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.