Sunday, February 27, 2011

Weekend Recap

3 matches that I'm going to discuss plus a few other results of note. Cal Lutheran vs. Pomona-Pitzer was cancelled due to weather and a new date has not been picked for the match. Not a ton of key matches this weekend, but a few results worth mentioning. Chicago beat Gustavus 6-3 after falling behind 2-1 in doubles. The Maroons were able to pull out 2 come from behind 3-set singles wins to avoid the upset. Chicago still does have a fighting spirit and life when it comes to qualifying for the NCAA tournament. This morning, the same Gustavus team lost 6-3 to DePauw, winning 2 singles matches at the bottom of the lineup as well as 1st doubles. If I'm Gustavus, I have to be fairly happy with the fact that I played 2 top 20 teams pretty tough given how far the Gusties fell last year. With Carleton get smoked by Whitewater, I have to call GAC the favorite in the MIAC right now. The Gusties actually play Whitewater in 2 weeks and this will be a big match for them. As I expected, Chicago and DePauw had nearly identical results this weekend. The Tigers meet the Maroons on March 22 in an absolutely massive match with the loser being at a big disadvantage when it comes to qualifying for NCAAs.

Skidmore found their 2009 form and beat Vassar 7-2 in a fairly routine victory. If Skidmore keeps up the good work, they could be quite dangerous in May. However, Vassar will now want revenge in the conference tournament so this just adds more fuel to the fire in what should be a great conference final. The biggest match of the weekend had Kenyon defeating Carnegie Mellon 6-3 in a tight match. It's time to give credit where credit is due and say that Kenyon is playing great tennis so far and is definitely the most pleasant surprise for the month of February. The Lords have beaten 2 top 20 teams and there's no reason they will stop here. With the team they have, they are really playing well and this win should put them at 7 or 8 in the next ITA rankings. They are getting contributions from everywhere as Burgin looks to be one of the best #2's in the country and the Polster/Williams team is playing like they are top 10 in the nation in doubles. The Lords next tests will be in California where they will have a match against Whitman and potential matches with CMS and Trinity (TX). I said this before the year started, if Thielke can put this team in the Final 8, he deserves Coach of the Year. The way they are playing right now, this is a definite possibility. Looking at the other side of the match, this is far from a bad loss from CMU because they are still in great position and should be single digits in the rankings, but I'm now questioning my statement about them being as good as last year which I made last weekend. They first need to concern themselves with making the tournament, but they should be more concerned about getting a top seed in the regional. The good news is they may get to see Kenyon again in the GLCA final if they both make it. One thing that disappoints me is that I dubbed Bobby Mactaggart one of my Players to Watch, and he is almost single-handedly doing in his team right now. He's won 10 games in 4 singles matches and is 0-4 in doubles in D3 competition. I said that CMU won't get anywhere without him and I stick to that. Along with Ray Worley, he's not doing what he needs to be doing. Seems like Wichlin, Polster, Frey and Egan all got my message though, because they've had good starts to the spring.

Two other results of note from Case Western. They knocked off both Whitewater and Kalamazoo and should find themselves in the top 30 if not the top 25 in the next ITA rankings. Coach Wojtkowski is running a fantastic program in Cleveland and the Spartans are on the rise. This makes things very interesting in the UAA as there are now 6 probable ranked teams. Life is hard for CMU and Chicago as one of them will have to take on a fiery Case team and the other will have to take on the host Brandeis in the conference tournament 1st round. I could easily see an upset in 1 of those 2 matches and an NCAA berth could be on the line as well. Case isn't in action again until GLCAs, which I don't believe they've played before. They could enter as the 4th or 5th seed and see Denison in the quarters which would be interesting.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Brief Weekend Preview Feb 25-27

Several matches are happening this weekend, but there are 4 which I'd like to mention because I think they are fairly significant. A team I haven't talked much about is Gustavus, and they will be in competitive D3 action for the first time this season when they take on Chicago. The Maroons are much more talented and should be able to win handily, but the Gusties have an opportunity to make a statement that they are back with a good showing. Chicago took care of a weak Kzoo team last weekend and now they face a similar foe in Gustavus. I expect the Gusties to be slightly stronger than they were last year now that Coach Valenti has a year under his belt, but I don't expect them to be any match for Chicago this weekend. Also note that Gustavus takes on DePauw Sunday, so looking at the results of those matches may allow us to compare the strength of Chicago and DePauw. Next we have a conference rivalry between Vassar and Skidmore. Although this match isn't all that important on the national scene, it's hugely important for these 2 teams as this rivalry runs very deep. The winner of this will get a leg up in the Liberty League and will most likely find themselves ranked in the next ITA poll. It's important for Skidmore to bounce back after a rough season last year, but equally as important for new Vassar coach John Cox to begin to establish a dynasty in the conference so he can build his program into a national power.

Third we have Cal Lutheran versus Pomona-Pitzer in the Kingsmen's first match without Nick Ballou. I'm interested to see how the Kingsmen respond in this. This is a huge match for PP to get a win on their Pool C resume and one they desperately need so they can potentially avoid the #4 seed in the conference tournament. They could use the confidence and this match would take them into the top 20 in the country. I'm not completely sure what to expect of Cal Lu from an effort standpoint, so we'll see how they fair. These 2 both played Brandeis in the past few days with Cal Lu w/Ballou winning 6-3 and PP winning 8-1 after a doubles sweep. I think this could be a big opportunity for the Hens and I expect them to come out with a win against a depleted and reeling CLU squad. The loser of this is in huge trouble when it comes to making NCAAs.

The main event this weekend is the next chapter in the rivalry between Carnegie Mellon and Kenyon. These 2 have played some great matches over the past 3 years and despite not being in the same conference or region, they have become great rivals with a mutual respect for each other. Kenyon defended their home court early in the season against Chicago, but this CMU team is much more focused and disciplined, meaning the Lords will need to raise their game to win. CMU certainly has the talent edge and they have the opportunity to really make a statement that they are a top 10 team who should be taken seriously this year. If they can be mentally tough and win in a hostile environment, they will have just about clinched an NCAA berth. This could potentially be a huge match for NCAA seeding and hosting, so even though its not a must win for either team, it's a result that we will come back to later in the season for sure. Kenyon seems to be very confident so far this season and they've had some quality wins, but this is by far their toughest D3 test of the spring. I think they need to play excellent doubles to win this match, but I like a more experienced CMU team to win a close one. If the Lords can weather the storm early and remain even deep into the match, they can win. This match is CMU's for the taking if they are focused and want it, and I think they leave Ohio with a huge win on Saturday.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

2011 Team Preview #32: Amherst

Moritz Koenig

Coach: Chris Garner, 4th Season
Location: Amherst, Massachusetts
Conference: NESCAC
2008 Ranking: 15
2009 Ranking: 2
2010 Ranking: 2
2011 Projected: 1

I've saved the best for last. Depending on how their doubles and top guys do, this could be the best D3 team we've seen in a very long time. The 2007 Slugs were fantastic, but they weren't facing the competition that this year's Amherst team is. If the Jeffs are dominant in their run to a national title, this could go down as one of the best D3 teams ever. Before I get into the nuances of their team, I just want to present the talent on this team. You have Austin Chafetz, the #1 from Amherst's national runner-up team in 2010, NCAA Singles semifinalist and the only play to ever beat Dillon Pottish in a D3 dual match. You have transfer Luis Rattenhuber, who played #4 for San Diego St. last year, a team that was ranked as high as #44 in D1. Next is Mark Kahan, defending National ROTY, NCAA Singles quarterfinalist and the only person ever to beat Chris Goodwin in a D3 dual match. After that is Joey Fritz, a freshman ranked as high as #18 in his graduating class, by far the highest we've ever seen for an incoming D3 player. Coming back is Andrew Jung, who was the #3 player on Amherst's 2009 National Runner-Up team before taking a year off school. I should also mention Mr. Clutch Moritz Koenig, Amherst's NCAA MVP and #5 player last year, as well as Wesley Waterman, Amherst's #4 player and the person who clinched the NCAA semifinal against CMS. I could also go on about their bench players' accolades. As good as other teams are this year, how in the world can Amherst lose? When you take into account the fact that these guys raise their game better than anyone during May, it's hard to conceive of them being beaten this year, and the scary thing is Koenig is their only senior. Chris Garner has built an incredible team, and the fact that he took them from missing the NCAA tournament to the NCAA final in only a year shows his coaching prowess. He is successfully drawing the recruits and has Amherst in line as the heavy favorite to win the national title this year. As I said previously, anything but a national title would be a huge disappointment for a team that has come so close over the past 2 seasons. If this team is going to lose, you've got to get them in doubles and at the top of their lineup where teams like Emory and CMS could potentially be stronger. I wouldn't be surprised if they lose a regular season match or two, especially given the fact they haven't had the greatest regular seasons during their past runs to the final. In fact, last season they were the #7 overall seed heading into NCAAs and barely escaped their regional. Looking at their schedule this year, they will be tested start to finish. Big matches during spring break are against Trinity (TX) and CMS, and then they return home for NESCAC play where they will take on Williams and Middlebury prior to the NESCAC tournament being held at Middlebury. If they can get through the regular season unscathed, this is an awesome team and I think everyone will realize what's going to happen in May.

