Saturday, May 22, 2010

Middlebury-NC Wesleyan Preview

This is the definition of a David and Goliath match. First we have NCW, who was counted out by many in their regional after losing their #1 singles player. They were even down 2-1 after doubles against Vassar in the round of 32. NCW then did the unthinkable as the tennisd3 blog said, and beat Hopkins' great singles lineup after being down 3-0. This is the first time this season in a big match that a team has come down from 3-0 after doubles. The advantage for NCW is that Middlebury doesn't really know what to expect from them. NCW's players weren't on the American junior circuit so they have the element of surprise going in their favor. In the other corner we have the powerhouse, Middlebury, making their 8th consecutive appearance in the Final 8 after an undefeated regular season. In my mind they are the overwhelming favorite to win the national title this year...if they are healthy. All indications point to Conrad Olson being ready to go for this match and because of that I think NCW is in trouble. NCW obviously has a ton of firepower and I admit I have underrated them all season, but Midd is just a different level from any team that NCW has seen this year. They cannot afford to get in a hole after doubles like they did in the regional.

Taking a look at the matches, NCW's best chance to get on the board is probably #3 doubles. On top of that, I think they also need to get lucky at #2 doubles because I don't see how their 1s have a chance against Thomson/Lee. In singles, I think it's hard to gauge how NC Wes will do. They clearly have a good chance at lines 2 and 5 and I also think they could have a chance at 1. The problem for NCW will be getting another point in singles. The Olson-Thomson combo at 3 and 4 has been incredible all year and I think these guys lead Midd to a win. To win this match, I think NCW needs to get 2 points in doubles and I don't know if they can do it. I'm taking Midd 5-1 but I think the singles wins will be very hard fought and won't come easily for the Panthers. NCW needs to believe they can win in singles and they need to have the fighting spirit that took them to the Hopkins win. An upset isn't impossible, but it is extremely unlikely.