Just like the preview, not a ton I have to say here. Midd looked a bit shaky in singles which they can't afford to do at nationals. Against MIT in the regional final, Midd was losing 1 match and 2 more were even early in the 3rd set. It could have ended up being a 6-3. This against a team who lost 3 singles matches to Stevens the day before, not to mention a comeback win. The good news for Midd is they were dominant in doubles dropping only 6 games to MIT in the regional final. If Midd's doubles are on at nationals, they will be so tough to beat. A solid season for the Engineers who should finish the season ranked. Midd is still the favorite to win the whole thing with its biggest competitors probably being Emory and CMS at the moment. Despite a little bit of trouble in the regional final, Midd moves on to the Elite 8 as expected
Washington & Lee
Probably the least competitive of all the regionals this past weekend. The round of 32 match between W&L and TCNJ is worth discussing. TCNJ is noted for playing tough doubles and they took the top 2 spots from the Generals on the road to have a lead going into singles. W&L's singles have been up and down this year so I thought TCNJ had a pretty good chance to win. It seems as though Hayden White got injured as he retired while he was leading midway through the 1st set. He was also beaten 0 and 0 by Pottish the following day. If he doesn't get injured, I would suspect the Generals would have ended up sweeping the singles. A great performance by W&L in singles pulling out many close sets. I have to think that the home court advantage probably helped and propelled the Generals to a win. I'm impressed with the attendance of 127 for the regional final between W&L and Emory. You had to be crazy to pick against Emory in this match, but W&L certainly pushed the Eagles in doubles. An interesting thing to note is that Emory pulled Pottish from #3 doubles for this match and played Simonson instead. I wonder if this will carry over to nationals but it seemed to not work all that well resulting on only a 9-8 victory. 2 doubles was a spot where I thought W&L may have a chance but Emory pulled out a close one there too. There were some close matches in the bottom of the lineup but I would suspect the Emory players were semi-tanking just waiting for their 2 studs to win at the top and it worked. Emory drops only 2 games in the singles matches on record and moves through to the Elite 8 very comfortably.
With the exception of the Hopkins region, probably the most drama here. CMS took care of Whitman comfortably. The only slip up for the Stags was at #3 singles where Eric MacColl was trailing in his match. I thought that would be a huge spot for the Stags against Cruz the following day so that had to be a little alarming to see for CMS. Other than that, CMS took care of business against Whitman and got to sit back and watch as #4 and #6 in the country battle it out for a spot in the Sweet 16. I noted before the weekend that CLU's early season momentum had slowed down a bit. Cruz also always brings their best stuff at the end of the season after so much intense training. I talked about the big 3 matches in this one. #1 doubles and the top 2 singles spots. Whoever won that little best of 3 series was going to win this match. Cruz went 3-0 in those spots and won with a very comfortable 5-2 win. I actually expected this to be much closer and I even picked CLU to win. Hansen once again proved that he always has his guys ready to go. Once CLU got down in doubles, I knew it would be hard for them to win. And it doesn't help when your two superstars both get bageled in their 1st set. The Kingsmen were just done after this. Hopefully Giuffrida and Ballou will both bring their A game for individuals because Pybas and Vartabedian just owned them. So once again, we had a Stags-Slugs final. These two have alternated qualifying for the Final 8 over the past few years and it was CMS turn this time. Despite the rise of CLU this year, the usual suspects dominate the West.
I often make a big deal about experience. Having played in NCAAs before helps. Look at the doubles in the regional final. According to the CMS press release, after the 8-0 win by Cruz at 1, Cruz led 6-4 at 3 and had 5 match points at 2. CMS managed to get both points. Guys like Eric MacColl, Russell Brockett and Mikey Lim have experience, and that's my difference maker in this match. They were able to step up against the inexperienced Cruz teams and get those 2 huge points for their team. This allowed their depth to take control and it got them a win. Pybas was impressive again and has to be the MVP of this regional, but I had a feeling CMS would be too deep. They won at 4, 5 and 6 to clinch the match. They come into this match with probably the best 5 in the country in Alex Johnson and he could be very valuable in their run to a national title. CMS used their experience to win this match and it's as simple as that. The Stags now look to capture the national title that has eluded them. I will admit I vastly underrated CMS during the preseason but they are as good as anyone this year. I'm looking forward to a potential CMS-Emory semi which is a match I've wanted to see all season. A great regional weekend after a great season for CMS.
