Thursday, June 2, 2011

Revisiting Top 10 Stories of 2011

10. NCAA Selection Process - In Pool C, things were more clear cut this year with Bowdoin clearly deserving of the last spot. Teams were left out, but most likely none of the teams left out would have made a true impact in the tournament. Also, we saw TCNJ and Whitewater advance to the Sweet 16, and under the old process where the top 32 teams were picked based upon ranking, it is likely that neither team would have made the tournament.

9. Can Chicago play to their talent?
- Baby steps. The Maroons took it to the next level this year and at least made the tournament. They entered as a top seed after a good regular season win against Wash U, but faltered in their most important match of the season against Trinity (TX). I wouldn't say Chicago actually played to their talent, but they certainly took a large leap forward and improved upon their performance in past years.

8. CLU and CMU - One-hit wonders?
- Absolutely. A large step backward for both programs this year, as Cal Lu struggled with the bottom of their lineup and CMU struggled with everything. Even with Ballou, the Kingsmen were not true contenders, and CMU faltered after a promising Indoors performance. We will see if these 2 can rebound, but they certainly did not use the momentum and experience they gained in 2010 to help them in 2011.

7. Former powerhouses become non-factors
- Kalamazoo fell very far this year, but Gustavus was actually a pleasant surprise. Kzoo kept their conference winning streak alive and qualified for the tournament, but they weren't very competitive with the strongest teams on their schedule. GAC took back their conference and turned in a spirited performance in the NCAA tournament in a tight loss to Trinity (TX), which was a big boost for their team.

6. A rebuilding year for Kenyon? Couldn't have been more wrong about this. Coach Thielke was robbed of national coach of the year honors after the Lords turned in an incredible season. They lost 4 starters from a team ranked 12, added 1 freshman, and will finish ranked 7 most likely. That's unbelievable and they should be just as good, if not better, next year. Along with Pomona-Pitzer, the biggest surprise of the year for me.

5. Can Hopkins perform in the post-season?
What a mess. It's not that they lost to Williams, it's how they lost to Williams. This team gave Emory by far their toughest match of the regular season and they got hammered in NCAAs. It's in their heads at this point, it's not about their play. They just don't show up in May and no one will take them seriously as a top national power until they do.

4. How far will the best 2 players in the country take you?
Very far, but not far enough. Emory's top 2 met in the NCAA singles final, but Goodwin was cracked in the team competition for the 2nd year in a row and Emory fell. They put together an amazing regular season, but anything but a national title for Emory is unacceptable. These 2 will return next year and we'll pose the same question, but the supporting case may not be strong enough.

3. Midd minus Schwarz, Wash U minus Watts
- Midd had their weakest season in quite a while as they will most likely finish 8 or 9 after a quarterfinal loss. They were young and missing their top recruit, so they actually had a good season in my eyes. Wash U made their 4 straight Final 4, but they measure themselves against Emory, and the Bears lost to the Eagles 3 times this year, going a combined 1-10 in singles.

2. Indoors leaves Gustavus - A wonderful job by Mary Washington putting on this tournament and UMW even got a big win out of it. The Cal Lu victory was a huge win for UMW and there were also some of the top matches of the season at this tournament including CLU-CMU and Wash U-Cruz. I hope that UMW will retain this tournament for the next several years because it's a necessary event to start the season.

1. Third time is the charm
- Amherst did it, and they did it convincingly. They wanted it more than everyone else and cruised through the draw to take the title after having been beaten badly the last 2 finals. Amherst really goes through the motions during the regular season, but they come to play in May. They dominated all 3 opponents and were basically untouchable for those 3 days. They look to make it 2 in a row as they return all 6 singles starters.