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.