Cal Lutheran's Nick Ballou Done for the Season

I was told this morning that Ballou will have surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back and will no longer be playing this season. It's unfortunate for the Kingsmen, but his health is the most important thing given that he's only a sophomore. This is an injury dating back to last spring that never healed. I have no doubt in my mind that he's seriously injured, but I just can't help to wonder if the same decision would have been made had the Kingsmen finished in the top 4 this past weekend and maintained their top 10 ranking. Either way what's done is done, so I guess we'll never know.

The significance of this runs throughout D3. Cal Lu still has 12 ranked teams on their schedule this spring, but the teams that are impacted the most are fellow Pool C competitors. Despite CLU's bad weekend, given their schedule and the quality of their team, you had to think they would pull out enough wins to qualify for the NCAAs through Pool C. Given the injury to their top player, I don't think they have much of a chance anymore, especially since their lack of depth was on display in Virginia. It's almost like an extra spot has opened. CMU and Williams have to be breathing a huge sigh of relief given that they are near locks for the tournament now if they do what they are supposed to. The biggest winner in all of this is Redlands who now went from a probable 3rd in the conference to an almost definite 2nd. I think the Bulldogs will be competing with Bowdoin, DePauw and Chicago for the 5th and 6th Pool C spots. Teams like Trinity (CT), Newport and Pomona-Pitzer even have Pool C life. This unfortunate event has really opened things up and if the Kingsmen somehow manage to come together as a team and make the tournament minus Ballou, they should be incredibly proud of their efforts. We will see how they fair this weekend against Pomona-Pitzer.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Indoors Is Over, Now What?

The much anticipated National Indoors has ended and we begin to get into the heart of the dual match season. Things won't be all that active for the next few weeks, but we do have Brandeis in California this week and Mary Wash in Cali next week. Also in the middle is a big Saturday with a couple of big matches including Vassar-Skidmore, PomonaPitzer-Cal Lu and Carnegie-Kenyon. I will be discussing all those matches later this week and will be covering all the action until things really get started in the second week of March.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Indoors Review By Team

Cal Lutheran - The Kingsmen did worse than their worst case scenario. Not good. Their 1-2-3 punch turned out to be a 1-2 punch. Player to watch Ray Worley didn't do what he needed to do this weekend, and he needs to win for this team to be good. You can't get it done with only 2 players. A bright spot was Justin Wilson who I would suspect may move to the #3 spot in the coming weeks. I'm not sure where the Kingsmen will drop to in the rankings, but whatever it is, they need to worry about even making NCAAs. With only 6 spots available, I'm thinking the cutoff will be 13 or 14 and they may very well be out of the NCAA tournament when the next rankings come out. This team was demoralized after their first match and things hit them so fast. They went from thinking they would be in the semis to being down 3-0 to NCW in the 7th place match in a 24-hour span. 1 of 2 things will happen: either they will go in the tank and decide they just aren't that good this season, or they will go home and train harder and remember that they still have 13 ranked teams to play this season. The team is still there, they just need to get their heads on straight. Weekend MVP is clearly Nick Ballou because without him they wouldn't have been competitive at all in this tournament. He went 5-1 on the weekend. Their next real test is this Saturday when they take on conference rival Pomona-Pitzer in what amounts to a must win match for the Kingsmen.

NC Wesleyan - They didn't do what they wanted, but at least they got a win. The Bishops know what level they need to be to compete with the top 10 teams in the country and at the moment I see them just on the outskirts of the top 10. They need to go work on their doubles because even though they have an excellent singles lineup top to bottom, they will never do anything if they can't play doubles. I thought taking a point from Trinity was a huge step for them in doubles and then they saw how easy life is after you sweep doubles when they played against CLU. Like I said, I expected something from them in the Wash U match and got nothing, which was disappointing to see. They aren't quite there yet, but they are slowly making progress. Weekend MVP for them is freshman Robert Kielberg who went 4-0 for them in their last two matches including huge doubles wins at #1 over Trinity and Cal Lu. He certainly looks like a promising player for a young Bishops team. Looking ahead, they don't have much until 1 month from today when they take on Hopkins in North Carolina. This is a huge match when it comes to NCAA seeding and hosting as well as a confidence boost for both teams. They solidified their place as a heavy favorite in the USA South and now need to focus their efforts on getting a high ranking and nice NCAA regional.

Mary Washington - A great tournament for the hosts as they did exactly what they needed to do this weekend and that was get a win. They came into the tournament ranked 12 spots below the lowest team and will leave the tournament most likely ranked in the top 15. This was a massive weekend for a team that has been struggling for the better part of the last 2 years and I can't say enough about their fight and effort on Saturday. Todd Helbling does a great job with this program and they should leave this tournament feeling really good about their potential this season. They have an excellent mix of youth and experience and have a complete lineup with a strong #1 in Player To Watch Sam Wichlin supplemented by a deep supporting cast. I have to give weekend MVP to Kevin Aquino who was huge in the Cal Lu match for them. He wasn't all that great in the other 2 matches, but he generated 2 points in their lone win including a come from behind doubles win and the deciding match at 4-4. Looking ahead, the Eagles leave for California and will have 2 important matches out there against Pomona-Pitzer and Redlands. These are 2 matches I expect the Eagles to win and they are matches the Eagles should win if this is actually a top 15 team. Mary Wash still has a lot of work to do as far as getting back to where they were, but this weekend was a large step in the right direction for a program that needed a boost.

Trinity (TX) - Because of their history at this tournament, I didn't expect a ton from the Tigers and I didn't get much. I'll make a few things very clear and I think everyone knows this including them. The Tigers went 5-4 in doubles this weekend. If they continue to play like this, they won't do anything this season and they may not break the top 10. Cory Kowal went 0-6 this weekend. If he can't get wins, they aren't doing anything this season either. As I've stressed several times before, this is a team that gets better as the season progresses and it looks like this season will be the same. A bright spot for the Tigers was freshman Greg Haugen who has 3-0 at the #5 singles spot against 3 very strong opponents. Although he doesn't play doubles, he played a huge role for the Tigers this weekend. I think it's a bit premature for Coach McMindes to mess with his doubles lineup, but he may want to have a second look at his singles lineup, the bottom half in particular. My weekend MVP for the Tigers is sophomore Erick Delafuente who went 5-1 in the weekend including 3-0 in doubles. As shaky as the Tigers doubles was, the 2 team of Frey/Delafuente was incredible, dropping 6 games in 3 matches and cementing themselves as the best 2 team in the country. The #1 team is a completely different team when they are in a dual match versus individual competition and 0-3 is unacceptable for a team that won ITA nationals. They need to find their form if the Tigers want to be a top 8 team this year. The next big match for Trinity will be at the Stag-Hen where they have a tricky opener against Pomona-Pitzer and a probable semifinal date with Emory.

Carnegie Mellon - The positives outweigh the negatives for CMU. They came into this tournament knowing what they had to do and they got the job done. I wasn't sure where the wins would come from, but they stepped up when they needed to against Cal Lu and pushed a definite top 8 team in Cruz. They beat a team ranked ahead of them and should take over the #7 spot in the ITA rankings. The first match was the one they needed so they didn't have to deal with playing teams ranked below them in the consolation. I really can't give them much criticism because they finished in the top half of the tournament. Looking at the negatives, Player To Watch Bobby Mactaggart went 0-6 on the weekend and he will really need to pick up his play if they want to end up with a top seed in their regional. I don't think this team is quite good enough to win if he's not producing wins. They went 3-6 in doubles and from recent memory Coach Girard hasn't gone through a whole season without switching his doubles teams, so I would expect changes within the next month if they continue to lose. Weekend MVP is Duke Miller despite his 2-4 overall record. He got a huge win against Cruz and won the deciding match against Cal Lu versus a player he wasn't expected to beat. CMU needs to rebound quickly because they have a huge match against Kenyon on Saturday on the road. This is a big rivalry and will test CMU to see if they belong on the top 8.

Santa Cruz - Coach Hansen isn't happy unless Cruz takes home first place, so despite having a solid weekend, the Slugs will probably go home thinking about a squandered opportunity. They had a good weekend and it seems as though they patched up their holes nicely from last year. The loss to Wash U was disappointing, but other than that they beat 2 very good teams in tight matches that were both great learning experiences. I think what we do know is that this team needs some serious training if they want to beat CMS this year, who looks to be about the level of Emory. The days of Cruz winning consistent national titles are probably over, but they are certainly still a top 8 teams and potentially a top 5 team. The Slugs played like they always do this weekend, going 5-4 in doubles and showing a ton of heart in all of their singles wins. Weekend MVP for Cruz is definitely Brian Pybas who went 4-2 on the weekend including 3-1 against Trinity and Wash U. Another bright spot for Cruz was their #3 doubles team of Ian Stanley and Eric Rosner who went 3-0 in their matches against 3 solid team and could be in the conversation for best 3 team in the country at the moment. Looking ahead, Cruz hosts Redlands in 3 weeks in what should be a win and then they have a brutal 2 week stretch at the end of March. They will need to be in phenomenal shape to get through all those matches especially since they aren't that deep.

