Sunday, January 9, 2011

2011 Team Preview #5: Emory

Dillon Pottish

Coach: John Browning, 12th Season
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Conference: UAA
2008 Ranking: 2
2009 Ranking: 3
2010 Ranking: 4
2011 Projected: 3

In any sport, when a team suffers a tough loss to end their season, there's always a question about how they will respond the following season. I have no doubt that the Emory Eagles will be competing for another national title this season. Last year's loss to Amherst was a wake up call, a message that they can't dominate like they used to and more hard work needs to be put in versus 5 years ago. Fitness was a big reason Emory didn't win that match, so you know what the focus will be this year. So the streak of 8 consecutive Final Fours is over, but the Eagles still maintain the streak of 11 consecutive seasons finishing inside the top 5. Make that 12 for 2011. This 2011 Emory team is very interesting and has the best 2 players in the country heading into the season. They lost two key seniors, but brought in a class of solid recruits and have probably 4 or 5 guys on their bench who can start on other top 10 teams. Depth really isn't an issue for this team, but the reality is that their bottom of the lineup is a bit overmatched against CMS and Amherst. We saw this last year in the NCAA quarterfinal. If their top 2 fall, they aren't going to win. The reason I'm not sold on this year's Emory team is doubles. They lost 4 of 6 doubles starters from last year's team and to me their doubles is a glaring weakness. Look at the last 4 matches Emory has lost in D3 play. Amherst last year as everyone knows, Wash U 2010 Indoors Semi, Santa Cruz 2009 NCAA Semi, Wash U 2009 UAA Final. They were swept in doubles in those last 3 matches. If Emory can get a lead going into singles, they are incredibly tough to beat. One of the reasons they are the team "everyone loves to hate" is because of the arrogant attitude they carry into matches. The truth is that attitude isn't getting it done for them, because they can get in a huge hole with the 9-point system. If they can rethink how they approach doubles, it could make a huge difference. They've got 3 great players and solid 4 through 6 guys. That's enough to win a national title. They are a heavy favorite to win Indoors and will be tested at the Stag-Hen with CMS and Trinity (TX) competing. I'm interested to see how this team bounces back after last year's loss, which I'm sure didn't sit well with Coach Browning.