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.