Monday, January 10, 2011

2011 Team Preview #6: UT-Tyler

2010 Regional Finalists

Coach: Chris Bizot, 7th Season
Location: Tyler, Texas
Conference: American Southwest
2008 Ranking: 21
2009 Ranking: 20
2010 Ranking: 22
2011 Projected: 28

I think this is one of the youngest and most unpredictable teams in the country. The Patriots are always lurking and have put together 3 consecutive very solid seasons in which they finished top 25 and won a conference title. Coach Bizot has done a great job with the talent he has available and has turned this from an average no-name team in Texas to a national power who can win NCAA tournament matches. The one thing that has been a staple for the Patriots over the past few seasons are seasons filled with ups and downs. They've often struggled with injuries, and this kept their strong teams out of the top 10. The 2009 squad peaked at #13 and they were definitely better than their #20 year-end ranking. The 2011 team is very young and will most likely start no seniors. The Pats didn't have a very good season last year, but came on strong in the NCAA tournament and upset Mary Washington with a good singles performance. The previous two NCAA appearances for Tyler were below average at best. They finally showed up in the post-season and it was a good experience for their young guys to get a big win in a pressure situation. They have two strong players in Josh Chavez and Adam Chirhart who should be at the top of their lineup this year. There are two wildcards on Tyler's 2011 roster though, and they are two freshmen from Brazil. Although neither had a great Fall ITA, if they can step in and be consistent winners in the bottom of the lineup, Tyler could be a top 25 team. I expect them to be ranked start to finish, but I don't think breaking the top 20 is realistic. When looking at their schedule, there are only 3 matches that I really have my eye on. The first is an early season contest against a deceptively good Rhodes team, and then they have matches in California against Whitman and Pomona-Pitzer. If they can manage to win one of the two California matches, that's a good accomplishment for these guys. This is a semi-rebuilding year for Tyler, but I like this program a lot.