Wash U - A great tournament for the Bears. We weren't sure how they would respond losing 2 key starters and not really bringing in anyone for this year, but they played great tennis start to finish and I was particularly impressed with their doubles. They had a very tricky first round, but I speak time and time again about their discipline and they showed it in all 3 matches. I didn't expect them to be as strong as they were this weekend, but they proved me wrong and showed they could easily end the year in the top 5 and make a 4th straight Final 4 appearance. I don't know if any other team had such a complete team effort throughout the tournament as the Bears ended up going 7-2 in doubles and all 3 spots won at least 2 matches, with the #2 team winning all of their matches. Weekend MVP for the Bears goes to Kareem Farah who went 6-0 on the weekend including 3 dominating doubles performances. I really think the Bears are even at the 4 through 6 spots, so whoever ends up at 6 should be one of the best in the country at his position. That being said, they got wins at 4 against Cruz and NCW, so I wouldn't really call it a weak spot. I know Wash U's focus every year is winning the UAA and beating Emory, and I think they may need a doubles sweep to do it as we saw from Sunday's result. It's certainly not impossible and history is on Wash U's side in this regard. The Bears won't be in D3 action for a month when they travel to Texas to take on Cruz, CMS and Trinity (TX) in what should be an amazing 3 days of tennis.

Emory - This was pretty predictable. The Eagles dropped 5 total points in 3 matches and even though Wash U gave them a scare, they showed they were the best team at this tournament by quite a bit. Pretty much anyone in the country will need to win 5 of 7 matches against the Eagles because with Pottish and Goodwin on their team, it's almost 2-0 before the match starts. Everyone knows you have to get Emory in doubles, and the Eagles doubles was very good but not great this weekend. They were somewhat lucky to not get swept against Wash U and I could see them getting swept by other teams later this spring. If the Eagles can get a point on the board, they are a clear favorite against anyone in the country and I am really looking forward to seeing them take on Amherst and CMS eventually. This 2011 team is very focused and will work very hard to try to bring home their first national title in 5 years. Weekend MVP and tournament MVP is definitely Chris Goodwin who went 6-0 in the weekend, including 2 big wins at #1 doubles against strong teams. After seeing the Eagles results this weekend, I think they are as good as anyone in the country. They won't be tested again until March 10th against Redlands and they will use this as a warm-up for the Stag-Hen when they have a probable semifinal date with Trinity (TX) and a possible final against CMS on the Stags home courts. This will be a real test for Emory and we will see how tough they really are during this California trip.

National Indoors Recap and Thoughts

Day One

One morning match lived up to its expectations and the other didn't. To begin, NCW doesn't know how to play good doubles, and you can't win big matches against good teams unless you bring a ton of energy in doubles. I really expected NCW to hang in this match, and they did in singles, but doubles was a blowout from the beginning. I talked about this in the preview; if Wash U jumps out to an early lead they will never look back and this is exactly what happened. Impressive match from Adam Putterman to lead the Bears in singles and all but seal the match against a strong player in Rumyantsev. The second match lived up to the hype, but the doubles results surprised me. Brian Pybas took over this match and won it for the Slugs. I think the difference in this match was simple: Bob Hansen. The Tigers were turning the match when the score was 3-2 Cruz and Trinity led 5-2 in the 3rd at #6 singles. Hansen has seen this a million times and was able to calm his freshman down and have him come back for the win. One thing I want to mention, and before I say it I will also mention that I don't watch Trinity practice every day so I don't know the ins and outs of their program. A couple weeks ago, I questioned why Trinity had two very capable upperclassmen on the bench for singles in favor of having freshmen in the lineup. This backfired on them and I have a feeling they may be doing some tinkering with their singles lineup after this weekend. Cruz used their Indoors experience to continue their domination of Trinity and extend the Tigers 1st round losing streak to 6. Cruz moves on to the semi after a real battle to take on Wash U. Just like the preview, not too much to say about Emory and Mary Washington. Emory took it to Mary Wash early and never let them feel like they had a chance. A good effort by most of the Mary Wash guys in singles to hang with superior opponents. Emory looked dominant as always, but it was hard to tell exactly how good they were. The other afternoon match was definitely the match of the tournament between CMU and CLU. Both teams switched up their doubles teams prior to the match and put all of their eggs in the #2 doubles basket. I thought it was interesting that both coaches had similar thinking, it's almost like they discussed it beforehand. CMU came out with a much needed win at #2 doubles which swung the match in their favor. I vastly overestimated the abilities of Ray Worley after his great fall results, he didn't really show up this weekend. An awesome job by CMU's bottom of the lineup as they got the job done. CMU showed a lot of heart that we hadn't seen from them in past years and they deserved the win after pulling out 3 3-setters. The loser of this match could sense they were in trouble the next morning having to come back to play 11 hours later.

Day Two

I was looking forward to both morning matches. I thought NCW-Trinity had the potential to be a thriller. NCW got the point they needed in doubles with a win at #1 that nobody saw coming. I will discuss Trinity's doubles in the team recaps. The singles were all highly contested, and the fact is for all the talent NCW has, they are still undisciplined and a bit rough around the edges when it comes to mental toughness. For the Tigers to pull out 2 close 3-setters to win the match means they were the tougher team mentally. Trinity's doubles still weren't where they needed to be, but props to the Tigers for really getting the job done in singles, because if you would have told me before the match it would be 2-1 heading into singles, I probably would have picked NCW. CLU is tough to beat if they get 2 of the doubles, but they couldn't do it against UMW after blowing a big lead at #2. When Mary Wash came back from 7-3, this turned the match and threw the momentum to the Eagles. The person who had a chance to stop it was Ray Worley and he couldn't bounce back from the night before. UMW won in the identical spots to CMU the night before, putting CLU's weaknesses on display. This was a devastating loss for CLU, but I completely understand why it happened. Credit to UMW, but I'm going to say that if CLU played UMW on Friday and hadn't lost that match the night before, the Kingsmen would beat UMW. Todd Helbling should write a thank you note to Andrew Girard for making his team's tournament. Cal Lu was reeling and we saw that at night.

Not much to say about Emory-CMU, it's clear what happened. When CMU didn't get a point in doubles, they decided to go into tank and save it for the next day. Their #6 guy didn't get the message though and credit to Jooho Yu for getting a point to make the score look a little better. I understand why they did it, seeing a long, grinding match on the other 3 courts and not wanting to fight in an eventual losing effort especially when you had an emotional win the night before. A bright spot for Emory that they went 6-0 in doubles against two solid teams. 3 of the 12 matches this weekend came down to the last match and this was another one of them. Cruz needed to get on top in doubles and they couldn't do it. Pybas was unable to take over this match and credit to Wash U's top doubles teams for getting the job done. I think what happened was Wash U showed their outstanding depth and their talent just outdoes Cruz's talent. Pybas and Koenig kept the Slugs in the match and Sam Rodgers made things interesting, but I don't think there was much mystery about Wash U eventually winning this match when heading into singles. Their strengths showed, but they really won this match by getting 2 of the 3 doubles points. Against top 10 teams, Cruz is in trouble if they only get 1 doubles match.

These night matches are tough to play and we saw that in the NCW-CLU match. I found it interesting that these 2 both came in thinking they could win the tournament and the found themselves in the 7th place match. The Kingsmen had absolutely no heart in this match and understandably so. Worley had to be demoralized and this showed in singles and doubles. Credit to NCW for capitalizing on the opportunity and salvaging a win from this disappointing tournament. They played well enough to win a match and they got their chance. The Kingsmen will go home and have to do some hard thinking about what they want from this season. Mary Wash was able to keep themselves in the 5th place match with a win at #1 doubles, but a more talented Trinity team won this routinely as I would expect. The Eagles made them work which is all you can ask and Trinity's strong doubles propelled them to an eventual victory. The Eagles didn't have quite enough talent to capitalize on the Tigers weaknesses, but Wichlin played a fantastic match winning doubles and beating Frey in a tough 3-setter.

Day Three

A rematch of last year's first round between Cruz and CMU turned out to be a very good match and showed me that CMU is the real deal this year. After the first two days, all they had to show was a win over Cal Lu who finished last and a subpar effort against Emory. Playing a tough 5-4 with Cruz in which they had a chance to take a 4-2 lead in the overall match shows me that they are just as good as they were last year. Again, Hansen's ability to get his players through tough matches proved to be the difference. An upset by Nemerov over Pybas made this match interesting after Cruz took 2 doubles points just like they did last year. The turning point was #4 singles where CMU had a 4-1 lead in the 3rd set and couldn't close it out. The Slugs leave knowing they have a lot of work to do if they want to compete in the West this year. They play Trinity again in 6 weeks so we will see how they've progressed.

Wash U and Emory is hands down the best rivalry in D3. Every time these 2 get together it's unpredictable and this match was the same day. Wash U led early in doubles on all 3 courts and I had a feeling they would need to get that sweep if they wanted to get this win. My tournament MVP Chris Goodwin kept Emory in this match, winning at both of his spots and preventing the sweep. Pottish and Goodwin are just too tough at the top and too much for Wash U to handle. They both only dropped 6 games and neither dropped a set during the tournament. It's tough to win if you are Wash U because you've got to get 5 of the 7 remaining points and that's no easy task against a team with Emory's depth. An unsung hero for Emory this weekend was Nick Szczurek, who put Emory in control of this match with a routine win at #4 singles against a more experienced opponent. Roger Follmer has to have nightmares about Colin Egan as he clinched the 2nd match in a row between these 2. Wash U is going to have a tough time beating Emory this season, but history from the past 3 years shows they should win the UAA tournament. Emory now evens their record against Wash U at Indoors to 2-2 over the past 4 years. The Eagles bring home a well deserved 1st place trophy back to Atlanta.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

National Indoors Preview: Full Tournament Predictions

Consolation Semifinals

Mary Washington vs. Carnegie Mellon - If UMW is going to win a match, it's going to be this one. I just don't think they have the firepower to beat anyone at this tournament. It really depends which Eagles team shows up. It could be the team that lost to CMU 5-4 last year or the team that lost to Tyler 5-3 last year. CMU has too many tough players. Tartans 6-3.

