Tuesday, January 25, 2011

2011 Team Preview #16: Whitman

Chris Bailey

Coach: Jeff Northam, 17th Season
Location: Walla Walla, Washington
Conference: Northwest
2008 Ranking: 20
2009 Ranking: 24
2010 Ranking: 19
2011 Projected: 18

Each year if you take a look at the rankings, there are typically 3 tiers of teams in the top 25. You have your elite teams, usually top 7-10, the second tier who can all beat each other on any given day, and then everyone else. Whitman is always one of the best in that third tier. Their problem has been when they step up to that 2nd tier, they get beaten pretty badly. Two years ago, they had matches against DePauw and Chicago and lost both. Last year, they played Redlands and didn't really show up in a 7-2 loss. A goal I'd set for Whitman this year is to try to break into that 2nd tier. As I have things right now, I consider them the #1 team in the 3rd tier and they certainly will have opportunities this year. There are 2 very significant matches on their schedule, those being against Kenyon and Bowdoin. I consider the Kenyon match the biggest of the season for Whitman, because I think Whitman could match up well against the vulnerable Lords this year. Whitman somehow has to figure out how to avoid the California region in NCAAs, because everyone, including them, knows they don't have a chance there. To me, Whitman's ticket out is to win as many matches as possible this season. Try to break the top 15 and get as high as possible prior to NCAAs. I think the better they do, the better the chance they can get sent elsewhere, and Whitman can certainly give some of the lower #1 seeds a hard time. Whitman has restrictions on their match scheduling due to location and conference requirements, so there certainly is more pressure to perform when they do get a crack at a top team. Coach Northam does a fantastic job and really maximizes the talent that he has. He has made this program into one of those teams you don't want to play and they are very consistent every year. You just know that they are going to win their conference and be in the top 25 every year and that's something that can't be said for a lot of other programs who are lower in the rankings. Whitman has experienced players in Etienne Moshevich and Chris Bailey who are both very tough if they are healthy, and they also have one of the best freshmen in the country in Andrew La Cava. He is the best recruit ever to attend Whitman and maybe he can attract more top talent to Washington. The goals for 2011 are simple: win the conference, break into that 2nd tier and avoid California in NCAAs.