Thursday, March 31, 2011

Results Update/ITA Rankings

Not a ton has happened this week. Only 2 things worth discussing in my opinion, the first of which is the beginning of Midd's season, and secondly Cruz blasting Williams today. Midd has looked far from impressive, but with the exception of last year's national championship team, they are rarely good in California. They didn't schedule CMS or Pomona-Pitzer and they got lucky there, but they had solid wins against Redlands and Cal Lu. They played great doubles against CLU and great singles against Redlands, so they are clearly a well rounded team. They will be tested next weekend against Trinity (CT) who's currently sitting at a respectable 13 in the country. Midd passed the early part of their schedule, but I wouldn't say they did it with ease.

The Slugs are looking tough. They came in today's rankings at #6, which I personally thought was low, but they are playing as well as anyone in the country right now. Williams has been playing good tennis in California so far and Cruz just took them to school in doubles. They are off D3 play for 2 weeks until they play Pomona-Pitzer, but I'm worrying a little bit if I'm CMS. Not only do they have to beat Cruz, they may have to do it on the road. That will be quite a debate among the committee as to who hosts the West region, but like I said before, I endorse Cruz because of the head to head win. The Slugs have turned it on since Indoors and I'm anxious to see how they finish because they've pulled this before where they start slow and sneak up on everyone and win a national title. They have the mental edge on CMS after Texas. Barring any weird upsets, Williams is in a really good spot as they currently hold the spot at the 7th #1 seed for NCAA regionals. I don't see Trinity (TX), NCW or Hopkins passing them, so as long as they go back home and manage wins against Bowdoin, Bates and Trinity (CT), they should head into NCAAs in a great spot.

Rankings were released today and I have no complaints again. If anything, I think Cruz may be a bit low, but I'm not sure how I would redo 3 through 6 to make it better. Cruz did lose to Wash U twice. Herst hasn't beaten anyone, but they haven't been playing for very long and only lost to CMS on the road.

Pool C looks like:
Wash U

Those 4 seem like locks at this point. Of course this is barring any crazy upsets. After them you have, in order:

Trinity CT

Only 2 spots available for those 7. Trinity and Bowdoin are in great shape because they are protected from out of conference competition. As long as they both manage wins against Bates and MIT, all they need to do is root against the teams below them. Chicago has Wash U this weekend and then probably again in the UAA semi. I don't know if they need to win one of those or not, too early to tell. Chicago most likely takes on CMU in UAA 3rd place, and I don't know if a win over the Tartans would be enough to have them jump one of the NESCACs (obviously a lot depends on how the NESCACs finish also). That will be an interesting scenario, but Chicago could make life a lot easier with a win against Wash U, which I think is doable for them. Redlands needs to beat Pomona-Pitzer. Either this weekend or in SCIAC tournament. They have no other way out. Not enough teams will fold for the Bulldogs to make it. I think CMU is the wildcard in all of this. This is a great team that had a bad loss. They've got Hopkins on Sunday and will play DePauw and possibly Kenyon next weekend. I think they've got to beat either Hopkins or Kenyon if they want to make the tournament, and beating Chicago is a must. I don't think a win against DePauw and then a win against Chicago does it for them. Hopkins and Kenyon are 2 teams they beat last year, so anything is possible. It would be a shame to see them miss the tournament after their great season last year.

In my opinion, only 3 real matches of note this weekend, all of which I've touched on. The first is Chicago @ Wash U. I got an email today that this is a USTA Kids Day, where local kids come and watch a college match. I wonder if this will cause Chicago tone down their on-court antics, although I doubt it. Also on Saturday, a huge match out West between Pomona-Pitzer and Redlands. Pool C teams have to be cheering hard for the Hens in this so the Bulldogs don't become a factor in Pool C. I know Ben Belletto has been aching to beat Redlands for years now, so I expect his guys to be ready for this big rivalry match. The Bulldogs are going through the motions and time is running out for them. This is their time to make something happen. A win like this could salvage a rough season to date so I expect Redlands to bring their A game. Lastly, Carnegie travels to Hopkins on Sunday in one of my preseason matches to watch. I like Hopkins in this, but it could get interesting since this is a heated rivalry. JHU hasn't done much this year and CMU has to be somewhat desperate at this point. JHU is probably playing for a nice NCAA region whereas the Tartans are playing for their tournament life. This win could put CMU right back in the heart of the Pool C picture.

Recruiting Update and Thoughts on Coaching

D3 has been getting an increased amount of attention lately and I believe a lot of higher ranked players are considering it as an option. The past 2 days, has ran 2 articles about current high school seniors who have committed to play D3.

Colette Lewis talks to Jonathan Cypers about Amherst

Rhiannon Potkey talks to Warren Wood about CMS

I think Wood's article in particular touches on the best parts of D3. You can't be concerned about status and bragging to your friends about D1. Play a high level of tennis where you can be a top player and compete for a national title instead. Another note is that 5-star Johnny Wang has signed with Carnegie Mellon next year, joining Wood as the only 5-stars to be entering D3 this year. Wang will be a good addition to a team that's losing 2 key seniors.

On the coaching forefront, I was informed last night that Luther head coach Brian Huinker will be stepping down after 10 seasons as head coach. He will be going into consulting. Coaching is something that I probably don't give enough attention to. My view is that a bad coach can't destroy a talented team, but a good coach can make a huge difference. Huinker built a solid program at Luther and I would hope they go after a big name coach to replace him. At a school like Luther, I feel like you need a name that will catch the attention of junior players, because there's not much appeal academically or location-wise. Luther is most known for their NCAA Sweet 16 appearance in 2009 and could be a sought after job because the base is there to turn this into a consistent top 25 program. It's not necessarily a bad thing if you hire a coach who won't be there in 5 years because that probably means he took your program, made it better, and moved to bigger things. That's how college coaching works. In D3 tennis, coaches don't exactly get forced out if they don't win, although I find it distressing that there are academically good schools that could have great tennis teams and they just have coaches that don't care. Look at Case Western, that team has done a 360 in the past couple years and it's purely because of a coach. I think it's terrible that someone can just go to work and collect a paycheck and not care about winning when they are sitting on a goldmine. Just as a general trend the next couple years, I expect to see a lot of D3 coaching vacancies filled with D1 assistants. Other schools have to see Chris Garner at Amherst and think that may work for them. While I don't expect Luther to steal someone from Ohio State, I would expect them to potentially look at assistants in the bottom half of the Big 10 or possibly the MAC to try to fill their vacancy. I personally think that's their best bet and the alternative would be to go after a high level player who just finished college and wants to get into coaching. I'll be interested to see what they come up with, but the bottom line is as D3 gets better, the level of coaching also needs to improve.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Weekend Recap

