Cameron Spearman, Redlands
I will have a separate post Wednesday evening discussing the Stag-Hen Invitational.
First, I want to go over today's result that had Vassar defeating Whittier 6-3. The Brewers are now 3-0 in California with routine wins against Salisbury, Occidental and Whittier. Tomorrow they take on #7 Kenyon. If anyone knows the Lords well, it is Vassar's head coach John Cox. The question is if his team is skilled enough to pull out a few matches against Kenyon, who is arguably the hottest team in the country at the moment. However, Kenyon's 2 signature wins both came at home. I like Kenyon to win this match 7-2 or 8-1, but I also expect some tight matches. This is a perfect tuneup for the Lords heading into a huge Friday clash with Whitman. Another interesting thing to note is with this result, it is very possible that Mary Wash will be out of the rankings when they are released next week, especially if they lose to W&L this weekend. Who would have thought Mary Wash would be out of the top 30 2 weeks ago? I think it's quite clear that Whittier benefited from an exhausted UMW team and they aren't exactly top 30 material this year. They should enjoy their national ranking while it lasts though.
Apart from the Stag-Hen (SH), there is other tennis in California this week and weekend. Emory warms up for their SH by facing Redlands on Thursday. In Emory's past California trips, they haven't stopped by Redlands to play, so these 2 aren't too familiar with each other. I think this will be a great test for the doubles of both squads, and it will also give Redlands a chance to gauge the strength of the bottom of their lineup. I do expect the Bulldogs to come out with a couple wins in this, but they have to not be intimidated, especially in doubles. I'll talk about Emory later in the week when I discuss the SH, but I think this will be a perfect warm-up for them against a team that will challenge them, but not beat them. The more important match for Redlands is on the road against Santa Cruz on Saturday. I don't consider the Emory match winnable for the Bulldogs, but the Cruz match certainly is if Redlands is playing well. This would be a fantastic win for their program, but my heart tells me Cruz will be a little too much. After Saturday, the country will have a much better indication as to the strength of this year's Redlands team. A win against Cruz would put them in fantastic position for a Pool C bid, but I expect the Slugs to pull out a close one. Cruz is too disciplined to lose a match like this and if they play great doubles, this could turn into a blowout.
A team I haven't talked about much is UT-Tyler. The Pats started very slow this year with their first conference loss since 2007 and then a 5-4 loss against Rhodes. They take on Cal Lu in their first match without Ballou, and both of these teams desperately need a win. If you remember last year, UT-Tyler didn't have the greatest regular season, but came on very strong in NCAAs. They have to regroup and focus their efforts on winning the ASC. A win over CLU would certainly help to build their confidence. Remember 2 years ago at this time, this Tyler team was ranked 13 in the country.
There are 3 other Saturday matches and the most notable thing happening is Middlebury's first D3 test when they take on Brandeis. The Judges are coming off a decent California trip and I don't think they have much of a chance in this, but as long as they keep improving and peak at UAAs, they should be happy. As I've said, so many question marks surround Midd this year, so I'll be interested to see how they start against a solid opponent. They are still 1 in the country dating back to last year and I know they are talented, but getting off to a good start and getting their young guys confidence are 2 important aspects of their season. The other 2 matches should be very close. First we have Bates taking on MIT in a match of 2 New England teams trying to prove their worth. Both programs have top 20 aspirations this year, and if Bates wants to get a whiff of a Pool C bid in 2011, this is a must-win for them. MIT played a decent fall match against Williams, so they look to start strong in D3 play this spring and follow up their Sweet 16 performance in 2010. I expect this to be a battle as MIT won a close one in 2010. Lastly, the rivalry continues between Mary Washington and Washington & Lee. Despite being in separate conferences, geography makes these 2 hated rivals. Both teams are in desperate need of a win, particularly the Eagles, who have to feel great being back in Virginia after their California catastrophe. The loser of this probably won't be ranked in the next ITA poll. In 2008, both of these teams were top 18 in the nation when they met in the NCAA round of 32. Mary Wash won 5-4 and went on to beat Trinity (TX) the next day for a spot in the Final 8. How things have changed. Both teams are barely hanging on to their rankings and the glory they once had. It will be a huge win for the winner and a huge loss for the loser, as both of these teams have little to no confidence at the moment.