Tuesday, January 11, 2011

2011 Team Preview #7: Mary Washington

Sam Wichlin

Coach: Todd Helbling, 12th Season
Location: Fredericksburg, Virginia
Conference: Capital
2008 Ranking: 9
2009 Ranking: 18
2010 Ranking: 23
2011 Projected: 19

Last year, with a finish of 23rd in the country, the Eagles concluded their worst season in Coach Helbling's 11 seasons. The team was young and not that strong, but a drop of 14 spots in 2 years is significant, and should be a red flag for any program. The Eagles have the luxury of not having to worry about making the NCAA tournament this year with conference rival Salisbury being very weak. The Eagles still play a daunting schedule, beginning with Indoors where they will be the underdog in 3 consecutive matches, no matter who the opponents are. Mary Wash needs to go back to the drawing board and regroup a little bit. They have a promising sophomore in Sam Wichlin who was one of my players to watch, and they have a 3-time NCAA doubles qualifier in Kaz Murata who definitely could make it 4 in a row this year. Mary Wash is fairly even throughout the lineup, and this was a problem for them last year. They did a lot of lineup switching, but during all of it no one was really consistent. They had 2 bright spots all last season, and that was a win against Redlands and then a conference title. They lost to a clearly inferior team in NCAAs and also had bad losses against W&L and Newport. Something has gone wrong the past 2 years, but I can't put my finger on it. Talent and depth wise, they should be a fixture in the top 20. They get adequate recruits, but the fantastic development that existed in the middle of the decade isn't there anymore. Helbling is one of the top coaches in D3 and I believe this is a crucial year for Mary Wash tennis. If they can start strong and pull an upset at Indoors, it could lead to great things later in the season. As for goals, I think they should focus on the top 15 and winning their first NCAA match, since that is something they've failed to do in the last 2 years. Their players need to develop throughout the season and they need to believe they are still one of the top teams in the country.