The NCAA picture gets clearer and that’s what I’ll focus on in this post. I’ll begin in San Antonio with the Texas quad which produced a ton of drama over the weekend.  To start, despite going winless, I think Trinity has a lot to be happy about.  This is more along the lines of the Tigers team I was expecting this season.  They played very good doubles all weekend and their singles was very good in their last 2 matches.  They were points away from winning against Cruz and Wash U, so even though they didn’t win, they should come away from this weekend with their heads held high.  I think they sent a message to the country that they are dangerous and can beat anyone on any given day.  The doubles sweep isn’t coming now, but it may come at NCAAs.  The potential is there and if the Tigers are on, watch out for them.  I think they will continue to get better over the next few weeks and will be a serious threat in May.  They are pretty much done with D3 action until their conference tournament and I expect to see them at 10 in the country in Thursday’s rankings.  They will be right on the border for a top seed in their NCAA region, so we will see what happens.  Next is Wash U who continues to impress.  I have nothing but praise for this team at the moment despite the loss to CMS.  I see them at 3 or 4 in the country on Thursday, which is incredible for a team that lost key players in Watts and Levy.  Roger Follmer continues to do an outstanding job with this team and they proved they can play with anyone.  I think they will give Emory a real test at UAAs and I can see them heading to NCAAs as the #2 or #3 overall seed, which would be much better than I expected from them.  Cruz is Cruz and as I said in an Indoors preview, they just know when to step up.  That win over CMS was massive because even though they may be below the Stags in the rankings, I like the Slugs to get chosen as the host for the NCAA West Regional because of the head to head win over their regional rival.  ITA rankings and NCAA brackets don’t go hand in hand, and if I was making the bracket, I have Cruz hosting.  The thing they have to be careful of is their match against Pomona-Pitzer as well as Williams, because losing those could get them in trouble.  I see Cruz at 5 on Thursday, which is really great for them.  It will be significantly more difficult for CMS to go up to Santa Cruz and win at regionals versus playing on their home courts.  This make things very interesting and it’s possible the Stags won’t get a chance to play the Final 8 at their place again this year.  I really look forward to a potential NCAA Sweet 16 match between these 2, but I know not to count out P-P.  I’m very surprised CMS lost to Cruz, because they knew the significance of that match.  I bet if you told them they could only 1 win match and Texas and had to lose the other 2, they would have picked Cruz to beat.  I expect them at 3 or 4 in the country on Thursday, but I really think they will have to travel for NCAAs, which is not what they wanted.  The Slugs took their game to another level in singles and despite their talent, CMS couldn’t match it and Cruz got wins at some spots where I didn’t think they had a chance.  In conclusion, Texas was just amazing tennis start to finish.  A ton of close matches, but that’s what you get when 4 of the best teams in the country get together. Looking at other Friday results, Emory had a good win over Chicago and they are off from D3 play until the UAA tournament.  We will see what Middlebury does, but I think it’s highly likely they lose at least once to Amherst, which would make Emory the #1 team in the country.  If they win the UAA tournament, they should enter NCAAs as the #1 overall seed, which could give them a very nice first few rounds.  The Eagles have had a great season and remain undefeated in D3 play despite some scares.  I see Chicago at #7 in Pool C right now, with NESCAC teams holding the 4 through 6 spots.  Meaning Williams, Trinity (CT) and Bowdoin.  This means that the Maroons need to do something if they want to make NCAAs because I don’t think you can count on NESCACs handing away their NCAA spot.  They are now back in New England and protected from out-of-conference opponents.  When I say do something, I mean they have to beat Wash U, or beat Carnegie Mellon plus hope for some help.  If I’m Chicago, I root for Bates to knock off Bowdoin or Trinity (CT), because that could push the Maroons to the #6 spot in Pool C.  Chicago also has to root for Pomona-Pitzer against Redlands, because a Bulldogs win in that match could push the Bulldogs past the Maroons in Pool C. Also on Friday, Trinity (CT) beat Redlands in what was one of the closest D3 matches I’ve ever seen.  I believe there were 4 matches that were 7-5 or a breaker in 3rd.  That’s just incredible.  I underestimated the Bantams and they sure showed a lot of fight in this one.  They put themselves in an amazing spot for NCAAs, because as I just said they now make the tournament if they just hold serve and do what they are supposed to.  I see them at 12 or 13 in the country on Thursday, which is excellent for them.  I think this win shows that they are a contender this year and could surprise one of the top NESCAC teams.  However, I do think they are susceptible to an upset.  They have to root against the other Pool C teams, but a win against Bowdoin would almost lock them in the tournament.  This was a terrible loss for Redlands because they are now in huge trouble.  They had another chance against Williams for redemption but lost there as well.  The Bulldogs need to beat either Middlebury tomorrow or Pomona-Pitzer.  The way the Hens are playing, this isn’t likely.  I see Redlands sitting at 16 or 17 in the country as the 8th team in Pool C.  That means they have to make something happen to get back into the NCAA picture.  Their season could be over very soon.  A win over CLU won’t do it; they need to beat P-P, and they may get 2 cracks at the Hens. The loss to Denison wasn’t bad for Carnegie, it was horrible.  I don’t really get it either.  This same CMU team went to Indoors and beat a full strength CLU team and then was points away from beating Cruz.  Obviously the talent is there.  This had to be a combination of them being completely unprepared as well as Denison coming in with a nothing to lose attitude.  Denison is solid, but besides this match they haven’t done anything good this Spring.  They will move into the rankings but will sit between 25 and 30.  I expected them to go out and beat Mary Wash on Saturday, but they didn’t.  I just don’t understand this result at all.  CMU now has a lot of work to do to make the tournament.  They still have a lot of chances, and I think their best chance is winning the GLCA tournament.  That would potentially put wins over DePauw and Kenyon on their resume, and I think a win against the Lords could be enough for them to leapfrog Bowdoin or Trinity (CT) in Pool C.  And obviously for CMU, beating Chicago in UAAs is an absolute must.  They were in the driver’s seat, but now, just like Redlands, they need to make something happen.  Their season could be over in 3 weeks and as a Pool C team you can’t afford losses like this.  That’s why I’m surprised the players and the coaching staff let it happen.  I thought they had turned a corner and moved into elite status, but this weekend shows me they are back to their old underachieving ways.  Against Mary Wash, Wichlin didn’t play and CMU barely got the win, so they are lucky there.  They need to regroup and re-evaluate if they want to be in the postseason because they are not good right now.  I do think the potential is there, they just need to find their Indoors form and play with some desperation. A last thought on tennis: Midd struggled a bit against CLU in singles.  I’m very interested to see how the Panthers do against Redlands because that’s a real danger match for them.  Good stuff by Midd in doubles against CLU, but I was surprised to see Midd lose 3 matches after Williams swept CLU in singles. An incident happened at the Washington & Lee – Christopher Newport match on Saturday which makes you realize just how insignificant tennis is.  Will Hall of W&L suffered a severe leg injury that required him to be rushed to the emergency room and have immediate surgery.  I won’t get into details, because honestly, just reading about it made me sick to my stomach. I wish him the best on a speedy recovery and my thoughts are with he and the W&L program.  Freak accidents like this shouldn’t happen in tennis and it’s very unfortunate that a talented player like that may have his tennis career ended by such a terrible tragedy

Friday, March 25, 2011

California Controversy and Weekend Preview Part 2

First I want to discuss some controversy that occurred in California today. Cal Lutheran and Trinity (CT) were originally scheduled to play their match this past weekend in Santa Cruz. Inclement weather postponed the match and Cal Lu never made the trip up to Nor Cal. Trinity began their trip there and since they were scheduled to be in the northern part of the state for a few days, they decided to stick around and play Cruz Monday night with their other matches being canceled or postponed. Trinity then made their way south and rescheduled the Cal Lu match for Thursday. I believe most teams typically stay in Claremont, which is about 1.5 to 2 hours away from Thousand Oaks, where CLU is located. Thursday morning, apparently Trinity’s staff called CLU and said they weren’t coming because of inclement weather. They didn’t want to make the long trip and end up not playing. I heard about this at 10am PST and checked the weather. It was 60 with a 30% chance of rain until 6pm PST and a 40% chance after that. The match was scheduled at 2pm. Granted, I’ve only heard CLU’s side of the story, but this seems a bit odd to me. You travel across the country to play important matches and now you don’t want to go play? What are you going to do instead during that day? At least make the trip there and see if the weather holds out, which it did. There was no rain. I don’t want to accuse anyone of anything, but it’s clear what this looks like and that’s Trinity protecting their weak team this year. What’s done is done and the match isn’t being rescheduled.

There are 10 matches this weekend, but I don’t expect many to be competitive. A few that I’ll just mention are Hopkins-Kalamazoo, Trinity (CT)-PP and NC Wesleyan-Washington & Lee. These all have heavy favorites and I don’t expect much of a match from any of them.

That being said, there are 7 matches which have the potential to be semi-competitive. Amherst begins the New England part of their season with a good test against MIT, who I believe is undefeated in D3 play. The Engineers have talent, but obviously Amherst will be too much. I think this will be a good gauge for MIT to see where they stand against the best in the country. Amherst should win easily, but I expect some close matches. In Virginia, we have a regional rivalry between 2 teams who are struggling at the moment, Washington & Lee and Christopher Newport. W&L won’t get beaten up by NCW until Sunday, and this match occurs Saturday. W&L took out top conference rival Hampden-Sydney recently, so they have a handle on their conference, but they just aren’t very good right now. A shorthanded CNU recently lost to Swarthmore so they are desperately in need of some confidence if they want to have any shot at NCW in the USA South. Newport really should be ranked, but they probably won’t be if they lose this. They’ve got some good players but can’t put it all together, and W&L is a similar story.

Cal Lutheran has double NESCAC duty on Sunday as they take on Williams in the morning and Middlebury in the afternoon. CLU just doesn’t have enough depth to hang with teams this good, but they will be good tests for the Kingsmen’s top players. I expect fairly routine 6-3 or 7-2 in both of these. I’m anxious to see Midd play against a solid team and this is a perfect warm-up for the Panthers. CLU should be pleased getting 6 points total between these 2 matches, they just don’t have the talent at the moment to match up with the NESCAC powerhouses. These are both top 10 teams and I think CLU has cemented themselves in that 18-22 range.

That leaves the 3 matches I’m most looking forward to. First, Trinity (CT) continues their spring break and takes on Redlands. Due to cancellations, the only ranked D3 team the Bantams have played is Cruz and they got crushed. The strange thing is Redlands had a nearly identical match result with Cruz. I like Redlands in this, but I don’t want to count out Trinity too early. I’d say the loser of this is most likely out of the picture for NCAAs as they probably move back to 9th and possibly 10th in Pool C. I think Redlands will play strong doubles and have too much depth in a much needed win. Next is Chicago at Emory in a match of arguably the 2 most hated teams in the country. One thing I guarantee is that Chicago isn’t scared of anyone, so playing an undefeated team on the road won’t intimidate them. Chicago has talent, but Emory has more, which should result in a comfortable 6-3 win for the Eagles. I definitely think the Maroons can hang, but they are a few days late because Hopkins was the team that gave Emory their wake up call. The Eagles will be prepared for Chicago and I expect Pottish and Goodwin to dominate after shaky performances on Wednesday. This is Emory’s last D3 match until the UAA tournament.

I think the biggest match of the weekend is William at Redlands. These are 2 teams that are in Pool C and could really use a win. I’ve said before that Redlands needs to beat someone above them, and with the way Pomona-Pitzer is playing, this may be their best chance. I think the Bulldogs match up well and they beat Williams 2 years ago in a close 5-4. This is also a match Williams doesn’t want to lose because then they will have to claw their way back into the NCAA tournament picture. I think Redlands needs this more than Williams, and when these 2 get together you know it’s going to be a good one.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Weekend Preview: San Antonio and Pittsburgh

Wash U's Adam Putterman, courtesy ITA

19 important matches happening during easily the biggest weekend of the season. I'm going to split it up into 2 different previews and tonight I'll be discussing 4 teams meeting in San Antonio and 3 teams meeting in Pittsburgh.