I underestimated Kalamazoo and overestimated Luther. I thought Luther would have some of the NCAA magic that they had last year, but they got rolled by Kalamazoo who played like a top 15 team this weekend. The Hornets found their early season form that had them up to 13 in the country and gave Wash U quite a scare. First looking at the Round of 32, Kalamazoo was just the more talented team and this showed. I said in the preview that Luther had to be up after doubles if they wanted to win because they simply weren't as talented as their opponents. I'm very surprised by the 8-1 score at #3 doubles. Luther has had some good results from the top of their lineup this year but they just didn't show up on Saturday and Kalamazoo probably would have swept singles for an 8-1 win in this as they were winning easily in every match. Kudos to Coach Riley who really had his guys ready to play both days. Wash U had to take note of Kalamazoo's dominant win but it must not have clicked until after the doubles on Sunday.
In one of the most surprising turn of events of the weekend, Kalamazoo found the magic they had in early March and stole 2 and 3 doubles from Wash U. The Bears had to be sweating a bit after this but Follmer was able to get his guys to regroup and back on track for singles. It looks like Kzoo was going to win 3, so this would have ended in a 6-3 win, but instead Wash U finished at 5-2. Watts obviously wasn't going to lose, and I thought the bottom of Kalamazoo's lineup would have to come up big for them. Parizher didn't play on Sunday, but instead freshman Kareem Farah got the clinching win for Wash U. Adam Putterman had a bad weekend and Wash U is really going to need him if they want to win a national title. The Bears have to be questioning themselves after this match, but if you remember the last time Wash U had a questionable result in February, the bounced back the next match and beat Hopkins 8-1. The Bears survived which is what matters and it's probably good for them that they were tested. They can't have a repeat performance of Sunday's doubles if they want to beat CMU.
This region produced the biggest round of 32 upset in the tournament when unranked UT-Tyler beat 18th ranked Mary Washington even after losing 2 of the 3 doubles. I said in the preview that this was possible but unlikely and Tyler managed to pull it off. Funny that they came into the tournament last year ranked top 20 in the country and lost to Luther and now they are the ones pulling the upset. A great win for Tyler and this will almost definitely move them into the year-end top 30 which is a good accomplishment for a team this young. A fitting end to a poor season for Mary Wash but I expect this team to come back and be top 20 again next year if not better. They have good development in Mary Wash, but inexperience caught up with the Eagles this year. I thought they would be able to hang with CMU, but the Tartans had to breath a sigh of relief playing an unranked team at home for a spot in the Final 8.
The regional final didn't bring much drama as CMU ran through the top 2 doubles spots. Tyler was able to stay in it with a tiebreak win at #3. #3 could be a big spot for CMU against Wash U and a potential must win spot. CMU's doubles has been solid recently and I think a 2-1 lead against Wash U is a must if they want to advance to the Final 4. 3 through 5 singles have been great spots for CMU all season and Tyler was just overmatched. Tyler had leads at 1 and 6 so this could have ended up looking like a respectable score, but CMU was just a little too determined and a little too talented. Overall a great weekend for both teams. Tyler has to be very pleased with their performance and their upset and CMU qualifies for their first Elite 8 in school history. They also have a great chance to win against Wash U and this is a match I'm really looking forward to between two teams with some of the best singles lineups in the country.
To begin, I'll discuss the round of 32 between Carleton and Trinity (TX). I was really doubting the Tigers after this match due to the fact that both 1 and 2 doubles went to tiebreakers. If Trinity wanted to beat Kenyon in doubles they needed these spots to be sharp. Trinity used their advantage in talent to get through this match 5-0 having no trouble in singles. Kenyon easily took out host Whitewater setting up a regional final that I was really looking forward to. I said in the preview that it was a must for Trinity to get up in doubles and they did so with easy wins at 2 and 3. Delafuente/Frey is arguably the best 2 doubles team in the country at the moment and Carroll/Murray is one of the best 3 teams. Both of these teams came up huge for Trinity giving them an early 2-0 lead and they will need to do it again in the Final 8. You had to expect Kenyon's seniors to step up and keep them in the match and they did just that winning 1 doubles in a tiebreaker. The Cocanougher/Kowal team hasn't been as dominant as the past 2 years and Kenyon took advantage of it. I expected that win for Kenyon to give them momentum entering singles but Trinity showed resiliency and got on the board with an expected win at 3 singles. They also had first sets at 2, 4 and 6. Piskacek came storming back for Kenyon but at the same time the Tigers won at 6 giving them a 4-1 lead as Greenberg won as well making it 4-2. Kenyon won the first set at 5 and Piskacek split so the momentum was turning, but Kowal from Trinity who clinched the conference for them, was able to win his 2nd set tiebreaker to end the match. An amazing win for Trinity and a much needed one for their program. They are still young and will come back as a national title contender next year. As of now, they know they have nothing to lose against CMS after getting blasted 9-0 two months ago. I am very sure this won't happen again but Trinity's doubles needs to come up huge if they want to win. A disappointing end to a season that didn't meet expectations for Kenyon. The Lords graduate 4 great seniors after what has been a magical last 3 years. This program will enter rebuilding mode and hopefully we see them back on the national scene very soon.
