Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Mary Wash's Rough Start and The Big Picture

For those of you who haven't heard, Mary Washington began their California swing with an 8-1 loss to Pomona-Pitzer and a 7-2 loss to Whittier.

The Eagles scheduled 2 back-to-back matches and they clearly underestimated the Whittier Poets, projected to finish #5 in the SCIAC. I really thought Mary Washington had turned the corner when they got that win over Cal Lutheran. I think we now know that the Cal Lutheran team that showed up on Saturday at Indoors was not the same team that showed up on Friday at Indoors. The Eagles see CMS on Thursday and Redlands on Saturday to finish their trip. I'm interested to see how they fair on Saturday against the Bulldogs in a match that has traditionally been very close. Whittier doesn't play a stacked schedule, but they do have Vassar in a week and then the top SCIACs as well. They already lost to Pomona-Pitzer in an 8-1 rout and my guess is they caught a beaten down and demoralized Mary Wash team, similar to the Cal Lu team that Mary Wash played. With this win, it would be tough to keep them out of the top 25 though. The ranking committee has quite a task in front of them and I'll be interested to see what they come up with for Thursday. I thought the Eagles would come out prepared against PP after losing last year's match, but the Hens always give their best and are well coached. PP, unlike Whittier, plays a stacked schedule, and we will find out how good they really are as soon as next weekend. They open their own Stag-Hen invitational against Trinity (TX) and could have potential opponents such as Vassar, Whitman, Kenyon and Emory in the tournament. After last night, I think they are a legitimate Pool C contender. They have a veteran team who is hungry to get back in the tournament and this could be their year. I want to pose a question and look at a string of match results to lead me into my next point. If Pomona-Pitzer played Mary Washington tomorrow in Fredericksburg indoors, who would win? Even after having last night's information, I'd still be tempted to pick Mary Wash in that match. This Mary Wash team is no pushover. Even after their first 2 matches, they give a very good Trinity (TX) team all they could handle in a pretty tight 6-3.

Pomona-Pitzer beat Mary Washington 8-1. Mary Washington beat Cal Lutheran 5-4. Carnegie Mellon beat Cal Lutheran 5-4. Cruz beat Carnegie Mellon 5-4. Wash U beat Cruz 5-4. In a way this reminds me of 2008, when the top 16-18 teams in the country could all beat each other on any given day. This year with the information we have so far, I think there are two groups of teams: the top 3 and everyone else. I don't see anyone beating Herst, CMS and Emory besides each other. After that, it's possible that there is not a large gap between #4 and #20. No one has stepped up to the plate as a #4 that can challenge the top 3, but we haven't seen Midd, Williams or Hopkins yet. Wash U gave Emory a tough time but I don't see them truly challenging the top 3. Things could really get thrown into disarray if Mary Wash takes out Redlands Saturday and then the Bulldogs start beating people. Everything is just such a mess right now, when I first heard these results, I started asking a bunch of questions. In 3 weeks, we will have a lot more information and should be able to sort out the pretenders from the contenders. Every match is vitally important for the Pool C teams and you then have to root for the teams that you beat. There aren't a lot of results in yet, but we could technically see Pomona-Pitzer at #11 or #12 in the rankings on Thursday. I think they should be more like 14 or 15. I don't even want to try to take a crack at rankings right now because there aren't enough results. I think the thing to take from all of these early season matches is that we may be in for a great season where anyone can beat anyone else and every team always has to be looking over their shoulder because they have a target on their back. The Eagles have a chance for redemption Saturday. It's just strange to see them lose like they did, but maybe Pomona-Pitzer has really developed and is ready to contend for the top 10 in the country. Things are so wide open at the moment, there's no reason they can't do it. We will see what happens over the next few weeks and I'll take another look at "the big picture" then.