Monday, February 21, 2011

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.