San Antonio Schedule (All Times Eastern)

Current National Rankings: #4 CMS, #5 Wash U, #6 Cruz, #11 Trinity (TX)

: 11AM, Wash U vs. UC Santa Cruz, 330PM CMS @ Trinity (TX)
Saturday: 11AM CMS vs. Cruz, 3PM Wash U @ Trinity (TX)
Sunday: 11AM Wash U vs. CMS, 1230PM Cruz @ Trinity (TX)

A huge weekend that all of these teams had circled on their calendar as soon as the schedule was made. The home team currently has the lowest national ranking, but that can all be thrown out the window at this point because Trinity has a significant home court advantage on outdoor courts that are probably faster than their opponents are accustomed to. Blog readers like the Stags to go undefeated this weekend, but I'm not so sure about that. I don't even want to try to predict each of these matches, but I will say that I don't expect anyone to come away winless. CMS has the best chance of emerging unbeaten, but I know Trinity isn't going to just lie down because they had a rocky start to the season. 2 of the 6 matches will be rematches from Indoors, both involving Cruz, so I'll be interested to see how those results change since 6 weeks ago. Last time Trinity hosted this in 2008, Williams, Wash U and CMS came to San Antonio. If I'm not mistaken, all 4 teams were top 8 in the country at the time. CMS ended up going 0-3 and no one came away undefeated with Trinity, Williams and Wash U all going 2-1. WU went on to win the national title and CMS finished 3rd. I don't expect a repeat of that, but it's important to remember that it's hard to be in top form 3 days in a row, and when you are playing tough opponents like this, getting up for matches and preparation play a huge role that can't accurately be measured. Coach McMindes is well aware that his team needs to make a statement this weekend and I expect them to do it. They had a rocky start to the season as expected, but it's time for them to turn it on. CMS wants to establish themselves as a front runner in the national title race and they also want to make sure that they host the NCAA West regional. The CMS-Cruz match is a highlight of every season and should be fantastic. Cruz comes in not having been really tested in a while, but they typically improve throughout a season very quickly. Cruz is dangerous as always this weekend and they are putting their 8 match winning streak against Trinity on the line. Cruz lost to Wash U at Indoors and lost to CMS twice last year, so I think the Slugs have something to prove against both of those opponents. To me, Wash U is the real wildcard here. They win with doubles and depth, a combo that worked for them at Indoors. They are a high energy team who is very fit and will surely be in top shape all 3 days. I know I picked them 7th in preseason, but the way they played at Indoors they are very tough to beat. I expect 6 great matches and a lot of drama in what really is a simulation of the 3 day stretch that is the NCAA Final Rounds.

Pittsburgh Schedule (All Times Eastern)

Current National Rankings: #8 Carnegie Mellon, #25 Mary Washington

Friday: 4PM Denison @ Carnegie Mellon
Saturday: 12PM Denison vs. Mary Washington
Sunday: 11AM Mary Washington @ Carnegie Mellon

Live Stats

CMU is the favorite to dominate this weekend and they have traditionally been very tough at home over the past few seasons. They haven't seen D3 action in a couple weeks and I think they also realize that these are must-wins. They're ranked 8th in the country, but they do have a 1-3 record against ranked D3 teams this year. Granted their losses are to #3, #6 and #7, but they are lacking in the wins category. These matches would really help, because after all, they are competing for a Pool C spot. Sitting in the top 10, it's hard to foresee the fact that it's possible you don't make the tournament at all. CMU has pretty much no margin for error and although they have a long way to go, they can't slip up, especially this weekend. I don't want to get into specific NCAA scenarios, but a loss here may drop them back to 17th or 18th in the national rankings, which is something they absolutely cannot afford. That being said, this is a really good team that had Cruz on the ropes and beat a full strength CLU squad. They are 8 in the country for a reason and I expect them to show that this weekend. They play a Denison squad who is coming off a 7-2 loss against 26th ranked Rhodes, but remember that Denison was points away from beating Chicago only 7 weeks ago. Denison can play solid doubles and if CMU doesn't come prepared, they can get in trouble quickly and not be able to escape with a win. The Tartans have to respect these opponents despite their rankings and recent results. I've said plenty about Mary Wash these past few weeks and they are coming off a 7-2 loss to 23rd ranked Bates, but the fact that they look good on paper hasn't changed. This remains a talented team and the past 3 years they have played some very tight matches against Carnegie. CMU's 8th ranked team only beat #22 Mary Wash 5-4 last year, so this is another danger match for the home team. The Saturday match just serves as a confidence booster as Denison looks to improve for their upcoming shot against conference rival Kenyon, and UMW looks to move toward extending their conference streak to 13 consecutive titles. The bottom line is if CMU shows up this weekend, they will take care of business, but that is much easier said than done.

Reviewing 4 Close Matches On Tue/Wed

The past 2 days were certainly not lacking in drama. First I want to talk about today's match that saw Johns Hopkins travel to Emory in a 6-3 victory for the Eagles that was much closer than expected. For those who haven't seen it, check the box score to the right in the latest news section. Emory was lucky to win. This match says several things, but I don't want to read too much into it. First of all, I would bet Emory went in overconfident, knowing that they stand as the best team in the country and Hopkins was just beaten solidly by NC Wesleyan 2 days ago. The Eagles had to think they would run through this match, but they were very wrong. I think this is great for Emory because it's a wake up call. It shows them that they are susceptible to doubles sweep on any day and they are far from invincible. I'm sure a few points here and there could have given Hopkins a win. The Eagles pulled this out and they now know they have to be on their heels against pretty much anyone in the top 15. I thought the top 3 were on a different level than everyone else, but maybe that's not the case. The bottom line is this is the toughest match Emory's played all season, even tougher than CMS and Wash U. Emory was clutch and managed to survive, and I think this match helps them a lot going forward. I wasn't sure what to make of Hopkins performance when comparing this to the NCW match, but I got an email with a good idea. Hopkins doesn't perform when there are expectations. Looking at the past several years, every time you expect something from JHU, they fold. And when there are no expectations, such as this match, they do very well. That doesn't seem to be an easily fixable problem; Hopkins doesn't play well as the favorite. This match result shows me they have the talent to play with anyone in the country, but they are inconsistent. The Bishops rolled them in singles on Monday, and no disrespect to NCW, but I think Emory is a stronger team than NCW. Something clicked for Hopkins today, and this match has to give them confidence moving forward.

Tuesday's results are posted below in the previous post. Bowdoin took care of Cal Lu as expected. They had too much depth and it showed. The same thing happens to Cal Lu every match, and the truth is they would really be a dangerous team with Ballou. Right now they've got 3 guys who can win in Giuffrida, Wilson and Sousa and that's not enough to beat solid top 15 opponents. The Kingsmen are good, they just don't have the complete team to compete at the highest level this year. They need to do some serious recruiting for next year because their current personnel aren't getting the job done. Bowdoin has to be very happy with their trip. I think they performed quite well and got their young guys some valuable experience. I expect them to be sitting at 14 in the country in the next rankings which should put them as the 6th Pool C team for the time being. This is a typical Bowdoin year; a very solid team who's dangerous against anyone. I think they can go home quite satisfied with their performance and I expect them to keep up the high level in NESCAC play.

In DePauw-Chicago, we saw our first comeback from an 0-3 hole in doubles this season as the Maroons were swept but went on to win 5 first sets and hold on in all of those matches. A much-needed win for Chicago, and when you look at the Maroons resume, it's actually fairly solid this year. This win kept their NCAA hopes alive, but they still need to make something happen. They either need to take out Wash U in their regular season match or take at least 3rd in the UAA tournament, which would mean a win over Carnegie. When the next rankings out, barring any meltdowns from anyone or any unexpected wins from Redlands, I see Chicago sitting at 7th in Pool C right behind Bowdoin. The Polar Bears are going to pad their resume with wins most likely when they take on MIT, Bates and Trinity (CT). Chicago has to match that with a big win of their own because they don't have the amount of ranked wins that Bowdoin will have. The Maroons did a good job in this, but they still have work to do. DePauw is in a big hole right now and I think they may need to go and win the GLCA tournament, and at the very least beat Carnegie in a probable semifinal. They do have their conference tournament to fall back on, but they will have to beat a very good Rhodes team and then Trinity (TX) on back to back days. This was a match DPU needed to win and their NCAA hopes look grim at the moment. Chicago's talent showed in this match in singles and I think it's good for the Maroons to finally get a win against a big time program.

I predicted a win for Pomona-Pitzer against Williams and I was correct, but not in the fashion I expected. Williams has to be pleased with their doubles play against a team that took 2 of 3 from Emory and Kenyon this season. They just didn't get the job done in singles and I think PP's experience paid off. This is not a bad loss at all for the Ephs as PP is ranked ahead of them, but Williams needs to put this behind them because they have Redlands, CLU and Cruz all in the next week. If they can go 2 for 3 in this stretch, I think they are in good shape. They start a freshman and 5 sophomores in singles, so this is still a really young team that will mature throughout the season. I like this Williams team a lot, and if they continue with this level in doubles, they will be really tough to beat all season long. PP continues their dream season with another huge win. The Hens enter SCIAC play riding high, but now its time for them to win rivalry matches against Redlands and CLU. PP has done an amazing job so far, similar to CLU last year, but now is the time when CLU started to go downhill. PP needs to keep it up and carry this momentum all the way through the end of the season.

Monday, March 21, 2011

NCW Tops Hopkins and Tuesday Preview

On Monday, Bates took down Kalamazoo in a close 5-4 that came down to the last match at #2 singles. Good win for Bates, but this shows me for sure they are ranked properly around 23. Another solid Bates team who may finish 5th in the NESCAC; a pretty typical year for them. I know Kzoo is a work in progress, but they are really down this year. It was good for them to win 4 matches against a top 25 team, but I just find it disheartening how much this team has dropped off and no one seems to care. They will extend their conference winning streak, but they aren't a serious threat to do anything in NCAAs. Thinking about it, they probably head into the GLCA tournament in a couple weeks as the #6 seed, which is shocking given that they were top 15 just a year ago.