Trinity (TX) vs. NC Wesleyan - This is an interesting match with Trinity's doubles and NCW's singles. NCW has to manage a point in doubles and I don't think they can do it. NCW should run through some of the singles matches, but I also like Trinity to hold on for a win after a doubles sweep. Doubles carries the Tigers to a win. 5-4 Trinity.

Semifinals

Emory vs. Cal Lutheran - These two are similar teams, Emory just does everything better. CLU has that excellent 1-2 punch, but Emory has the best 1-2 punch and I don't see Cal Lu hanging around in this one. The Kingsmen would have to play lights out doubles to even have a chance. Emory loses 2 singles matches max. Eagles 7-2.

Santa Cruz vs. Wash U - A rematch of last year's final with both teams slightly weaker. This depends on how many points Pybas and Koenig can create for Cruz. Wash U has the better depth and the Koenig-Woods match at #2 singles determines a lot. I like Cruz to get ahead in doubles and win a very close match. 5-4 Slugs.

7th Place

Mary Washington vs. NC Wesleyan - It's a shame someone from the strong bottom half has to play in this match, but the Bishops are the most likely candidate heading into the tournament. If they get up for this match, they outclass the Eagles and send the host home in 8th for the 2nd consecutive year. Mary Wash won't have much of a chance. NC Wesleyan 7-2.

5th Place

Carnegie Mellon vs. Trinity - These two played a close 5-4 last year with CMU winning. I see a similar result this year but with the Tigers coming out on top. A lot depends on CMU's ability to put up points in doubles, because I feel that the singles are very even, with CMU having a slight edge at 4 or 5 of the spots. Trinity gets ahead in doubles though and holds on for a singles split. Tigers 5-4.

3rd Place

Cal Lutheran vs. Wash U - An even match between two contrasting styles and I think doubles could end up determining a winner. A lot depends on how drained the Bears will be from their first two matches. Wash U has the depth edge, but Cal Lu has that star power and should dominate at the top. I can't pick against Wash U's experience though. They are a very seasoned team. 5-4 Bears.

Final

Emory vs. Santa Cruz - Both teams have 3 Indoors titles and are trying to tie Gustavus' record of 4 titles. The Slugs have been in the final 7 of 10 years prior to this tournament. Emory has too much this year though. Cruz's strength at the top of the lineup is outdone by Pottish and Goodwin. The Slugs would have to turn in a remarkable doubles performance to win because they are outclassed top to bottom in singles. Emory will be ready and take the title easily. Emory wins Indoors 7-2 over Cruz.

1. Emory
2. Cruz
3. Wash U
4. Cal Lu
5. Trinity
6. CMU
7. NCW
8. Mary Wash

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

National Indoors Preview: Quarterfinal #4: #5 UC Santa Cruz vs. #4 Trinity (TX)

Santa Cruz's Parker Larsen

I've been debating for a month who to pick in this match, but I decided I just can't ignore the history of Indoors and the history between these 2 teams. This is the blockbuster quarterfinal this year, pitting defending champion Cruz against a Trinity team that is hungry to get back in the limelight after a couple years outside the top 10. This is the Tigers first test, and they couldn't have asked for a harder one. I've praised TU's doubles lineup so much in the preseason and it's a given they are going to play good doubles, but the one team that has the ability raise their game in doubles and hang with Trinity is Cruz. We saw it last year from the Slugs. They went through the motions in their first 2 matches and got close wins, but all of the sudden they turn it on in the final and blitz Wash U in doubles. Coach Hansen has a 6th sense about when his guys need to raise their level, and they are going to have to do it during doubles in this match. I don't know if I expect Cruz to come out on top after doubles, but I think they will be in all 3 matches with chances to win. To me, this match is about the bottom of the lineup in singles. The 3 through 6 positions will determine who ends up a winner. I think Pybas and Koenig will be a bit much for Trinity to handle at the top 2 singles spots, so they'll have to win it with their depth. They are the more experienced team in the bottom of the lineup with senior captain Cory Kowal and reigning West ROTY Erick Delafuente going up against Cruz's bottom of the lineup, who has only 1 starter from last year's team. The Slugs always do this though. They take players that no one knows, throw them in the bottom of the lineup and make a good team out of it. This year will be no exception, Cruz will be solid at every spot. I consider Trinity the only team who's a real threat to beat Emory in this tournament because of their doubles play. Cruz's strong top of the lineup is negated by Emory, so the Eagles should be rooting hard for the Slugs in this. I think it's very likely that the winner of this quarterfinal will find themselves in the final against Emory. When Brad Gilbert does his pre-match analysis on ESPN, he gives checks to whoever is stronger in a given category. Trinity gets many more checks than Cruz heading into this match, but then you get to the "intangibles" category and Cruz gets infinite checks, because the bottom line is they are great at this tournament and they have owned the Tigers for a decade. Keep in mind McMindes was TU's assistant during their current 5 match losing streak in the Indoors first round. I just can't pick against Hansen and the Slugs in this even though logic tells me to go with Trinity. I'll take Cruz 5-4 and it may come down to the last match.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

National Indoors Preview: Quarterfinal #3: #7 Wash U vs. #11 NC Wesleyan

This match reminds me a lot of last year's Indoors first round between Wash U and Hopkins. NCW is a very talented team, maybe more so than Wash U, but the disciplined Bears go about their business quietly and just win matches. Where I think this year's NCW team may have an advantage over last year's Hopkins team is that they have played in a big match. They were intimidated and jittery against Middlebury in the NCAA quarterfinal last year, but they got the experience and now they know how to approach this match. On 2 occasions last year, we saw what Wash U does to teams who aren't ready to play, in the Indoors first round and NCAA quarters. They are very disciplined and well coached, and you know what you are going to get from them. The Bears have been to 2 consecutive Indoors finals for a reason. This is cliche, but this match will be as close as NCW makes it. If they come out fired up and get on the board in doubles, this could turn into a battle, because NCW certainly has the personnel to hang with Wash U in singles. If the Bishops come out scared, Wash U will jump on them early in doubles and this will turn into another 8-1 blowout. Unlike against Hopkins last year, NCW won't be coming back from any 3-0 holes in this match, because when Wash U senses you are down, they turn it on and end the match. The Bishops singles lineup is solid top to bottom, as they have a new freshman at #1, pushing Saari, Rumyantsev and Lemongo back to 2, 3 and 4. The top 3 singles spots should be very even, but NCW's guys will have to play flawless matches to take out Wash U's seniors in their last Indoors. Wash U will most likely be playing sophomores at 3 through 6, but they've all been there before so the experience factor won't be an issue. Doubles is the key to this match as I eluded to above. I don't think NCW will have an answer to Stein/Woods, so they need to focus their efforts on 2 and 3 to at least get 1 point on the board. I think NCW has an outside chance if they can get 1 point, and they are in great shape if they get 2 points. The singles spots are all tough to call, but if there's an opening for NCW, it may be at the 3 and 4 spots, as I believe the Bishops are very strong there. This is a very winnable match for NCW, but I have to go with the more experienced and disciplined Wash U team in a 6-3 win that will be closer than a lot of people think. NCW will need to play a great match to win, but they certainly have the capability to do it.

2011 Team Preview #31: Bowdoin

Stephen Sullivan

Coach: Colin Joyner, 5th Season
Location: Brunswick, Maine
Conference: NESCAC
2008 Ranking: 10
2009 Ranking: 13
2010 Ranking: 15
2011 Projected: 14

Bowdoin is becoming a fixture in the top 15 under head coach Colin Joyner and are only 3 years removed from their NESCAC tournament title. I think this team deserves, and gets, a lot of respect, even from the top NESCAC schools who beat them year after year. Season over season they have been a model of consistency as you can see from their rankings, but they often have their bad matches during the season. I don't think anyone benefits more than Bowdoin from the NCAA adding back the 6th Pool C spot in 2011, because after Chicago has slipped, guess who's in line to get that spot? The Polar Bears were robbed last year, and of course they were disappointed by it. You could see that in their uninspired performance during the NESCAC first round when they fell to Trinity (CT) without much of a fight. This was a good team last year, they took out Redlands in March, and they did it all after an injury to their #2 Oscar Pena, who was out for the season. The combination of having him at full health along with my preseason All-American Stephen Sullivan gives Bowdoin a top 2 that can go toe to toe with the best in the country. What I'm worried about on this year's team is the supporting cast. Juniors Nicolas Fenichell and Josh Cranin should give Bowdoin a decent middle of the lineup, but they have to win against the likes of Williams and Trinity (CT), and I'm not sold on them yet. Bowdoin hasn't had a ton of success against the NESCAC top 3 during the past couple years, so they have to get things done during their out of conference matches. They get shots at CLU, Cruz and Trinity (TX), and getting even one win in those 3 would give Bowdoin a sterling NCAA resume. There are obviously danger matches for Bowdoin too, and these include Bates, Trinity (CT) and Whitman. Those 3 are must wins if Bowdoin wants to be playing in the post-season. The Polar Bears have set up their schedule so they don't need to beat the NESCAC top 3 to get into the tournament. It's unfortunate they won't have a legitimate shot at a conference title, but 4th in the NESCAC should get you in the tournament this year. One thing I didn't mention is Bowdoin's doubles, and this separates their good matches from bad matches. Out of all the teams in the country, they may have the most inconsistent doubles results, and they have to recognize that and be ready to play every match. I don't think the top 10 is within their reach this year, but not finishing top 15 and missing the tournament would be a big disappointment. If they get a nice NCAA region with Midd or Williams as their top seed, Bowdoin could find themselves in their first Final 8 in quite some time.

