Sunday, March 20, 2011

Weekend Recap, Matches I Missed and Monday Preview

It was a shame that matches in Santa Cruz were canceled today, but there was still a lot of action over the weekend including a few matches I completely missed that didn't make it on the calendar. I apologize for those omissions and I'll touch on those results in this post. On Friday, Skidmore continued their mediocre play in California in a 6-3 loss to Redlands. I don't think the Thoroughbreds are top 20 material this year, especially given the scores in the bottom of the lineup against Redlands. Skidmore will look to improve when they return home. A much needed win for the Bulldogs and they have some very important matches coming up against Trinity (CT) and Williams before they get into SCIAC play. They know they have to make a splash soon and I expect them to raise their level. The other match on Friday had Mary Washington losing at home against Bates 7-2. The Eagles have 2 different personalities this season and it seems like they don't show up half the time. They beat Cal Lu, got crushed by an unranked Whittier, beat Washington & Lee and now lose badly to Bates. Mary Wash is in what amounts to a 3 year slump because on paper they should be top 20 and they are nowhere close to it. They have very little in the way of quality wins recently and I definitely see another 1st round exit in NCAAs in the near future.

On Saturday, two matches that weren't on the calendar took place with Mary Wash rebounding to beat Swarthmore and Emory taking down DePauw 7-2. A decent result for the Tigers as they hung at a few spots. One thing that concerns me is Emory's #2 doubles team. They beat CMS and have followed it up with losses to Denison and DePauw. I know Emory wants to keep their Pottish/Egan duo at 3, but to do that they need a decent 2 team. Also on Saturday, Pomona-Pitzer defeated Skidmore 7-2 in a routine victory. The Hens continue to roll. One of my matches to watch highlighted the weekend as CMS took on national title favorite Amherst. The Jeffs had been rolling the entire week, but as I said previously, they have struggled in the regular season the past 2 years. CMS stepped up and won this match somewhat comfortably. Alex Lane was the real difference maker as he got 2 huge victories for CMS. If I'm Amherst, there is nothing to be concerned about. I use this as motivation that the team still needs to improve. The Stags rebounded well after the Emory loss as they had to get a lot of their confidence back. I know Midd is 1, but I think even they know they don't belong there. I have no problem with them staying there due to last season, but they will have to beat Amherst eventually to keep that ranking. All of this leaves Emory as the team to beat in D3 right now. I see them going into NCAAs as the top seed. They have tests against Hopkins and Chicago, but the only match I could actually see them losing is a UAA final against Wash U if they get swept in doubles. CMS needs to refocus because they have 3 huge matches coming up in Texas this weekend. If this shows us anything, it's that no team stands out among the top teams and I think it's a 3 horse race for the national title.

Today was fairly uneventful, but I was impressed by Hopkins absolute destruction of Bates. The Bobcats are a solid team and Hopkins lost 10 total games in the bottom 4 singles spots. A remarkable performance heading into a huge Monday clash with NC Wesleyan. I was also disappointed in this effort by Bates because Hopkins is an excellent team, but they aren't Emory or CMS. This team went from beating UMW 7-2 to losing to JHU 8-1 and I think the gap between those 2 teams is large, but not that large. Also today, Swarthmore upset Christopher Newport 5-4 in a drama-filled contest. Not a good loss for the Captains as they need to close the gap with NCW and this doesn't help. An excellent win for Swat, who I still feel should be ranked in the next poll.

We've got a very big week ahead, but let's focus on tomorrow for the moment. 3 matches on the calendar, only 1 of which I consider significant. To begin, Bates continues their road trip and takes on a Kalamazoo team that's an absolute disaster right now. I see a routine win for the Bobcats and it should be a nice confidence boost after a rough day today. Cruz and Trinity (CT) will try to squeeze their match in with bad weather in the area. I could be wrong, but I think Trinity is pretty weak this year, so they may have benefited the most from the match cancellations avoiding matches against both Bowdoin and Cal Lu. The Bantams still sit at 14 in the country from last year's results. Bowdoin and Cal Lu would be 2 matches I'd expect them to lose. We'll see how they do against Cruz, but I project an easy win for the Slugs. The biggest match of the day, and one of my 10 matches to watch is a rematch of last year's epic Sweet 16 match between Johns Hopkins and NC Wesleyan. For those who don't know, Hopkins was at home in NCAAs last year and swept doubles before NCW stormed back and won all 6 first sets in an eventual 5-3 win that came down to the wire. I'm sure that's still fresh on the minds of Hopkins coaches and players, so they should desperately want some revenge, especially playing on the road this time. NCW didn't have the start they wanted at Indoors and this is one of their very few matches against a highly ranked team this season. If they don't win this, I don't see them breaking the top 10 during the regular season. Both teams should be incredibly fired up in what I expect will be an amazing match. I'm going to refrain from making a prediction because I really don't know.

I'll be back Monday night with a recap of the Hopkins-NCW match and a Tuesday preview.