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.