Monday, February 14, 2011

National Indoors Preview: Quarterfinal #2: #8 Cal Lutheran vs. #12 Carnegie Mellon

Cal Lutheran's Ray Worley

CMU is probably the better "team" top to bottom, but they face a big problem in this match. Cal Lutheran has 3 players that are better than anyone on their team. That's very difficult to overcome. I'll get to the matches shortly, but CMU will have to pull an upset to win this match. Ballou, Giuffrida and Worley account for 5 of the potential 9 points in the match, and if they bring their best stuff, the Tartans won't have an answer. There are certainly a lot of variables in this match though. This is probably the first time in a long time that Cal Lutheran will be playing indoor tennis and they were also not very impressive in their spring opener against a weak Chapman team, dropping 2 points and struggling at another spot. This is about Cal Lu's top guys though. CMU is going to play a solid match and hang around, but it's Cal Lu's for the taking. Ballou seems to be playing at a very high level recently, and he may be the best singles player in the tournament not on Emory, as well as the best doubles player not named Kowal or Pybas. Overall, he may be the most dominant player at the entire tournament. In my mind, Cal Lu is a heavy favorite at the top 3 singles positions. I also give them an edge at the top 2 doubles spots because I can't pick against their big 3. Carnegie is a clear favorite at 3 doubles as well as 6 singles and that leaves 4 and 5 singles as toss ups. There are a couple things that could turn the match in CMU's favor. CLU is big on their Brazilian freshman Marcelo Sousa, who is slotted to play 2 doubles and 5 singles. They think he is going to be a top player, but he struggled in the opener against Chapman. If he holds down the 2 doubles team, CMU could end up taking that spot and a 2-1 lead heading into singles. This could put them in the driver's seat and give them a chance with wins at 4-6. The other way CMU wins is if their seniors pull upsets. I carefully selected my players to watch in the pre-season, and if Mactaggart is able to knock off Giuffrida in singles or Ballou in doubles, I love CMU's chances in this. The same goes for Nemerov taking out Ballou in singles or Giuffrida in doubles. Cal Lu doesn't have the team they had last year, but they are still very good. A lot of people voting in the poll seem to like CMU, and maybe they know something I don't. I'm taking Cal Lu in a pretty routine 6-3 win. I think they will get 2 doubles spots, the top 3 singles spots and 1 more point 4 through 6. This match is on Cal Lu's rackets, and they'll win if they are sharp.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

National Indoors Preview: Quarterfinal #1: #3 Emory vs. #19 Mary Washington

2009 Indoors 1st Round: Emory d. Mary Washington 9-0

Look at the above box score. That is exactly what will happen on Friday. I really don't need to put much into this preview, and I will also try not to use the term "Eagles," because I'll just confuse myself and everyone else. To begin, I'll say that in Mary Wash's first match of the spring against George Mason today, both Sam Wichlin and Will Apperson didn't play. They will probably be #1 and #3, respectively, for UMW this season, and they may also form the #2 doubles team. For the sake of Mary Wash being competitive at all in this entire tournament, let's hope those 2 are playing. Without them, UMW will struggle to get points in their 3 matches. One thing you can count on is that Mary Wash will fight, but this match is about Emory. I don't think we will get a true indication of how good they are in this match, but they have an opportunity to make a statement, just like they did in 2009. Honestly, I don't expect Emory to beat teams this weekend, I expect them to destroy everyone this weekend. I don't think anyone will come close to Emory. Browning still has to be thinking about the NCAA loss last year and he will not let it happen again. Emory will show up in top form this weekend and I have high expectations for them. If anything is wrong, their doubles lineup is in a bit of disarray at the moment, so they will probably use Friday's match to get things in order and get some of their younger guys experience on a big stage. If Mary Wash is going to do anything in this match, they probably have their best shot at either 2 or 3 doubles, depending upon which spot Pottish doesn't play. Mary Wash also could give Emory a little trouble at the 4 through 6 spots, but the top 3 singles spots should all be blowouts. I rarely predict 9-0 results, but I'm going to do it for this match. Mary Wash just can't match Emory's talent, and all they can hope for is to fight their hearts out for pride on their home courts. Emory should advance to Saturday's semifinal round without having to exert much energy. Mary Wash needs to not get discouraged, because their Saturday morning consolation match will be much more winnable.

National Indoors Preview: Best and Worst

Last year heading into the tournament, I thought there were 6 teams that could win it. I think that again, except last year there was no heavy favorite like Emory is this year. Looking back, Cruz was probably my 4th pick to win it all last year. Let's go over the best and worst case scenarios for each team at this weekend's National Indoors.

Emory
Best - The Eagles rout Mary Washington giving up 9 total games in doubles and don't surrender a set in singles. They are equally as dominant in the semis against Cal Lutheran coming out with a 2-1 lead after doubles and crushing the Kingsmen in singles for an 8-1 victory. In the final, the Eagles play their hated rival Wash U and sweep doubles before getting easy wins at 1 and 2 and then putting their backups in to play the rest of the match. The Eagles capture the title with a 7-2 win.

Worst - Emory comes out overconfident and goes down 2-1 in doubles against Mary Washington. They struggle to even the match and have to come down to the wire to pull out a 5-4 win with a 3-set victory at 4-4 where one of their starters cramps and can't play the next day. They are drained and get swept in doubles by Cal Lu and lose both of the top 2 singles spots to eventually lose 6-3. They play Wash U for 3rd/4th and again get swept in doubles before getting crushed at the bottom of the lineup in a 5-4 loss.

Mary Washington
Best - An energized Eagles team comes out hot and takes 2 of the doubles against Emory. They push Emory in the bottom of the lineup and fall in a very hard fought 5-4. The next day they come out fired up again and go up 2-1 against Carnegie Mellon in doubles. Wichlin gets an easy win and they pull out 2 dramatic wins in the bottom of the lineup to give them a come from behind 5-4 win. In the 5th place match they hang with Trinity (TX) in doubles and fall in a hard fought 6-3 battle.

Worst - They get embarrassed by Emory in front of a home crowd of 200, losing 8-3 across the board in doubles and not winning more than 4 games in any set in singles. They are so demoralized the next day that they forget to show up against CMU and lose 8-1 with a garbage-time 3rd set match tiebreak win. They try to pick themselves up for the 7th place match but run into an NC Wesleyan team who is very hungry for a win and again get crushed 8-1. They don't get a doubles win all weekend.

Cal Lutheran
Best - The Kingsmen come into the tournament with a chip on their shoulder and crush CMU 8-1 winning all six singles matches and only surrendering 1 set. The next day, they sweep Emory in doubles and their top 2 take down Pottish and Goodwin for a 6-3 win. In the final, they play rival Santa Cruz and it is a repeat of last year's regular season, with the Kingsmen sweeping doubles and again taking the top 2 spots in an eventual 6-3 win to give them the title.

Worst - CLU doesn't adjust to the indoor conditions and goes down 2-1 to CMU in doubles. Giuffrida has a bad match and they lose in the bottom of the lineup in a 5-4 overall loss. They struggle against Mary Washington but have enough weapons to pull out a 5-4 that goes down to the last match. They take on Trinity (TX) in the 5th place match and get destroyed in doubles before losing in the bottom of the lineup again in an eventual 6-3 loss. They go 0-6 at 5 and 6 singles.

Carnegie Mellon
Best - They come out hungry for a win after last year's disappointing Indoors and jump on CLU 2-1. They get 3 wins in the middle and bottom of the lineup for a 5-4 win. In the semis, they get ahead of Emory 2-1 and battle at the bottom of the lineup before losing a 5-4 war. In the 3rd place match, they get revenge against Wash U for last year's NCAA quarter and go ahead of the Bears 2-1 before splitting singles with wins in the top of the lineup for a comfortable 5-4 win.

Worst - CLU comes out hot and sweeps CMU in doubles before getting easy wins at the top of the lineup. The Kingsmen go on to win 8-1. CMU is deflated and comes out flat against Mary Washington getting swept in doubles in a match that is never close. They lose 6-3. In the 7th place match, they run into NC Wesleyan and again get beaten badly in another match that is never close and lose 7-2. They fall out of the top 15 and their NCAA chances are slim to none.

NC Wesleyan
Best - NCW shows up with new great freshmen and surprises everyone. They are able to take 2 and 3 doubles from Wash U before winning 4 of the 6 singles matches for a routine 6-3 win. The next round, they win 1 of 3 doubles against Cruz, but are able to win the 3 through 6 spots in a thrilling 5-4 win that comes down to the last match. In the final, they jump on Emory in doubles and go up 2-1 before splitting singles taking 4 through 6 to win the title.

