Monday, March 14, 2011

A Wild Monday and Tuesday Thoughts

I want to attempt to go through a couple strings of matches that involve a lot of the teams that played today. Bear with me here because it may not make a ton of sense. I'm just trying to prove we have a lot of even teams and mayhem. Rhodes beat UT-Tyler who beat Whitman who beat Trinity (TX) who beat Cal Lutheran who beat UT-Tyler. Vassar lost to Swarthmore who lost to Whitman who lost to UT-Tyler who lost to Cal Lutheran who lost to Mary Washington who lost to Whittier who lost to Vassar.

That makes a ton of sense and it's still early in March. After your top 8-10 teams, it seems as though the next 25 or so could all beat each other on any given day. Everything is situational right now and it's hard to make sense of it.

To begin today, I want to talk about Rhodes. This is a team who thought they were good last year, but never got it all together in doubles. They finished 3rd in their conference and gave DePauw a fairly tough time in the conference semis. At the moment, I definitely expect to see them ranked on Thursday and as crazy as this sounds, potentially in the top 20. The glitch with Rhodes is they play an incredibly soft schedule. Denison and Tyler were the only 2 decent teams they play this year, so I don't see how they can possibly be rewarded with a Pool C bid, especially given that Tyler also lost to Cal Lutheran who has had a rough year. That being said, watch out for them in the SCAC tournament. I think it's a great win for Rhodes to beat a Denison team that played down to the wire with Chicago. Again, I expect Rhodes to be ranked and I can honestly see them as high as 16 or 17 because the bottom line is they haven't lost a D3 match yet and they have an indirect win against Whitman who beat Trinity (TX). Realistically, I think they get ranked around 25, but you can make the case for them being higher. At the same time, Tyler's win today was huge for Cal Lu, who now has a glimmer of Pool C hope in my opinion. They did lose to Mary Wash, but after beating Tyler and playing a very tough 5-4 against a top 8 opponent in Kenyon, I like where they're at right now for all the bad things that have happened to them. Typical Kenyon performance just getting the job done and getting a W. That has been their style this year; no flashy victories just solid tennis and it's working for them. They should go home from California thrilled with their trip. The trend I'm seeing this year is teams aren't comfortable away from home. Cal Lutheran and Mary Washington are 2 completely different teams when they are at home. CLU just played 5-4 with Kenyon without their #1, who they had in a loss to Mary Washington. Playing 5-4 with Kenyon is something CMU, Chicago and Whitman all couldn't do.

Coach Northam's account of the Whitman-Tyler match is that his squad just got outplayed by the Patriots. That tells me that Tyler is clearly talented and should be ranked even after a rough start. In their defense, their #1 Josh Chavez didn't play when they lost to conference foe McMurry, who by the way is another team to pay attention to that could be ranked. Whitman plays Bowdoin tomorrow, who got spanked in doubles by Trinity today. Bowdoin is traditionally terrible in their opening match of the spring in doubles, which is understandable. A win tomorrow could really help them bounce back after today, but a loss to Whitman would not be good. I think it's okay that Bowdoin faltered today, just as long as they are able to rebound tomorrow. At the same time, Whitman should be hungry to get a win after they didn't have the Monday they wanted. I worry about Bowdoin's middle of the lineup, because I don't think they have enough firepower to consistently get 4 singles wins against good teams. If the Polar Bears doubles isn't clicking, they are in trouble. A lot depends on how beaten up Whitman is tomorrow because I expect a really close match.

That's only 1 of the 5 matches happening tomorrow and we have 2 teams on double duty. First, Denison continues their spring break and travels to Emory. The Big Red may able to hang in doubles if they play better than they did today but I expect them to win 1 match maximum against the hottest team in the country. I already discussed the Bowdoin-Whitman match briefly, but there are 2 other matches that have huge significance in this grouping of teams. We get to see Pomona-Pitzer after the Stag-Hen for the first time as they have a 2 match day taking on both UT-Tyler and Bowdoin. The Polar Bears will be looking for revenge after today and they get a crack at a Pomona-Pitzer team who is top 10 the the moment. If PP holds serve and wins both tomorrow, I think they enter Thursday's rankings in the single digits, probably a first for this program. That should be huge motivation for the Hens as they saw that Bowdoin is vulnerable and Tyler is dangerous, so they will be sure to be on their heels for that one. If PP comes together for the next 24 hours and comes out of tomorrow with 2 wins, they are top 10 in the country and pretty much home free in Pool C. Bowdoin obviously also has 2 matches. They too are competing for Pool C and it would not be good for them to lose both tomorrow. If they start spring break 0-3 with a loss to a Pool C competitor, they are in a hole because the truth is life just gets harder when they have to go home and play the NESCAC big 3 along with their huge rival Trinity (CT). The Polar Bears desperately need a win tomorrow and hopefully they got the rust off today. So we've got Emory-Denison, PomonaPitzer-Bowdoin, PomonaPitzer-Tyler and Whitman-Bowdoin.

The thing I'm most excited for tomorrow is the start of Amherst's season. They had a few matches today with split squads and a couple things stand out to me. First of all, I expected Andrew Jung to be back and he didn't play today. I think that makes them weaker, but they obviously are still very tough. The second thing is Austin Chafetz at the 4 position. I wonder if that's a move by Chris Garner in an attempt to counter Emory's top 2 players. That would be my first instinct. Either way, we will get a great feel for Herst tomorrow when they take on Trinity (TX). If I was Amherst I would have preferred that Trinity did well over the weekend so they aren't as hungry for a win. Trinity is still dangerous and they had to get some confidence after their win today against a potential top 15 team. Trinity has nothing to lose tomorrow, but I expect Amherst to be tough enough in singles to gut out a close 7-2 or 6-3 win. This would be a win that would completely turn Trinity's season around and I think they've got a shot. Amherst is a great team, but the first few matches transitioning indoors to outdoors are not easy. I'm looking forward to all tomorrow's action and hopefully we can sort all of this out tomorrow night after we have more information.