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.