 is a spot Hopkins needs if they want to have a chance to win, but Kenyon can afford to lose it. I'm taking Kenyon with a very tight 6-3 victory. If Hopkins can somehow win and then go to Pittsburgh on Sunday and win again, they will move on to my list of legitimate Final 4 contenders. In the same breath, if Kenyon can come out and dominate Hopkins, I will also be impressed. I'm looking forward to a great match Saturday.