Cruz beat Trinity (CT) 8-1 on a cold day in NorCal with Trinity only winning at 1 singles in 3 sets. Good win for the Slugs as they head to Texas. The biggest match of the day saw NC Wesleyan defeating Hopkins 5-4 in a match that was really never close. Awesome job by NCW, they clearly learned from Indoors and pulled off this win playing without their #1 Rinat Khussainov. The scores from the bottom of the lineup were surprising, as NCW just dominated. They got the point they needed in doubles and I think they are just in the head of Hopkins at this point. We'll see how things play out, but I wouldn't be surprised if these 2 are in the same position as last year, competing for an NCAA Final 8 bid against each other. If you're Hopkins, it's one thing to beat up on teams you are clearly better than, but to go on the road and beat a team who's just as good as you takes a lot of will, and NCW just out-competed the Bluejays today. The mental toughness is still lacking in big matches, and Hopkins has upcoming chances to turn it around. NCW doesn't have a serious test the rest of the season so I think they go into NCAAs as a team that people will overlook, which I'm sure they love. This was a big win for the Bishops and they are in a great spot right now because Hopkins may beat some people later in the season.

Super Tuesday tomorrow with 3 matches that should all be very competitive and 6 Pool C teams competing. The headline match of the day probably has the least on the line. Williams begins their D3 season against one of the hottest teams in the country, Pomona-Pitzer. Williams is looking to start well after last year's disappointing finish. This team is a year older now and I expect big things from them this year. That being said, I think this will be a difficult one for the Ephs. They aren't match tested and are playing on the road against a confident and battle-tested team. If Williams loses tomorrow, even something like 7-2, I don't think they should be alarmed. If they win, it's a great effort by them, but you can only expect so much of yourself this early in your season. I think Williams is talented enough to not have to worry about missing the NCAA tournament, but this match could potentially have big implications towards Williams getting a top seed in their NCAA regional and being able to avoid Middlebury or Amherst in the Sweet 16. Pomona-Pitzer is ranked 9th, but their NCAA fate is somewhat determined, so I think a win helps Williams more than it helps PP. Both teams should want to win, but Williams probably has slightly more to play for. I expect a very good match and I think a lot depends on Williams being able to hang in doubles, because that's typically where you are rusty if you haven't played much. I like PP in a close 5-4, but no one knows what to expect from Williams so the result is hard to gauge.

The other 2 matches both have huge implications for NCAAs. First the rescheduled match between Bowdoin and Cal Lutheran takes place in Thousand Oaks. Another note is that the Trinity CT-Cal Lu match has been rescheduled for Thursday. Cal Lu desperately needs this win if they want to stay in the NCAA hunt. Wins against Tyler and Whitman are nice, but not enough to put a team in the top 15 and have them qualify in the top 6 teams for Pool C. Cal Lu's Mary Wash loss now looks horrible and they somehow need to offset that with a significant win. This match would be that significant win. I think the Kingsmen match up well with Bowdoin and have a good chance in this, but they have to take a lead in doubles. They have to match Bowdoin's intensity, because I don't think they make NCAAs if they lose tomorrow. I know they have several remaining matches on their schedule, but I don't know if matches against Midd and Williams are realistic wins, and they may have to beat out Pomona-Pitzer or Redlands. The Trinity CT match on Thursday is big, but with the Bantams probably not being a serious top 20 team, this is the one Cal Lu needs. Giuffrida and Wilson have been great this season, but either Worley or Sousa needs to step up tomorrow and get a win in singles, because from all indications, Bowdoin is up 2-0 before the match starts with wins at 5 and 6 singles. Cal Lu needs a little magic, but they have been great at home the past few weeks. Cal Lu is 1-3 in 5-4 matches this season and I think they extend that to 1-4 tomorrow. CLU has a couple great players, but I don't know if they've got enough to beat a well-rounded team like Bowdoin. I wouldn't be that surprised if CLU wins, but I can't pick against the Polar Bears in this. I also didn't mention this is not a match Bowdoin wants to lose, because then they have to root for Cal Lu to beat a team like Redlands. Bowdoin wants to control their own destiny when it comes to making NCAAs, and a win tomorrow would really help.

The match I'm most looking forward to is Chicago and DePauw. These 2 have had some heated encounters over the years and I expect another one tomorrow. DePauw is 3-1 against Chicago over the past 5 seasons, but the Maroons won the most recent one last year in an easy 7-2 win on the road. This is a clash of styles, with the wildly talented underachieving Maroons against a very solid and disciplined DePauw. I'm not going to say lose and you don't make NCAAs, but the loser has a serious uphill battle the rest of the season. They both don't have a ton of remaining opportunities on their schedule, but whoever gets this win on their resume gets a huge boost toward making NCAAs. I really don't know who to pick in this because Chicago has been out of D3 competition for a couple weeks and we haven't seen much of DePauw yet. This is just about as close as you get to a must-win, because the loser would probably need a win over a team like Carnegie Mellon to have a shot at Pool C, and I don't know if either team has that in them. Surprisingly, these 2 haven't played very close matches over the past few years, but I expect a close one tomorrow. My gut tells me Chicago gets the win tomorrow, but again I expect it to come down to the wire. It should be a wonderful match, and hopefully the sportsmanship remains as great as the play because I know that's been an issue in the past when these 2 meet.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Weekend Recap, Matches I Missed and Monday Preview

It was a shame that matches in Santa Cruz were canceled today, but there was still a lot of action over the weekend including a few matches I completely missed that didn't make it on the calendar. I apologize for those omissions and I'll touch on those results in this post. On Friday, Skidmore continued their mediocre play in California in a 6-3 loss to Redlands. I don't think the Thoroughbreds are top 20 material this year, especially given the scores in the bottom of the lineup against Redlands. Skidmore will look to improve when they return home. A much needed win for the Bulldogs and they have some very important matches coming up against Trinity (CT) and Williams before they get into SCIAC play. They know they have to make a splash soon and I expect them to raise their level. The other match on Friday had Mary Washington losing at home against Bates 7-2. The Eagles have 2 different personalities this season and it seems like they don't show up half the time. They beat Cal Lu, got crushed by an unranked Whittier, beat Washington & Lee and now lose badly to Bates. Mary Wash is in what amounts to a 3 year slump because on paper they should be top 20 and they are nowhere close to it. They have very little in the way of quality wins recently and I definitely see another 1st round exit in NCAAs in the near future.

On Saturday, two matches that weren't on the calendar took place with Mary Wash rebounding to beat Swarthmore and Emory taking down DePauw 7-2. A decent result for the Tigers as they hung at a few spots. One thing that concerns me is Emory's #2 doubles team. They beat CMS and have followed it up with losses to Denison and DePauw. I know Emory wants to keep their Pottish/Egan duo at 3, but to do that they need a decent 2 team. Also on Saturday, Pomona-Pitzer defeated Skidmore 7-2 in a routine victory. The Hens continue to roll. One of my matches to watch highlighted the weekend as CMS took on national title favorite Amherst. The Jeffs had been rolling the entire week, but as I said previously, they have struggled in the regular season the past 2 years. CMS stepped up and won this match somewhat comfortably. Alex Lane was the real difference maker as he got 2 huge victories for CMS. If I'm Amherst, there is nothing to be concerned about. I use this as motivation that the team still needs to improve. The Stags rebounded well after the Emory loss as they had to get a lot of their confidence back. I know Midd is 1, but I think even they know they don't belong there. I have no problem with them staying there due to last season, but they will have to beat Amherst eventually to keep that ranking. All of this leaves Emory as the team to beat in D3 right now. I see them going into NCAAs as the top seed. They have tests against Hopkins and Chicago, but the only match I could actually see them losing is a UAA final against Wash U if they get swept in doubles. CMS needs to refocus because they have 3 huge matches coming up in Texas this weekend. If this shows us anything, it's that no team stands out among the top teams and I think it's a 3 horse race for the national title.

Today was fairly uneventful, but I was impressed by Hopkins absolute destruction of Bates. The Bobcats are a solid team and Hopkins lost 10 total games in the bottom 4 singles spots. A remarkable performance heading into a huge Monday clash with NC Wesleyan. I was also disappointed in this effort by Bates because Hopkins is an excellent team, but they aren't Emory or CMS. This team went from beating UMW 7-2 to losing to JHU 8-1 and I think the gap between those 2 teams is large, but not that large. Also today, Swarthmore upset Christopher Newport 5-4 in a drama-filled contest. Not a good loss for the Captains as they need to close the gap with NCW and this doesn't help. An excellent win for Swat, who I still feel should be ranked in the next poll.

We've got a very big week ahead, but let's focus on tomorrow for the moment. 3 matches on the calendar, only 1 of which I consider significant. To begin, Bates continues their road trip and takes on a Kalamazoo team that's an absolute disaster right now. I see a routine win for the Bobcats and it should be a nice confidence boost after a rough day today. Cruz and Trinity (CT) will try to squeeze their match in with bad weather in the area. I could be wrong, but I think Trinity is pretty weak this year, so they may have benefited the most from the match cancellations avoiding matches against both Bowdoin and Cal Lu. The Bantams still sit at 14 in the country from last year's results. Bowdoin and Cal Lu would be 2 matches I'd expect them to lose. We'll see how they do against Cruz, but I project an easy win for the Slugs. The biggest match of the day, and one of my 10 matches to watch is a rematch of last year's epic Sweet 16 match between Johns Hopkins and NC Wesleyan. For those who don't know, Hopkins was at home in NCAAs last year and swept doubles before NCW stormed back and won all 6 first sets in an eventual 5-3 win that came down to the wire. I'm sure that's still fresh on the minds of Hopkins coaches and players, so they should desperately want some revenge, especially playing on the road this time. NCW didn't have the start they wanted at Indoors and this is one of their very few matches against a highly ranked team this season. If they don't win this, I don't see them breaking the top 10 during the regular season. Both teams should be incredibly fired up in what I expect will be an amazing match. I'm going to refrain from making a prediction because I really don't know.

