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)
Friday: 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
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.