Worst - The Bishops turn in another sub-par performance in doubles and get crushed by Wash U going down 3-0. They don't have the ability to come back this time and lose 8-1. In the backdraw, they run into another doubles powerhouse in Trinity (TX) and go down 3-0 before splitting singles in an eventual 6-3 loss. In the 7th place match, they go down 2-1 to Mary Wash in doubles before righting the ship only to win 3 of 6 matches and lose in a 5-4 heartbreaker.

Wash U
Best - The Bears jump on NCW early just like they did to Hopkins last year and all but end the match after going up 3-0. They dominate singles and end up winning another routine 8-1 1st round. In the next round they get revenge on Cruz for last year's final and go up 2-1 in doubles before taking 3 through 6 singles in an easy 6-3 win. In the final they take on hated rival Emory and once again sweep doubles before barely holding on for another very close 5-4 win.

Worst - The Bears really miss John Watts at the top of the lineup and it shows. They struggle the entire match and lose at the bottom of the lineup in singles in doubles to NCW in a 6-3 loss. In the consolation, they run into Trinity's outstanding doubles and go down 3-0 before losing 6-3 once again. They find themselves in unfamiliar territory, but they are able to beat Mary Wash solidly 7-2 to at least get one win during the tournament.

Santa Cruz
Best - Cruz does what they did last year and surprises everyone. They open against Trinity and are able to go ahead 2-1 in doubles before winning 4 of the 6 singles spots to win 6-3. In the semi, they do the same thing to Wash U, dominating at the top of the lineup and beating the Bears for the 2nd year in a row. In the final, the come out and dominate Emory in doubles going up 3-0. Pybas beats Pottish and they get a win at the bottom of the lineup to win 5-4. Pybas and Koenig both go 6-0 on the weekend.

Worst - Cruz's inexperience shows and they don't have last year's magic. They get swept in doubles by Trinity and lose at the bottom of the lineup to lose a 6-3 match that was never close. In the backdraw, they underestimate NCW and end up losing 5-4 even after going up 2-1 heading into singles. In the 7th place match, they beat Mary Wash, but not before having to sweat in a very close 6-3 win. This is their worst Indoors performance out of all 11 appearances.

Trinity (TX)
Best - Trinity dominates in doubles start to finish and manages to to get 2 singles wins each match. They sweep Cruz before splitting 3 through 6 singles to get a 5-4 win. The same thing happens against Wash U except the top of their lineup comes through this time in another 5-4 win after a doubles sweep. In the finals, they play inspired doubles and lose 10 total games to Emory. They are able to get 2 wins in the 4 through 6 spots to take their first Indoors title.

Worst - Trinity does what they've been doing in their warm-up matches and can't get it done in singles. They come out anxious against Cruz and go down 2-1. They end up losing 6-3. They take on NCW and sweep doubles before falling apart in singles and losing 5-4. In the 7th place match they sweep Mary Wash in doubles but this time they are able to hang on for a 5-4 win. Another disappointing Indoors performance.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

National Indoors Preview: General Discussion and Interesting Stats

Mary Washington's University Tennis Center

I wanted to make a post to discuss some general thoughts on Indoors as well as provide some stats on Indoors history. To begin, the ITA published stats on Indoors through 2008. I updated them to include the past 2 years. Stats are courtesy of the ITA, so thank you to their team for putting this together. I just did the easy part.

Most Championships: Gustavus Adolphus - 4; Emory, UC Santa Cruz - 3.

Most Final Appearances: UC Santa Cruz - 7; Emory, Gustavus Adolphus - 5; Washington U (MO) - 2; Claremont-Mudd-Scripps - 1

Most Victories: Emory - 20; UC Santa Cruz, Gustavus Adolphus - 19; Trinity (TX) - 11; Washington U (MO) - 6; Claremont-Mudd-Scripps - 5; DePauw, MIT, Mary Washington, Washington & Lee - 3; Redlands, Kenyon, Johns Hopkins - 2; Kalamazoo, Carnegie Mellon, Pacific Lutheran - 1.

Most Tournament Appearances: UC Santa Cruz, Emory, Gustavus - 10; Trinity (TX) - 9; Washington U (MO) - 5; Mary Washington, DePauw - 4; MIT, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps - 3; Kenyon, Johns Hopkins, Redlands, Washington & Lee, Whitman - 2; Washington Coll (MD), Bates, Carnegie Mellon, California Lutheran, Kalamazoo, Pacific Lutheran, Swarthmore - 1.


10 Interesting Tidbits About Indoors That I've Put Together:

-10 years of Indoors: only 3 different champions and 5 different finalists. I found this very interesting, but I also think the chances of that changing this year are very slim.

-We have 4 teams playing Indoors for the 2nd consecutive year and they are all in different 1st round matches. This is the first time NCW will be participating. All others have been here before.

-Wash U and Emory have played at Indoors in 3 consecutive years with Wash U holding a 2-1 advantage. All 3 years, whoever won the Indoors match lost in the UAA final.

-Wash U has lost in 2 consecutive finals. In 10 years, no one has lost in 3 consecutive finals.

-Last year was the only year in the 10-year history of Indoors that Trinity (TX) didn't qualify.

-The last time Trinity (TX) won an Indoors 1st round was 2004. They've lost 5 consecutive 1st round matches since then. In the same time period of '05-'10, Cruz is 5-1 in the 1st round. Their only loss came to Kenyon in 2009 and they went on to win the NCAA title that year.

-This is the 3rd site for Indoors. Whitman hosted for 2 years and then Gustavus hosted for 8 years.

-This will be the first time in the history of Indoors that none of the top 3 ranked teams in the country are participating. CMS turned down a bid for the 2nd consecutive year after attending in 2009 and finishing 3rd.

-Emory and Mary Wash played in the first round in 2009. Emory won 9-0 and didn't lose a set. Cruz and Trinity (TX) played in 1st round consolation in 2009. Cruz won 9-0. From those teams, all 6 of Trinity's doubles starters from that match are still on their roster. None of Cruz's doubles starters are still on their roster.

-Mary Wash is 1-5 in their last 6 Indoors matches.


General Discussion: Heading into the tournament this year, it's hard not to pick top seeded Emory as the favorite. They won the tournament 2 years ago and I don't see anyone getting in their way this year. Cruz won the tournament as the top seed last year and returns as the 2 seed, opening against a Trinity team who they haven't lost to in 10 years. I think a potential Emory-Cruz final is a definite possibility. A big point of discussion is the transfer to indoor tennis for the California teams. Cruz has always seemed to take this like fish in water, so we will see how Cal Lutheran handles it this year. They take on last year's 6th place finisher Carnegie Mellon and I would assume this is the first ever meeting between these 2 teams. The winner gets the luxury of playing Emory in the semis. I think the Wash U-NCW quarterfinal has a lot of potential to be a great match. I spoke with a coach of NCW after their 5-0 loss to Midd last year and he said they weren't ready to play. I'm sure they will be ready to go in this one. Outside of Hopkins and Midd in NCAAs last year, this is probably the biggest match in the history of their program. Mary Wash did a great job taking over the tournament, but they are in over their heads just as Gustavus was last year. I've been debating what's more of a mismatch: last year's Kenyon-Gustavus opener or this year's Emory-Mary Wash opener.

The draw is here
If you were to re-seed Indoors according to my preseason rankings it would be: #1 Emory v. #8 UMW, #4 Wash U v. #5 Cal Lu, #3 Cruz v. #6 NCW, #2 Trinity v. #7 CMU. I personally think the matches we have right now are better than these re-seeded matches. Given the current bracket, I don't think it's a stretch to say that the worst team in the bottom half would be the 2nd best team in the top half. We will find out because I'm sure Cal Lu does not agree with this. Mary Wash has slow indoor courts, so this will be a large contrast from the quick surface at Gustavus. This should suit Emory well and will certainly play an impact in all doubles matches as I expect service breaks to increase. With only 3 courts available per match, Indoors is a lot of pressure and a much different experience than playing all 6 matches at once. This is why I throw the advantage to the players who have been there before. I'm looking forward to a great tournament.

2011 Team Preview #30: DePauw

Michael Rardon

Coach: Scott Riggle, 2nd Season
Location: Greencastle, Indiana
Conference: SCAC
2008 Ranking: 17
2009 Ranking: 12
2010 Ranking: 18
2011 Projected: 17

I really have nothing but praise for this program. DePauw has cemented themselves in the 2nd tier of teams and one of the givens each season is that the Tigers will be really tough to beat, no matter who they are playing. They don't get the top notch recruits that a lot of other top D3 schools get, but they maximize the talent that they have and mold hardworking players who aren't intimidated by anyone. I don't know if this is the case with any other team in the country, but DePauw has had 4 different seniors play #1 singles during the past 4 seasons. It seems when a player is finally developed and ready to compete at the top of the lineup, it's time for him to graduate. This year I don't think that will be the case despite DePauw returning an excellent core of 4 players led by Hunter Schouweiler and Michael Rardon, two of the most underrated players in the country. Also in the lineup should be sophomores Noah Swiler and Andrew Kahn, who will be stronger after getting a year of experience under their belt. They finished 18th last year and missed the tournament, but this team was points away from sweeping Emory in doubles in the Indoors 1st round. That's the story of this team though. They are always close and will give anyone a battle, but they rarely beat the top teams. One thing to remember is that DPU won their conference between '07-'09 before Trinity took it back last year. A conference title should be on the list of goals for DePauw this year because I'm not sure if they are quite strong enough to grab a Pool C bid. I can see this team finishing anywhere between 10 and 19 this year and a lot will depend on the prowess of their enormous freshman class. Everyone in the country knows not to take this team lightly, so their element of surprise won't be there in their big matches against Chicago, Wash U and a likely GLCA semifinal against Kenyon or CMU. They are going to have to play tough doubles if they want to hang with Trinity (TX) this year in the conference final because last year a doubles sweep did in their NCAA chances. The unfortunate thing is that I'm seeing a plateau for this program since their run to the Elite 8 in 2007, and I'm not sure how they are going to break out of it. Teams gain elite status with recruiting, and I don't know if DePauw has the potential to get the necessary recruits to compete with the best. Until they solve this problem, they will continue to grind away and hope to find their way back to the NCAA tournament.

