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.