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.