I'll be back Monday night with a recap of the Hopkins-NCW match and a Tuesday preview.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Some Weekend Matches Cancelled

Matches scheduled to happen this weekend in Santa Cruz have been canceled and this affects several teams. I think Bowdoin and Cal Lu may play in Thousand Oaks on Tuesday. I am trying to piece together all the rescheduling dates. Cal Lu's website reports the CLU-Cruz match will not happen this season. Trinity CT and Cruz are scheduled to play Monday night. I'm assuming Trinity CT and Bowdoin have to reschedule their match due to NESCAC rules.

If anyone has updated news on this, please e-mail me.

Some info on Cruz at and also check CLU and Bowdoin's websites.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

ITA Rankings - March 17

The ITA Rankings were released today.

Pretty much 0 complaints from me. It was good to see Gustavus back in the rankings after they crushed Whitewater recently in a result that I missed until yesterday. The box is here for those interested. I was a bit surprised not to see Swarthmore in the rankings after they beat Vassar. It's amusing that there's a big clump of Pool C teams between 14 and 19, and those teams will certainly be put in the proper order during the next few weeks. Although the rankings aren't all that relevant at this point, we do have a significant amount of information now and they are much more accurate than the rankings released 2 weeks ago.

Wed/Thurs Recap, Fri-Sun Preview

Justin Wilson, Cal Lutheran

I want to go over the results from the past 2 days and preview a very big weekend. The first half of the week was full of big matches and although Wed/Thurs matches didn't have the significance of Monday and Tuesday, they certainly weren't short on drama. Today, there were 2 matches which I didn't expect to be all that competitive. I'll discuss CMS-Skidmore and CLU-Amherst a little later.

First on Wednesday, Redlands lost to Amherst 8-1 as expected. Another dominant performance by Amherst, cruising in doubles and not dropping a set in the 5 singles matches they won. They continue to play Chafetz at 4, which I guess we will see for the remainder of the season. Redlands just isn't competitive with the top teams. ITA Rankings came out today (I'll have a separate post) and Redlands is sitting at 8th in Pool C. That means they have to go out and beat someone, they can't just sit back and go through the motions. Granted, they've lost to Cruz, Amherst and Emory, but I haven't seen anything from them that implies they are better than last year. They've got to make a move sooner or later and it may not be against Pomona-Pitzer the way the Hens are playing. The other 2 matches Wednesday both came down to the wire and were tied 4-4. The early match pitted Bowdoin against a Skidmore team who I expect a lot from this year. One thing for Skidmore is they were missing one of their star freshmen, Jimmy Sherpa, and without him they will struggle against a team as good as Bowdoin. I'm not sure where he is, but Skidmore isn't deep enough to be a top 20 team without him. Hats off to Bowdoin, who proved me wrong about not being able to come from behind after doubles. Skidmore jumped out to an early lead, but Bowdoin really dominated the 4 spots they won in singles. Sullivan has lived up to his preseason All-American status and he has been the rock for Bowdoin this week in singles, starting his spring season 4-0 at the #1 position. Given the new ITA rankings, Bowdoin currently sits at #7 in Pool C, but they have an opportunity to play the #6 team, Trinity (CT), this weekend. Bowdoin has done what they needed to do so far and they are in a good spot.

Unbelievable heart and resiliency by Cal Lutheran. They could have folded after Indoors and an injury to their top player, but they didn't. Since Ballou has had surgery, they've beaten Tyler and Whitman and played 5-4 against Kenyon. Along with Paul Burgin, Justin Wilson is the biggest surprise for me this season for an individual. He's playing at a very high level right now and has been rock solid for this team. This is Cal Lu's 4th match that has been tied at 4-4 this year and it's the first one they won. I am impressed that they are doing what they're doing and I think they are going to keep it up. They have more shots against ranked teams and they can sneak their way back into Pool C. If they pull some upsets and get confident, watch out for them. I have a feeling they are going to make more noise this year. What a roller coaster season for the Kingsmen, but they have to be pleased with themselves. Whitman had a decent trip. They got the big win they needed and Coach Northam praised his team for their fight, but the bottom line is they are still ranked 20th in the country. I know it's bad to get caught up in rankings, but they don't lie. They saw the prize after that Trinity match, but couldn't get the job done against a team who I consider inferior to them, and then followed it up by not showing up at 2 of the doubles spots. I think they were physically beaten up by the end of the trip and there are a lot of positives to take from the past week, but the bottom line is they still have a lot of work to do to be able to compete with the top 15 teams on a consistent basis. I see it as though they are losing matches they shouldn't be losing, but they did get their big win and may go home satisfied.

I don't have much to say about today's matches. CMS put their full lineup out which I found a bit surprising, but after the Emory match and with Amherst coming up, I guess Coach Settles decided that his guys could use the practice. Pretty routine victory for CMS, they've certainly asserted their dominance over the lower ranked teams. Cal Lu put up a good fight but was beaten by a more talented team. A good experience for the Kingsmen, and they did pretty well I thought. Amherst is just rolling and we'll see how they do this weekend.

Friday through Sunday should be nothing short of fantastic. Tomorrow, we've got 2 evenly matched contests. On the East coast, Bates takes another spring trip and they will play Mary Wash tomorrow. Bates was ranked 23rd today and Mary Wash was 25th. The Eagles played a solid match at home against W&L last weekend, so we will see how they do in this. They are probably slightly overmatched at the top of the lineup, but have more depth, so this should be a good contrast of styles. I like Mary Wash in a close one, because I trust them at home, I just don't know if they can get it done on the road. Bates is officially done from Pool C if they lose. The other match tomorrow is an absolute must win for Redlands. The pressure is squarely on them against a lower ranked Skidmore team and throw in the fact that Redlands is playing for their tournament life. With Bowdoin's win over Skidmore, Redlands desperately needs this, and it would help to win in convincing fashion. Skidmore is playing their 3rd ranked team in as many days, so they could be a little tired. This would probably be the biggest win in the history of Skidmore tennis if they could pull it off, but I expect Redlands to be too tough on their home courts. The Bulldogs win and keep their NCAA hopes alive.

Saturday Skidmore plays again at Pomona-Pitzer, and judging by the past weeks results, I don't expect it to be too competitive. PP is at a very high level right now and Skidmore may be a bit down on themselves, especially if they lose to Redlands Friday. Again, it would be a huge win for Skidmore, I just don't know if they can do it. The second match pits Bowdoin against Cal Lutheran in a match that is crucial to both teams Pool C chances. Cal Lu has been so tough at home the past month and Bowdoin will have been in California for a week, so fitness could start to become a factor. This is Cal Lu's chance to get back into the Pool C hunt, and the way they've been playing, I certainly think they can win. The Kingsmen probably need to get ahead in doubles because of their depth issues, but if they do that, it's anyone's match. The main event this weekend is obviously Amherst at CMS. The Stags are looking to rebound from last weekend's poor performance against Emory and Amherst is trying to establish themselves as the dominant team in the nation. Midd still stands at 1, but this match should have implications as to who is #1 in the country late in the season. I believe having the #1 overall seed in NCAAs is huge, because when you take the big 3 this year, whoever isn't #1 will have to win brutally tough matches on back to back days, whereas #1 will have an easier team with whoever ends up being #4. This match is tough to predict. I like CMS to step up after a tough loss to Emory, but the question is if Amherst is just too talented. CMS obviously has to play better doubles than they did, and I still don't have a status report on the whereabouts of Robbie Erani. He could potentially make a big difference and allow CMS to better compete deep in the lineup. Lane or Johnson will need to pull off a huge win, but at the moment I just can't pick against Amherst as I expect the Jeffs to pull out a tough win.

Sunday brings double duty for both Cal Lutheran and Trinity (CT), as the Bantams play both Bowdoin and Cal Lu, and the Kingsmen also play Santa Cruz. The Bowdoin-Trinity match was one of my matches to watch because it is a huge rivalry and huge for Pool C. Again, Cal Lu will have a chance to get another win on their resume and they have to keep their heads held high even if they get crushed by Cruz. The Slugs match up well against the Kingsmen, so I don't foresee too much trouble for Cruz playing at home in that match. So we've got CLU-Cruz, CLU-TrinityCT and Bowdoin-TrinityCT all taking place in Santa Cruz, California on Sunday. In Baltimore, Hopkins takes on Bates in what will be JHU's biggest test of the year to date. Hopkins will have too much depth and too much talent, but their top guys will be tested.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I will post tomorrow night about a recap from today and an extensive weekend preview. The matches tomorrow aren't really worth previewing. CMS hosts Skidmore and Cal Lu hosts Amherst.

Also tomorrow, ITA rankings are out so keep an eye out for those. Box scores from the past 3 days' matches are under latest news to the right.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Scheduling Note

One of my matches to watch has been moved. Bowdoin-Trinity (CT) was originally scheduled to be played on April 2, and it will now take place in California this Sunday March 20th. I will move it on the calendar.

Tuesday Recap, Brief Wednesday Preview

Pomona-Pitzer was not playing over their heads at the Stag-Hen and Amherst is just really good. The Jeffs knocked off Trinity (TX) today without both Joey Fritz and Mark Kahan, 2 of their top 4 players. The box score isn't available at the moment but this Trinity release has scores.