Saturday Recap: Pawa Saves Chicago's Season and Other Results

Chicago d. Denison 5-4

It took a 7-5 win in the 3rd set of the deciding match for Chicago to beat Denison today, not even 24 hours after the Maroons were dominated by Kenyon. Denison went up 2-1 after doubles, but Chicago was able to use their talent to pull out 4 singles matches. #6 was the only match that went to 3 sets. This kept Chicago's hope for an NCAA At-Large bid alive for the time being. Coach Perry's decision to input Kunal Pawa into the lineup paid off. Despite getting a win, this is far from where Chicago needs to be, as Denison is not a top 20 team. The Maroons have to forget about this trip to Ohio and regroup before they continue with their season.

Auburn-Montgomery d. Emory 5-4

A very good result for Emory as they mixed up their doubles teams, but it didn't pay off. Browning is hoping to get his 3 strongest teams in the lineup for Indoors, but it seems he doesn't know who to go with quite yet. AUM is an excellent team, and it seems Pottish is playing at a ridiculous level in singles right now to get a win like that against a top NAIA player. At the moment, it seems like no one will even come close to Emory next weekend. I'm liking this team more and more and they can take a huge step forward if they manage to get their doubles in order.

Incarnate Word d. Trinity (TX) 5-4

Typical Trinity match. Up 2-1 after doubles and end up losing for the 2nd time in 3 days. They seem to still be toying with their singles lineup a little bit which is fine in these exhibition matches, but they need to get things in order for Friday. It's great that Trinity is playing good doubles, but I've said that they are only as good as their singles. In their last 2 matches, their singles play has stabbed them in the back, so hopefully they can get it in order, because beating Cruz is one of the hardest tasks in D3 tennis.

Point Loma d. Redlands 7-2
Vanguard d. Redlands 6-3

Not too much to say here, as both of these opponents are excellent teams. Decent results for the Bulldogs, but the thing that stuck out to me is that Darren Dahl was dominant at 4 singles in both matches, a wonderful sign for Redlands. Hammond is still missing, and he will definitely strengthen singles and should form a great 2 doubles team with Keven Wong. It's good for Redlands to have these early season tests because they need all the practice they can get.

Wash U d. McKendree 7-2

Follmer also seems to be messing with his lineup, as he mixed and matched doubles teams tonight and only played half his starters in singles. He's going to have to get his strongest singles lineup ready because we know NCW is a very deep team that can punish you in the 4 through 6 spots. Wash U does have the potential to dominate in doubles and this was another good win for them.

Indoors Preview Tenative Schedule

Today: General discussion, Some historical Indoors stats
Sunday: Best and worst scenarios for each team, Emory-UMW preview
Monday: CLU-CMU preview
Tuesday: Wash U-NCW preview
Wednesday: Cruz-Trinity preview
Thursday: Full tournament predictions
Friday: Play begins 9AM

CMS Wins, Trinity (TX) & Wash U Compete In Pre-Indoors Matches

CMS d. Westmont 6-3

CMS is impressive. This is a team they lost to 5-4 last year and they turned the tables playing what seems to be only 4 or their 6 normal starters in singles. I would think that Erani and Perezevin would make their way into the singles lineup rather than Ellis and Wu. On the other hand, I would assume this is their full time doubles lineup, and this is where they struggled. The Stags are not untouchable in doubles, and they now know what they need to work on before their difficult stretch in March. Seeing how good their singles lineup is really makes me think that there is a huge gap between the top 3 teams in D3 and everyone else, but out of those top 3, CMS and Emory may be a lot closer to Amherst than I originally thought.

St. Edward's d. Trinity (TX) 5-4

Not quite sure why Trinity (TX) didn't play their full lineup in their season opener against Abilene Christian, but they were full strength in this one. As usual, Trinity got on top in doubles and struggled in singles. Frey lost to a player who he beat the previous year, but the most surprising thing was to see Cocanougher at #3 singles. I'm thinking there could be an injury in play here, as Bobby sat out the first match in both singles and doubles, and now is back at the 3 spot. It's not often that you see an ITA champion playing 3 for his team, but I certainly would not consider it a stack in this instance. It just goes to show to that the Tigers players are very even. On a final note, I would be surprised to see Trinity bench Murray in singles at Indoors in favor of 2 freshmen. Murray has played in big matches and I think you have to go with experience especially when you are dealing with inexperienced players from Cruz.

Wash U d. Southern Indiana 5-4

The Bears were not rock solid in this, but they often don't bring their best stuff for these warm up matches. I have no doubt Wash U will be ready for Indoors next week, but I think this match is a perfect example of what I meant when I said they aren't as good as last year. It's interesting that they were able to take 2 of 3 doubles from a strong Drury team, but dropped 2 of 3 to a team outside the top 30 in D2. While Wash U was certainly not in top form last night, one thing that I can guarantee is that they will be on top form on Friday. A good performance from the top of the lineup by Wash U and this is something that they will need all season. This may be an alarming result to see the Bears struggle, but knowing this team and their coach, they will be more than prepared for Indoors.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Kenyon Tops Chicago 6-3

Box Score

Most of yesterday I was thinking that I was stupid for picking against a team that has 6 4-stars, 2 3-stars and 3 international players in favor of a team that boasts no 4-star players. It's almost like a curse at this point. Play on the Chicago Men's team = lose all the abilities you had to win in junior tennis. This match was never close and my hat goes off to the Lords for doing what they had to do to win. Apologies to Kenyon, but to me this is much more about Chicago underachieving year after year and digging themselves into early season holes. They've done it again. Marty Perry needs to sit down and figure out what is going on here, because obviously something is not right. A team with this talent in the hands of Roger Follmer is top 5 in the country, because he would not allow this to happen. It's almost like Chicago was completely unprepared to play at 3 of the 6 singles spots as well as #1 doubles. OK, so Kenyon can win the match, but I think even the Lords would agree they shouldn't be blowing out Chicago, and this is exactly what happened. The Maroons never had a chance in this one and I almost feel dumb for overestimating Chicago year after year. If there's any piece of good news for UChi, it's that it is only February and they do have chances to rebound, although with 6 spots and so many teams in the running, they will really need to pick up their play to qualify for the tournament. Their first few matches certainly were an indication that they just aren't that good. They played like a team who should not be in the top 20 last night, even though the quality of their roster screams top 10. I don't know if they are so arrogant that they don't care about winning, but they are wasting their time practicing tennis every day if they are going to perform like this in matches. It's become laughable at this point, and Kenyon made them look terrible last night. I underestimated the Lords, and if last night was any indication, they can play with anyone in the country. On a final note, Chicago needs to regroup for Denison today, because if they lose, which they clearly can, they may as well not play the rest of their season.

2011 Team Preview #29: California Lutheran

Nick Ballou

Coach: Mike Gennette, 18th Season
Location: Thousand Oaks, California
Conference: SCIAC
2008 Ranking: 27
2009 Ranking: 26
2010 Ranking: 7
2011 Projected: 8

I don't think anyone outside of their team expected CLU to do what they did last year. The admirable thing about this program is that they are back this year expecting more from themselves. From afar, it seems like the Kingsmen are weaker than last year, but with their outstanding development, they just might be better. Cal Lu would have probably won 3 of the NCAA regionals last year and would have had a good chance at winning another 2. But they aren't in the East, they are in the incredibly difficult West, and the bottom line is that they were 3rd best in the West last year. They went a combined 1-3 against the teams they need to beat, and doing that again this year will not get them where they want to be. CMS is going to awfully tough to take down, but Cal Lu certainly has the tools to do it. They have 2 All-Americans who I'd consider top 15 in the country, if not top 10, in Nick Ballou and Andrew Giuffrida. They hold up this team and will be joined at the top of the lineup this year by sophomore Ray Worley, who was one of my players to watch. Those 3 can take on the top 3 of anyone in the country, but what will determine CLU's ultimate success if their bottom of the lineup. Last year's #6 Justin Wilson takes over at 4 and freshman Marcelo Sousa should be 5. The Kingsmen are expecting a lot of these 2 in singles and doubles, and they need to perform in case their top guys slip. One thing you can count on is CLU not starting with a 16 match win streak this year because they are attending the National Indoors. This is unfamiliar territory for them on indoor courts and I don't expect a lot out of them. I think they could be satisfied with a 1st round win. For their sake, let's hope they don't peak at the wrong time like they did last year, and save something for the end of the season. They will take on 16 ranked teams before their conference tournament and this is a lot of matches for a team that's not that deep. The Kingsmen have top 5 potential, but more realistically should finish between 7 and 10. Again, there's a ton of pressure on their top guys to win every match, and this wears on you. I don't see the Kingsmen making it out of the West, because I don't know if they have the capability to beat Cruz and CMS on back to back days. Against the Stags, I see CLU having a very slim chance at 4 through 6, meaning they have to win 5 of the 6 remaining spots in the match, and that's a lot to ask. This is a top 10 team who deserves to be in the Final 8, but I think it would take an amazing effort for them to make it.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

