Tuesday, January 18, 2011

2011 Team Preview #11: Christopher Newport

Gianandrea Heyer

Coach: Rush Cole, 15th Season
Location: Newport News, Virginia
Conference: USA South
2008 Ranking: 24
2009 Ranking: NR
2010 Ranking: 30
2011 Projected: 21

They aren't at the same level, but the make-up of this team is eerily similar to Emory. They've got 2 great players supporting them, a solid #3 and then serviceable players lower in the lineup. In fact, if you take away the Eagles top 2, Newport has arguably the best 2 players in the region in Shulman and Heyer. Newport hasn't been making much noise the past couple years since starting undefeated in 2008 and making their way into the top 20 in the country with some very solid wins. I think this year's team has that sort of potential but they need to focus on one thing and one thing only. That's winning the conference. It will be a very tall task. If you look at last year's USA South final, that's the Newport-NC Wesleyan matchup in a nutshell. Newport was able to take 2 of 3 doubles and they were competitive at the top 2 spots, but NCW absolutely crushed them at 3 through 6, losing something like 8 total games at those 4 spots. I think there are 5 wins for Newport against NCW this year so I'm not going to count them out, but they will need to have their absolute best day to win this conference. The unfortunate thing for Newport is that this is really their only ticket to the tournament. I can see this team being as high as 18 or 19 in the country this year, but that still won't get them close to Pool C. Coach Cole is one of of the most underrated in the country and Newport's great staff has to have some lineup ideas up their sleeve to give them the best chance against NC Wesleyan. Looking at Newport's make-up again, Shulman and Heyer are probably the most underrated 1-2 punch in the country and will carry this team into the top 25 this year. After them, sophomore Garrett Widing will hopefully be healthy this spring and pick up where he left off from a promising freshman campaign. The real key will be seniors Lorenzo Sison and Dusty Nelson, both of whom really need to step up when Newport takes on ranked teams. The Captains need wins from players other than their top 2, and it's as simple as that. Looking at their schedule, they aren't tested all that much, but matches to watch are W&L, Mary Wash and of course the regular season contest with NCW. Their season will come down to the conference final and they know it. They just have to be ready to play.