Emory is tough and CMS is also very good, but what Amherst did today is just unmatched. Kahan and Fritz played 1 and 3 yesterday and Garner didn't even bother to bring them to play a top 10 quality opponent. They just have unbelievable depth and it's a gutsy move to not bring 2 of your top guys. Either way, they came away with a comfortable 7-2 win in a danger match. I'm really looking forward to their match with CMS this weekend and I assume they would bring a full lineup to play the Stags. After seeing Emory win like they did, I was impressed, but now I remember why I thought Amherst was a level above everyone else. At the same time, Trinity can't go home happy. I ranked them 4th in the country based upon the assumption that they had the best 1 and 2 doubles team in the country. Clearly, that is far from true, particularly at 1. If you look at Trinity's 3 matches at Indoors and their 5 matches in California, their #1 team is 3-5. This team was an NCAA semifinalist in '09, and NCAA finalist last year and an ITA national champion in the fall. Why can't they do the same thing in dual matches? I think this Tigers team is better than the Trinity team that was #1 in the country for a portion of 2008. It would be a shame for them to waste this season. They've got 10 days to regroup and I think they need to get at least 1 win at their quad for confidence purposes. It's not going to be easy with Cruz, CMS and Wash U coming to town, but so far they've shown they are just another team and nowhere near elite. I expect the Tigers to end up somewhere between 12-16 in the next rankings which is just not good for a team of this caliber.

Kenyon is a great story this year, but if you want to talk about surprising, look no further than Pomona-Pitzer. The Hens will most likely come in at #9 in Thursday's rankings, 11 spots higher than I had them projected. Coach Belletto has done a fantastic job and their 2 wins today prove that they are really tough. I think they are just about a lock for Pool C at this point barring some very unforeseen circumstances. Bowdoin was clearly a better team today than they were Monday and the Hens really took it to them in doubles and never let their feet off the gas. I'll say again that I'm impressed, especially with their absolute destruction of Tyler. I know PP always thinks highly of themselves, but this year they are actually walking the walk. They have a tricky match against Skidmore Saturday and Williams in a week, but for now that single digit ranking next to their name should feel great.

Bowdoin and Whitman are interesting stories. The Polar Bears clearly played better today than they did against TU with a solid win over Whitman, but as I mentioned yesterday, Bowdoin can't get in holes in doubles because they don't have enough players to dig their way out against top 15 teams. Pena is not in his freshman year form, as he is losing matches at 3. If he's not a strong 2, this team is nothing special. Sullivan has won all of his matches, but 1 player is only going to take you so far. I like Bowdoin around #15 or 16 right now the way they are playing and that may not be high enough to get them in the tournament. They actually don't play Redlands this year but have some other big matches coming up. This has been a crazy season and Whitman has been in the middle of all of it. After their results the past 2 days, I think they may have just caught an unprepared and downtrodden Trinity team on Saturday, because I'm not too impressed with them. The same Tyler team they lost to also lost to Rhodes and Cal Lu and got destroyed by PP today. Whitman had an opening to get themselves very highly ranked, but after a trip with huge swings, I think they probably go home where they started at about 18th. The glimmer of light was there but they couldn't take advantage of it. I really like this program and that's disappointing to see, but they may very well find themselves in California for regionals again. They finish against Cal Lu tomorrow which is a match I think they can win.

Whitman-Cal Lu occurs tomorrow along with Bowdoin-Skidmore and Amherst-Redlands. I'm really looking forward to seeing Skidmore play a top team because I think they are very tough this year. This will be a good test for both teams, but more pressure is on Bowdoin due to Pool C hanging over them. That match headlines tomorrow for me. Given Redlands performance against Emory and Cruz, I don't think tomorrow's result against Amherst is in doubt. Herst can probably bring half their lineup and win comfortably, but the Verdieck Tennis Center is never an easy place to play. I like Redlands to put up a fight in doubles and possible get a match, but they probably fade after that against a more talented team. Lastly, Whitman-Cal Lu is a match of contrasting styles as we have depth against a top heavy team. Given the results over the past few days, this should be a very even match that can go either way. If Cal Lu wants to keep Pool C hopes alive, they need a win, and at the same time, Whitman wants to go home to Washington with a win as well.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Wild Monday and Tuesday Thoughts

I want to attempt to go through a couple strings of matches that involve a lot of the teams that played today. Bear with me here because it may not make a ton of sense. I'm just trying to prove we have a lot of even teams and mayhem. Rhodes beat UT-Tyler who beat Whitman who beat Trinity (TX) who beat Cal Lutheran who beat UT-Tyler. Vassar lost to Swarthmore who lost to Whitman who lost to UT-Tyler who lost to Cal Lutheran who lost to Mary Washington who lost to Whittier who lost to Vassar.

That makes a ton of sense and it's still early in March. After your top 8-10 teams, it seems as though the next 25 or so could all beat each other on any given day. Everything is situational right now and it's hard to make sense of it.

To begin today, I want to talk about Rhodes. This is a team who thought they were good last year, but never got it all together in doubles. They finished 3rd in their conference and gave DePauw a fairly tough time in the conference semis. At the moment, I definitely expect to see them ranked on Thursday and as crazy as this sounds, potentially in the top 20. The glitch with Rhodes is they play an incredibly soft schedule. Denison and Tyler were the only 2 decent teams they play this year, so I don't see how they can possibly be rewarded with a Pool C bid, especially given that Tyler also lost to Cal Lutheran who has had a rough year. That being said, watch out for them in the SCAC tournament. I think it's a great win for Rhodes to beat a Denison team that played down to the wire with Chicago. Again, I expect Rhodes to be ranked and I can honestly see them as high as 16 or 17 because the bottom line is they haven't lost a D3 match yet and they have an indirect win against Whitman who beat Trinity (TX). Realistically, I think they get ranked around 25, but you can make the case for them being higher. At the same time, Tyler's win today was huge for Cal Lu, who now has a glimmer of Pool C hope in my opinion. They did lose to Mary Wash, but after beating Tyler and playing a very tough 5-4 against a top 8 opponent in Kenyon, I like where they're at right now for all the bad things that have happened to them. Typical Kenyon performance just getting the job done and getting a W. That has been their style this year; no flashy victories just solid tennis and it's working for them. They should go home from California thrilled with their trip. The trend I'm seeing this year is teams aren't comfortable away from home. Cal Lutheran and Mary Washington are 2 completely different teams when they are at home. CLU just played 5-4 with Kenyon without their #1, who they had in a loss to Mary Washington. Playing 5-4 with Kenyon is something CMU, Chicago and Whitman all couldn't do.

Coach Northam's account of the Whitman-Tyler match is that his squad just got outplayed by the Patriots. That tells me that Tyler is clearly talented and should be ranked even after a rough start. In their defense, their #1 Josh Chavez didn't play when they lost to conference foe McMurry, who by the way is another team to pay attention to that could be ranked. Whitman plays Bowdoin tomorrow, who got spanked in doubles by Trinity today. Bowdoin is traditionally terrible in their opening match of the spring in doubles, which is understandable. A win tomorrow could really help them bounce back after today, but a loss to Whitman would not be good. I think it's okay that Bowdoin faltered today, just as long as they are able to rebound tomorrow. At the same time, Whitman should be hungry to get a win after they didn't have the Monday they wanted. I worry about Bowdoin's middle of the lineup, because I don't think they have enough firepower to consistently get 4 singles wins against good teams. If the Polar Bears doubles isn't clicking, they are in trouble. A lot depends on how beaten up Whitman is tomorrow because I expect a really close match.

That's only 1 of the 5 matches happening tomorrow and we have 2 teams on double duty. First, Denison continues their spring break and travels to Emory. The Big Red may able to hang in doubles if they play better than they did today but I expect them to win 1 match maximum against the hottest team in the country. I already discussed the Bowdoin-Whitman match briefly, but there are 2 other matches that have huge significance in this grouping of teams. We get to see Pomona-Pitzer after the Stag-Hen for the first time as they have a 2 match day taking on both UT-Tyler and Bowdoin. The Polar Bears will be looking for revenge after today and they get a crack at a Pomona-Pitzer team who is top 10 the the moment. If PP holds serve and wins both tomorrow, I think they enter Thursday's rankings in the single digits, probably a first for this program. That should be huge motivation for the Hens as they saw that Bowdoin is vulnerable and Tyler is dangerous, so they will be sure to be on their heels for that one. If PP comes together for the next 24 hours and comes out of tomorrow with 2 wins, they are top 10 in the country and pretty much home free in Pool C. Bowdoin obviously also has 2 matches. They too are competing for Pool C and it would not be good for them to lose both tomorrow. If they start spring break 0-3 with a loss to a Pool C competitor, they are in a hole because the truth is life just gets harder when they have to go home and play the NESCAC big 3 along with their huge rival Trinity (CT). The Polar Bears desperately need a win tomorrow and hopefully they got the rust off today. So we've got Emory-Denison, PomonaPitzer-Bowdoin, PomonaPitzer-Tyler and Whitman-Bowdoin.