The only thing to really discuss here is the Amherst-Williams match and I said beforehand that you can probably flip a coin to determine the winner. Amherst has slightly more talent plus experience from last year playing in a big match and the home court. I predicted the 2 and 3 doubles would be split and this time around these 2 went to the teams I expected to win. Williams carried their 2-1 doubles lead to a victory last match and this time Amherst was able to get that huge point at 1 doubles which will be absolutely crucial for them against Emory. Williams also dominated 3 through 5 singles against Amherst in the previous meeting and Waterman was able to come up with a big win for Herst. It's amazing that all 6 matches went to 3 sets and Amherst was able to take 5 first sets. A great comeback by the Ephs but Herst was just a little too much with their 1-2 combo of Chafetz and Kahan. I think Williams needed the win at 2 with a senior-freshman match, but a great win by Kahan to give his team the win. Herst also looked on their way to at least 1 more win. Williams has to be disappointed with their poor luck draw-wise and they are also not used to missing the Final 8. A good recovery near the end of the season by Williams but this season just didn't live up to their standards that they are accustomed to. A decent start for a first-year head coach but Williams has a lot of work to do to catch up with Herst and Midd. The recruits are clearly there for Williams but they need to pick up the development. Herst moves on to take on Emory is the Elite 8 match that I'm most looking forward to. Most people are counting them out but I think they have a great chance to win especially given their unexpected performance in the Elite 8 last year.
Not only did NC Wesleyan beat Hopkins, but they also had to battle to beat Vassar. The results for NCW after this weekend are shocking, but impressive at the same time. Starting with the first match, Vassar did what they needed to do in doubles. NCW had a lead at the 2 spot and Vassar came storming back before losing 9-7. They did however, take a 2-1 lead going into singles which is something they needed. I said that Vassar didn't have the depth to match NC Wes and this proved to be correct as the Bishops ran off easy wins at 4 and 5. The swing spot here was the win at 2 for NCW. Rumyantsev after this weekend has to be considered one of the best 2's in the country and possibly the most underrated player in the whole country. He had an outstanding performance for his team this weekend. NCW was able to get 6 as expected and close this match with a 5-2 score. A good effort by Vassar but it's clear they just weren't deep enough to hang with the best in the country this year.
This regional final is arguably the most amazing result of the season. Let's take a look at what happened. On March 20th, these two teams played at a neutral site with Hopkins winning 8-1 after a doubles sweep. Also, NCW had their #1 player in that match. Now, they were playing with a Hopkins crowd of 100, NCW didn't have their #1 player and Hopkins swept doubles again. I can't remember a key match this entire season where a team came back from 3-0. A betting man would say Hopkins wins this match. Yet, NCW must have received quite the pep talk between singles and doubles because they started to mount their comeback. They took all 6 first sets and Hopkins knew they were in for a battle. Not too long after, NCW led 4-3 with Hop gaining splits at 1 and 6, two seniors for the Blue Jays. At this point it was a coinflip but NCW just dug deeper in this match and managed to get that win. An unbelievable performance from the Bishops and apologies to them because I counted them out in this match. You have to call Hopkins the biggest disappointment of this season. I had them at pre-season #5 and they will probably finish around 12 or 13. They have such a talented roster but they can't seem to put together a good NCAA run. NCW for the 2nd year in a row has brought their best stuff for NCAAs. Middlebury is a completely different level than Hopkins but NCW will certainly give them a hard time. They need to work on doubles and if they are playing flawlessly, an upset is an outside possibility.