Coach: John Browning, 14thSeason
Location: Atlanta, GA
2009 Ranking: #3
2010 Ranking: #4
2011 Ranking: #2, National Runner-Up
2012 Ranking: #1, National Champions
2013 Projected Ranking: D3ATS #3, D3TG #4
I’d like to start this overview by congratulating Emory for their national championship last year. Being at nationals, you could tell this team was determined to win it all for their seniors, and it paid off. Now that I’ve mentioned that, I think it is crazy to see the amount of doubt that some people have for Emory’s 2012-2013 season. This is a team that, as you can see, has never been outside the top 4 in the past 4 years. A team that has one of the best if not the best DIII college coach, captured 23 of the past 24 UAA championships, and had an undefeated season last year. Not to mention three 4-star recruits to add to their youth. Doubters can talk all they want about Goodwin and Pottish leaving, but those were their two weakest spots in the lineup at championships last year. Truth of the matter is, this will be a dominant team that has the chance to repeat for a national title. Yes, the road will get tougher without your two best players, but these guys work their asses off and will be hungry to prove they can win a title without Pottish and Goodwin. Not to mention, I believe Goodwin will be the assistant coach headed into this year, and its usually not a bad thing to have your most decorated player be an influence on a young team.
Like I mentioned earlier, the strength of this team will be depth, which seems to be Emory’s strength pretty much every year. I’ll start off at #1 singles, where I actually have no idea as to who it will be. Based on fall results, Alex Ruderman will be the #1, as he made the finals of the ITA regional tournament. However, Ian Wagner had a stellar season at #3 last year and looked every bit the part of a top singles player in DIII. His loss to Ruderman in ITAs was a bit disappointing, as it was in straight sets as well, but I don’t know the whole story. Either way, I think the #1 spot will be a question mark coming into the season. Kjellberg ran through their team at ITAs, which is a pretty bad sign. Expect this to be an up and down season at the 1 spot. Moving on to #2, here’s where I expect Wagner/Ruderman to have success, both guys have championship experience and will also have great coaching as always. The middle of the lineup figures to be the strongest place for Emory, as I expect Halpern and Kahler to win a good amount of matches, especially it being Kahler’s senior year. This part of the lineup will be huge for the Eagles. They lose one of these matches, they’ll have to sweep either the top or bottom of the lineup against great teams, which will always be tough, especially when they were one point from getting swept by Kenyon doubles last year on the biggest stage. The bottom of the lineup will probably feature Perusse, who didn’t play in the fall but has been a very, very good 5-6 in the past, and one of the 4 star freshmen they brought in. You could even see two of the freshmen playing at these spots. Thing is, I don’t trust that these guys will be able to put together the season that last year’s 5-6 Eagles were able to. Last year, they were playing probably a spot lower than they should be. This year, they’re probably just where they should be. Expect toss-ups at the bottom of the lineup, and who knows? Could be a pressure match coming to one of these guys.
Moving on to doubles, this will again be the weak part of the Eagles lineup. There was a very surprising result from Issacs/Szczurek, as they had not played in the lineup at all last year. That result tells me that they have potential, but how much will Coach Browning trust those guys in the regular season? I expect Emory to be mixing and matching teams this year trying to find a guarantee like they did with Pottish at 3 doubles. This strategy was great when you had a dominant top 2, but there should and probably will be more emphasis on doubles for this team.
As always, Emory’s schedule will be one of the toughest in DIII, and that is a testament to their coach. They’ll start off with some tough DI and DII tests, as they always do, to gear up for Indoor Nationals. Indoors will start off with a tilt against Gustavus (I believe), where we will get our first glimpse of the expected Eagles lineup. Gustavus, as we saw last year, will be a tough test for them, as they play great doubles and could steal a few at the top of the lineup, but I fully expect the Eagles to take care of business. They’ll move onto play the 4/5 matchup. One thing to note here – with Wash U dropping out of Indoors, this 4/5 will be Cruz vs. Trinity Texas. The Eagles will avoid a huge early matchup vs Hopkins, who will now be the 3 seed. I expect the Eagles to take out either of those two teams, and move on to play either Kenyon or Hop in the final, which will definitely be the first measuring stick for this Eagles season. Personally, I think both of these teams are more talented, and this championship match will mark the first loss for Emory in well over a year.
Emory will then move on to the Stag-Hen, and to be honest I’m not totally sure who will be going this year (editor’s note: Emory, Kenyon, CMS, Bowdoin, P-P, Case Western, Skidmore, Swarthmore). Obviously, if Wash U, CMS, Amherst, or Williams are there, we’ll see some really hard fought matches. Again, this will be a tournament that Emory will make it far, then lose to a more talented team – but this will earn them valuable big match experience. Almost immediately after the Stag Hen will be a date that I’ve definitely circled: Hopkins/Emory in Atlanta. Last year, the Eagles easily took down the Jays on their home courts, but we all know that Hopkins will come out looking for revenge after a heart breaking loss in the Elite 8 last year. However, I expect this will be a statement match for the Eagles, and they’ll take down Hop at home. Moving onto UAA Championships, the story is whether or not Wash U/CMU can take a UAA title away. If any year, this will be it. This will be a huge tournament for seeding and scheduling purposes moving into NCAAs, and it is definitely way too early to make a prediction on a conference tournament. Expect the finals for Emory to be a potential turning point in their season.
Overall, as you can see from my prediction, I have the Eagles in the Final 4 once again. They are kind of like a really good NFL QB, you just don’t bet against them when it comes playoff time. It should be noted that I do not think this will be a championship caliber team, and they may not even be a “top 4” team. That being said, experience and the Emory name will take them to the semifinals of the Big Dance.