The thing I'm most excited for tomorrow is the start of Amherst's season. They had a few matches today with split squads and a couple things stand out to me. First of all, I expected Andrew Jung to be back and he didn't play today. I think that makes them weaker, but they obviously are still very tough. The second thing is Austin Chafetz at the 4 position. I wonder if that's a move by Chris Garner in an attempt to counter Emory's top 2 players. That would be my first instinct. Either way, we will get a great feel for Herst tomorrow when they take on Trinity (TX). If I was Amherst I would have preferred that Trinity did well over the weekend so they aren't as hungry for a win. Trinity is still dangerous and they had to get some confidence after their win today against a potential top 15 team. Trinity has nothing to lose tomorrow, but I expect Amherst to be tough enough in singles to gut out a close 7-2 or 6-3 win. This would be a win that would completely turn Trinity's season around and I think they've got a shot. Amherst is a great team, but the first few matches transitioning indoors to outdoors are not easy. I'm looking forward to all tomorrow's action and hopefully we can sort all of this out tomorrow night after we have more information.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Thoughts on Other Saturday Results and Monday Preview

Besides the Stag-Hen, 4 other important matches occurred Saturday. Let me begin in the Northeast, where Bates and MIT faced off in a match of 2 solid teams who are hoping to crack the top 20 this year. I know the Bates squad thinks they've got a good team this year but MIT defended their home court and came away with a 5-4 win. This MIT squad is getting better and we could see them in the top 20 this year after last year's Sweet 16 performance. Bates desperately needed this win if they wanted to have any hope at a Pool C bid and now they will need to do some serious work and pull a few upsets in NESCAC play. Even if Bates wins at the top of the lineup they are in trouble and this showed as MIT took 3, 4 and 6 as well as 2 of the doubles matches. It's a shame to see Bates not able to come through but I just don't think they have enough players to field a team that's competitive with the best in the country. Next, we got our first look at the defending national champs as they had a convincing 8-1 against Brandeis. Brandeis hasn't been doing very well this year, but credit to Midd for beating a solid team convincingly. Midd has designed their schedule so they don't have many tough D3 matches in California and they will get a chance to develop their young team before facing a serious test. A good start for Midd, I don't think they could have asked for much more.

Working our way South we had a clash in Virginia between two programs that have been struggling. Mary Washington defeated Washington & Lee 6-3 in a match that was fairly close. UMW was able to pull out 2 3-setters as well as a 9-7 in doubles to get a desperately needed win. It's clear the Eagles are much more comfortable playing on the East coast. It's a shame to see the fall of W&L as they will most likely be out of the top 30 in the next rankings for the first time since I can remember. This team was top 15 as recently as 2008 and they just aren't doing what they need to be doing. They will probably win their conference but for as good as they used to be, this is terrible from W&L. And lastly, out West, Cruz dominated Redlands 8-1. This result really surprised me because Redlands played Emory tough on Thursday and I thought they would have a good showing here. Cruz is notoriously tough on their home courts and I'm sure they played great doubles to suck the life out of UR. Cruz also has to be pleased seeing CMS fall like they did. Redlands has to be careful with the rise of Pomona-Pitzer because the Bulldogs are far from a lock for the tournament. They are solid on paper, but they've got to string some wins together eventually and an 8-1 loss to Cruz isn't going to get it done. Well done by the Slugs and a good start to a tough next few weeks.

4 matches on the calendar taking place tomorrow, but only 1 of real significance in my opinion. The first match to mention will be Denison and Rhodes battling for what could be a spot in the top 30. Rhodes started the season by upsetting a solid UT-Tyler team and the Lynx have consistently been 3rd in their conference in recent years after Trinity (TX) and DePauw. Dension is coming off a near upset of Chicago in which the deciding match was 7-5 in the 3rd in favor of Chicago. If Denison wants to have any chance at an NCAA bid, they need this win and it will also help them to build confidence for an eventual showdown with Kenyon. Secondly, aforementioned UT-Tyler takes on Whitman in California. WC is fresh off a good SH Invite and UT-Tyler has really been struggling, falling not only to Cal Lu and Rhodes, but also to conference foe McMurry. They're hurting right now and aren't what they used to be, so I'll predict an easy win for Whitman. In the third match, Kenyon continues their spring break when they travel to Thousand Oaks to take on Cal Lutheran. With Cal Lu missing their top player, I like Kenyon to get a pretty easy win. This will be a nice cool down for Kenyon after a stressful weekend as they should win a comfortable 6-3 or 7-2. On the other hand, it will be a good test for Cal Lu to help them realize what they need to do to be competitive going forward.

The main event tomorrow will be a clash between 2 top 15 teams: Bowdoin and Trinity (TX). This will be Bowdoin's first match of the spring, and honestly I'm not too sure what to expect from them. Trinity (TX) is fresh off disappointment and I would assume they are still beaten up from a rough 2 days. 48 hours is not enough turnaround time to get a team completely healthy. This is a tough opener for Bowdoin, but as a Pool C team, they really need to be on their heels, especially after Trinity lost to both Whitman and PP. If Bowdoin loses tomorrow, and then Redlands beats PP, the Polar Bears could be in big trouble when it comes to making the tournament. I know it's tough to look that far ahead, but every match is important. I just don't trust Trinity at all right now, but a win tomorrow would at least show the country something. Likewise, Bowdoin can make a statement that they are a contender with a win tomorrow. I expect a competitive match and it's too hard to predict since I know little about this year's Bowdoin squad.

Two notes: If anyone is at the matches and will email me score updates, I will tweet them. I instantly get emails on my phone so the turnover time will be quick. I'm sure everyone who reads the blog would appreciate it. Secondly, I put the match calendar together a while ago and haven't looked to update it. If I missed any matches or if anyone knows of schedule changes, please email me and let me know. It's too much work to go through every team's schedule again and check everything.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Stag-Hen Analysis

Colin Egan, Emory

Vassar - A bit disappointed in their performance, but my conclusion is they just aren't that good this year. They are probably slightly weaker than last year's team who finished 28, so I just don't see them as top 30 material. They probably can beat Skidmore on a good day, but it will take a lot of work to get there. I really expect John Cox to instill a winning attitude in this program, but great things don't happen overnight.

Swarthmore - Not too much to say, but I'm happy to see them get a win on a big stage. They're still a decent team and after seeing them give Whitman a hard time and beat Vassar, they may be in the 30-40 range of teams this year. That's probably an improvement over the past 3 years which is a step in the right direction.

Trinity (TX) - I don't really know what to say. Trinity was beaten up with illness this weekend; I get that, but this morning was not good. I can understand a loss to P-P, especially given how the Hens did in their next 2 matches. Trinity is almost on Chicago's level when it comes to underachieving at the moment. In their defense, their California trip last year was a trainwreck and they ended up just fine at the end of the season, but they have to remember that there are only so many chances. They still have Amherst and Bowdoin on this trip and those are far from walks in the park. The point of doing well in the regular season is to give yourself an easy region in NCAAs (unless you're in California), or make NCAAs period. I can see Trinity losing to Bowdoin and Amherst, losing all 3 matches in their quad and then losing the conference final to DePauw on some fluke day. That means they probably miss the tournament. I picked this team 4th in the country pre-season, and the way they played the first month of the season, they're not even top 10. The talent is there, I don't doubt that, but they aren't where they need to be mentally or on the court. I still think they are extremely dangerous, potentially near the level of the top 3, if they put it all together. But me saying that and them actually doing it are 2 very different things.

Whitman - Not a good start for Whitman, but they got their big win against Trinity. To begin, the Kenyon match was closer than its 8-1 score, but Kenyon was better in tight situations, and I attribute that to the first month of the season. The Lords had another gear to go to and Whitman did not because the bottom line is warm up matches against teams in the NWC don't get you used to the level needed to beat a team like Kenyon. Whitman is obviously limited geographically and scheduling wise, but by the time they got into the groove of this tournament, look what they were able to do. This team reminds me a lot of DePauw; very hard working, plays good doubles and doesn't have a lot of flashy stars. Basically, a team like P-P who can be a thorn in Trinity's side because they have the doubles and depth to keep up with the Tigers as well as a great attitude on court. I've been on Whitman about beating a higher ranked team and they did it. They deserve this win and they'll be rewarded for it ranking wise. Depending on how results play out the next few days, Whitman will be top 15 in Thursday's rankings with top 12 also a possibility and #10 not out of the question. Even though they slipped in the match they were preparing for, they showed a ton of resiliency and for that they deserve a lot of respect. They may not be the most talented bunch but their hearts are as big as anyone.

Pomona-Pitzer - Emory won the tournament, but to me, the Hens were the top story this weekend. This is an experienced team that is well coached and I feel like Belletto's first several years as head coach have all lead to this year. He's taken what he has and made the most of it, and for that, this program deserves praise. I was on PP about not being able to get a big win, and they finally showed that they are the real deal. The most impressive thing is that they didn't go away after their Trinity win. They took more points from Emory than CMS did, and even though they lost the Kenyon match, they made a statement that they are a serious Pool C contender and a potential top 10 finisher this year. They are in great position to make the tournament now and will really have to mess up to not get a Pool C bid, especially if Trinity gets some wins later in the season. I was so impressed with this team this weekend and if they continue to get better, there's no reason they can't give CMS and Cruz a hard time. It's unfortunate they may not make it out of the California regional, but given how far this team has come, just making it should be a big accomplishment. I expect to see them top 10 in the next rankings.

- The Lords continue to play top notch tennis and showed great mental toughness dominating Whitman in doubles and coming back from a 4-2 deficit against PP. Remember that this team lost 4 starters from a team that finished 12th last year and now they look like a solid top 10 contender. If that's not enough warrant for coaching staff of the year awards, I don't know what is. I am continually impressed by the 2011 Lords. I keep expecting them to slip and it doesn't happen. Interestingly enough, they are through the difficult part of their schedule and that means they have pretty much locked up a top seed in their NCAA regional. Given that they beat Denison, the only tough thing remaining is GLCAs where they see Case or Denison in the semis and then CMU or DePauw likely in the final. They've weathered the storm and done what they needed to do, and I can't say enough about how impressed I am that they successfully patched up the holes left by last year's graduating class. A fantastic tournament for Kenyon and I really am a believer in this team now.

