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.