2011 Team Preview #28: Trinity (CT)

Anson McCook

Coach: Paul Assaiante, 15th Season
Location: Hartford, Connecticut
Conference: NESCAC
2008 Ranking: 13
2009 Ranking: 19
2010 Ranking: 14
2011 Projected: 22

Trinity (CT) has missed the tournament for 2 consecutive seasons and is obviously looking to get back to the success that they found during the 2008 season. This will probably be a tough year for the Bantams as they lost 2 of their top 4 from last year's team and I'm not sure if they found replacements. I heard last summer that they may be getting an international player who would step into the top of the lineup this Spring, but I'm not sure if that panned out. The same thing has done in the Bantams the past 2 years and that's the lack of an out of conference schedule. It's a problem that they have somewhat addressed for this season, but the problem is not totally cured. The last two seasons, the Bantams went to California, got a couple of wins, but not enough to mean anything, and then came home and lost to the top 3 teams in the NESCAC. The problem wasn't that they were a weak team, it's just that they didn't have any wins on their schedule to get them ranked high enough to qualify for Pool C. They added fellow Pool C competitor Redlands to their schedule, and this is a winnable match for them this year. At the top of their lineup, they still have former Middlebury starter Rich Bonfiglio, as well as senior Anson McCook, who is one of the most underrated players in the country. Their lack of depth will really hurt them though, and this is the difference between now and their 2008 team that was so strong. The thing to remember is they are only 3 years off entering the NESCAC tournament as the #1 seed, but that seems like a very long time ago for this program. They finished 14th last year, but it didn't really seem like they made much noise for the majority of the Spring until they won the NESCAC first round against a deflated Bowdoin team when both of them weren't really playing for anything. Their recruiting has not been up to par with the top 3 in NESCAC, or even Bowdoin for that matter. They have been dependent on transfers, as 3 of their top 4 from last year's team did not begin their college careers in Hartford. I don't really know what to make of this program in 2011, but I'm predicting it will be a rough year for them. Their in-season match against Bowdoin is one of my matches to watch and a must-win for Trinity. Other matches to watch are the previously mentioned Redlands match, Brandeis, Bates and Pomona-Pitzer. This is certainly not a top 15 team this year and I think they are a long shot for the top 20. This team is slipping, but they have to be careful to not slip too far.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

#13 Chicago @ #15 Kenyon Preview - Feb 11

Kenyon's Paul Burgin

I thought I'd post this a few days ahead of time to let the fact that the season is finally here soak in. This is the first big match of the year and it has my #13 squaring off against #15 in a match where Chicago desperately needs a win. If you really take a look at the Maroons schedule, they are in huge trouble NCAA-wise if they don't win this match. And I mean huge trouble. The rest of the season, their only realistically winnable D3 matches that would count as quality wins are against DePauw, Wash U, and probably a crack at CMU in the UAA 3rd place match. If they lost this, even going 2 for 3 in those wouldn't guarantee them a spot. A win against Kenyon on the other hand, would probably put the Maroons in the top 12 and they may jump their NESCAC Pool C competitors in the rankings, with no matches in sight that would knock them out of the top 12. You know Chicago is going to bring a feisty attitude into Kenyon, and they will be very confident that they will leave with a win. The Maroons have been anything but impressive in the past few weeks, but none of that matters if they come out on top Friday night.

The other side of the coin is a young team who is trying to make a statement that they still belong in the conversation of best teams in the country. They put up a great effort in the Fall against Amherst and I'm sure coaches Thielke and Wilson have had their eye on this Friday for quite some time. Kenyon's home court advantage is one of the biggest in D3 and I expect them to come out firing in doubles to prove they aren't intimidated by Chicago. The Lords have history on their side and are 4-0 against Chicago since 2006. They aren't playing for as much, but with an inexperienced team, they certainly want to start well. They should go into this match with a nothing to lose attitude and know that they can win if they play well.

I expect Kenyon to get ahead in doubles. In the 4 matches they've played so far, Chicago is 0-4 at #1 doubles. Kenyon should take that spot and I would expect them to get either #2 or #3 to lead 2-1. The Maroons are the more talented team in singles, so I think a lot depends on how they play. I would expect Zhang to top Polster, and Chicago should win at #6, but the other 4 can really go either way. I think Kenyon has a slight edge with the more experienced Burgin at #2 and Ye at #5. This match should come down to 3 and 4 singles. Chicago really needs to play well to win and I'm going with Kenyon in a close 5-4 win that may come down to the last match. The Maroons have the potential to come in and absolutely dominate, and I think the rest of the country would take notice if they do. I'm also not sure if Chicago will come in with the same lineup they've been using, so that could potentially be a factor as well.

NOTE: If anyone is at the match and would e-mail me occasional score updates, I will post them on my Twitter to share with everyone.

2011 Team Preview #27: CMS

Alex Johnson

Coach: Paul Settles, 8th Season
Location: Claremont, California
Conference: SCIAC
2008 Ranking: 3
2009 Ranking: 5
2010 Ranking: 3
2011 Projected: 2

Even with the graduations of 2 top players, I think this year's Stags team is significantly better than last year's team. Maybe it's because they have a year of development under their belt or maybe it's because of new additions Alex Lane and Zhenya Perezevin, but this team has all the tools to win a national title. The problem is that Emory and Amherst are in their way and they probably will have to beat those 2 on back-to-back days to win a national title. This team is as deep as anyone and as good as anyone, but I'm just not sure if this is their year to win it all. They don't have Pottish and Goodwin, or Trinity's doubles lineup, or Amherst's experience playing in the NCAA Final, and these types of things will hurt them against those opponents. They really have to be a team to win and while Lane will be an upgrade at #1, I don't think he will be so dominant that #1 becomes an automatic point against Cruz and Cal Lutheran. I don't know if anyone runs a better pure program than CMS. Their training, facilities and conditioning are top notch, but they get out-recruited by Emory and Amherst and this has been the difference for them the past couple years. It may have been good to lose the semifinal last year because they will come back hungrier and you can bet they will be ready to play during the Final 8 on their home courts. What they cannot do is look past their regular season and NCAA regional, and hopefully they learned that after nearly being swept in doubles by Cruz in last year's Sweet 16. The West is far from won, and they will have a ton of work to do to even get to play on their own courts for the Final 8, something they weren't able to do when they hosted in 2009. On paper, they really shouldn't lose in singles, as last year's #1 Robbie Erani is expected to be at the #3 spot, and they have returning starter Russell Brockett most likely at #5. I'm not a believer in their doubles yet, as they were a bit shaky during NCAAs and they can be beaten here by a team like Cruz who has the ability to raise their level in doubles. CMS plays a brutal schedule as always and it has worked out for them in the past. They take on 6 of the top 8 teams this year and the real test will be the quad in Texas when they have to play away from Claremont. The pressure builds with each passing year that they don't win a national title, but as I mentioned, they haven't been to 2 consecutive Elite 8s in quite a while, so that should be something they focus on in 2011. Once they get to the Elite 8, they will have to let adrenaline and the home crowd take them to the title, and a wealth of talent certainly doesn't hurt either.

2011 Team Preview #26: Denison

Evan Verbofsky

Coach: Peter Burling, 21st Season
Location: Granville, Ohio
Conference: NCAC
2008 Ranking: 26
2009 Ranking: 25
2010 Ranking: NR
2011 Projected: 26

I don't have all that much to say about Denison and I don't know their team that well, but they deserve a preview after making it into my top 30. Denison fell off a little bit last year after finishing in the top 30 the previous 2 years, but more importantly their hated rival Kenyon has really been widening the gap in the NCAC and the Big Red haven't had a chance to qualify for the tournament. This is certainly the closest they have been to Kenyon talent-wise since 2007 and although Kenyon is still a heavy favorite to win the conference, Denison does have a shot at them this year. They are tricky to play at home on their fast indoor courts and they will have a chance to knock off a big time team this weekend when Chicago comes to town and may be suffering from a post-Kenyon hangover. Rhodes and Emory are both on their schedule and they also will get a crack at CMU and Mary Washington before the GLCA tournament where a likely match with Kalamazoo awaits. The Big Red has a good mix of experience and youth, but one of their problems is they don't have any individuals who stand out. I can't remember the last time Denison had someone qualify for NCAA singles and this has hurt them against better teams who can match their depth. This year's team will be anchored by senior Evan Verbofsky, junior Matt McErlean and junior Tyler Cempre, who took out Chicago's #1 Will Zhang in fall ITAs. To put it simply, this is a tricky team and I think several of their opponents may overlook them. They certainly are deserving of the #26 ranking I gave them and they may even find themselves in the top 20 sometime during the year. The main problem for Denison, and the only thing that matters, is they can't compete with Kenyon at the moment. They are getting out-recruited and out-developed by the Lords, and if they ever want to see the NCAA tournament again, they have to pick up their recruiting. Denison is a solid program and another victim of the NCAA selection process. I expect them to be ranked at the end of the season but it will all be fairly irrelevant because I think they will need a massive effort to topple the Lords in the conference tournament, especially with Kenyon knowing they probably won't qualify for the tournament themselves if they lose.