CMS - I blame it on a bit of overconfidence. They absolutely crushed the #7 ranked team in the country and watched Emory struggling against a Pomona-Pitzer team that the Stags crush year after year. The Stag faithful will make the excuse that Robbie Erani didn't play (I'm assuming he's injured), but the bottom line is he wouldn't have won that match for CMS. As tough as CMS is and as much depth as they have, they were significantly weaker than Emory mentally. They didn't get outplayed or outcoached, they just didn't come through in the clutch. The good news is that's a fixable problem and it comes with experience. Playing NAIA teams is not the same as playing D3 matches, so in reality this was a great test for CMS to see where they stand and they will be ready for Amherst next weekend. It may have been good for them to get a wake up call like this, because they had been cruising so far this season. They get into the real heart of their schedule now, but they know they aren't the best team in the country. They train hard, but they need to do some re-evaluation if they want to win a national title. The talent is there and the match was closer than the 7-2 result, but they lost pretty badly in a match I know they expected to win.

Emory - The moment NCAAs ended last year, I was on the Emory bandwagon for the 2011 Eagles because I know the quarterfinals of NCAAs is not an acceptable result for this program. We haven't seen Herst yet, but Emory is the team to beat right now and has cemented themselves as #2 in the country and potentially #1. The Eagles came through where I thought they were vulnerable and I think it's great that they don't just count on their top guys to win matches. It was probably good for them to be pushed in that semi because it showed them that they need to play better doubles, and that's exactly what they did. Emory has designed their doubles lineup so their 3 team is a sort of insurance so that they don't get swept. They got a quick point in the final and took the pressure off the other 2 teams. I have absolutely no criticism of this team right now because I think they are not only talented, they have finally become focused and humble and are no longer the loud-mouth team that everyone used to hate. They will continue to be tested throughout the season and that's good for them, because I know how badly they want the national title back after a 4 year dry spell topped off by a particularly bitter defeat in 2010.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Stag-Hen Invitational Discussion

Alex Lane, CMS

After a year hiatus, the Stag-Hen Invitational is back for a 4th year. The field is always strong for this tournament and this year is no exception. 4 of the current Top 10 teams in the country will be competing along with 2 others also in the top 20. For those of you unfamiliar, CMS and Pomona-Pitzer co-host this event, as their courts are within walking distance of each other. They do a wonderful job with the event and it's a great opportunity for all participants to play in a beautiful location and play teams they normally wouldn't see. Let's take a look at this year's field.

CMS vs. Swarthmore
Kenyon vs. Whitman
Trinity (TX) vs. Pomona-Pitzer
Emory vs. Vassar

There are storylines involving every team competing and it's a lot of potential information to digest. Everyone has their eyes on a potential CMS-Emory final, but they both have a lot of work to do to get there. First, I'll discuss the bottom 2 seeds. Swarthmore is a program that is lost right now. It seems like a long time ago, but they qualified for Indoors as recently as 2007. After that, we haven't heard from them. The Garnet are in danger of dropping down to 4th in their conference this year with F&M and Haverford being solid programs. It's unfortunate to see the sudden downfall of a team that was once top notch, but they just aren't recruiting at a high enough level to keep up. With the academic draw of the school, one would think they should be a contender for the top 20 in the country. This isn't the case though and they are a heavy favorite to finish 8th in the tournament. With a little bit of restructuring and some good recruiting, Swarthmore could be back on the map as a national power, just like Amherst did a few years ago. For now, I see them getting crushed 3 times this weekend. Vassar may have a shot at winning 2 matches, but it's unlikely with the strength of the other 3 teams in the bottom half. I've talked about the Brewers a fair amount, and they are trying to establish themselves as a team that is ranked consistently. This is a good opportunity for them to get exposure against some teams outside of New England, but I think it's pretty clear they are 7th best team in this tournament.

The 3 through 6 teams may be a lot closer in ability than meets the eye. The other 2 matches highlight the first round and I would not be at all surprised if 1 of them ended in an upset. First, the co-host Pomona-Pitzer takes on Trinity (TX) in a match where both teams have something to prove. Trinity did not have a very good California swing last year so they are looking for some redemption and trying to prove that they are a top 5 team. Losing this match would not help that cause. As I've said, Trinity peaks late in the season, but I'm sure the Tigers feel they should finish at least 3rd in this tournament. PP is trying to finally break through and become a top 15 team so they can qualify for NCAAs. I don't think 2 SCIAC teams get Pool C bids this year, so therefore it's either the Hens or Redlands. PP is playing at home and with a lot of confidence right now, and if you look at the rest of their schedule, this is one of their best chances for an upset. PP can't come out nervous because I believe doubles is the strength of both teams. If the Tigers come out firing, they have the potential to break PP's spirit and walk away with an easy win. I expect an emotional, grinding match that results in a Trinity win. Pomona-Pitzer still doesn't have that signature win over the past couple years and because of that, I can't pick them against a team of this caliber. I think this will be the best quarterfinal.

In the 4-5 match, we have surprising Kenyon against Whitman. As far as what each team is trying to prove, see the previous paragraph. So far, I don't know if anyone not from Kenyon would have expected the Lords to be sitting at #7 in the country. They have played great tennis, and have certainly proved me wrong about their preseason ranking of 15. They are the favorite in this match and have been rock solid so far this season, but anything can happen. Similar to PP, Whitman is a team looking for a breakthrough. I often get on WC about how they falter against higher ranked teams. Although these 2 have several ranking spots between them, I think they have similar strengths and I expect a good match. A Whitman win could really throw the rankings into a tailspin since Kenyon stands at #7. Whitman has been looking for their ticket out of the California regional, and this may very well be their only opportunity to do that this season. If they win this match, they probably find themselves in the top 10 in the country and may head home with only their conference matches left to play. It's a big opportunity, but they have to really want it and rise to the occasion. These 2 played in the SH first round several years ago with Kenyon winning and beating CMS in the next round. I don't expect a repeat of that, but I do expect Kenyon to win a fairly comfortable 6-3. If they play the way they played against CMU and Chicago, winning will take care of itself.

The structure of this tournament has the semifinals on Friday afternoon directly after the quarters. As if CMS and Emory needed an advantage. Not only are they the better teams, but they will have much easier quarterfinals than their opponents. I don't foresee CMS having any problem with either Kenyon or Whitman, and I think at worst they come away with a 6-3 win. They may use their depth and rest some of their starters in the morning match. The bottom half semifinal could be a little trickier for Emory. When I say I thought Trinity had the best doubles lineup in the country, I didn't just make it up. They didn't play well at Indoors, but everyone, including Browning and his team, know that the Tigers are dangerous. The Trinity team crushed the Emory team in the fall and Trinity also has the best 2 team in the country. Emory is vulnerable in doubles as Wash U showed in Indoors and even though a Pottish/Egan combo looks great on paper, Trinity may be just as good at 3. The bottom line is the Tigers need a doubles sweep to win. Fitness will be an issue and because of that, I like Emory to win 6-3. Trinity matches up well with the Eagles and can win, but they'd need a massive effort from the bottom of their singles lineup and in doubles.

In the final round, I expect Whitman and Pomona-Pitzer for 5th, Trinity and Kenyon for 3rd and Emory and CMS for the title. In the 5th place match, this is more important for PP than it is for Whitman. PP is competing for a Pool C bid and this is not a match they can afford to lose because it would be a dagger in the heart to their tournament chances. Whitman won a hard fought match last year so PP is looking for some revenge, but it may come down to who is less deflated after losing a winnable 1st round match. I like Pomona on their home courts, but I expect a very close result. The Hens will realize that they need it more and by the 3rd match of the tournament I don't think either team will be nervous or anxious. Again, this would be a nice win for Whitman, but it is absolutely crucial for PP. The 3rd place match is a no brainer on paper. These 2 met in last year's Sweet 16 with Trinity winning 5-2. Trinity has their whole team back and Kenyon lost 4 starters. However, as I've said, Kenyon is playing at a much higher level than anyone expected so I expect them to give the Tigers a very hard time. I think Trinity will have a bit too much, but conditioning could play a role. Kenyon may not spend a ton of energy in a loss to CMS, but Trinity could have a long one with Emory. I like the Tigers to win 5-4 or 6-3, but I've underestimated Kenyon this whole season and I'm aware I may be doing it again.

The probable final and biggest match of the season to this point should be Emory and CMS. It's interesting that all 3 of the top teams in the country come into this year with a chip on their shoulder. Amherst got crushed in 2 consecutive national finals, Emory blew a 3-0 lead in last year's NCAA quarters and CMS blew 7 match points to send them to the national final. All of these teams are hungry to prove something and I think they are all very focused. These 2 have contrasting styles as Emory possesses an amazing top of the lineup and CMS has unmatched depth. I am sure that Alex Lane is a great player, but I can't pick against Pottish at the moment. I don't think CMS has anyone who can compete with Chris Goodwin at #2 and that forces CMS to win 5 of the 7 remaining matches. For the Stags to win, I think they may need a doubles sweep. Colin Egan is a clutch #3 and the Eagles have a hidden gem in Nick Szczurek who may be one of the best 4s in the country. I see Emory potentially taking the top 4 spots. If they can put a point on the board in doubles, I really like Emory's chances in this. That being said, Wash U showed that Emory is quite vulnerable in doubles, and with CMS playing on their home courts, a doubles sweep is very possible. The Stags should have the edge at the bottom of the lineup, but I'm picking Emory 5-4 in this match. I believe Browning has his guys very focused and fit after last year's disappointment, and it's just too tough to deal with the top 2 players in the country. CMS can win this match, but I'm impressed with the top two thirds of Emory's lineup and I think it's enough to get them a win on the road.