Yo, long time no talk. Sorry, folks. Not a ton has really gone on though. To steal a favorite blogger inside joke, WHAT WOULD WE EVEN TALK ABOUT? The answer is probably not much, but that changes today. To finish out the fall season and wrap things up a bit, I’ve put together a listicle for you all with some of my random thoughts. No, I probably won’t hit as many teams as I usually do (edit after I finished writing: I hit almost everybody!) , but don’t fret, it won’t be long until season previews start rolling out, and I’ll try and get to a ton of teams in some shape or form. But that’s the future. For now, in no particular order, here are ten random thoughts on the fall season.
- Skidmore is still the team to beat in the Liberty League
No Kai, no problem? It’s hard to do, but I refuse to pick anyone but Skidmore to win the Liberty League until it actually happens, barring some unforeseen circumstances. Wynne’s development into a potentially legit 1 or 2 alongside Koulouris will really soften the blow of losing Kai-Yuen Leung, and even though there aren’t a ton of results to go off of (mainly just the Midd invite), it looks like Skid’s depth will be pretty solid too with guys like Travis Leaf, Jack McLaren, Kevin Ha, and Yuqi Wang.
RPI is coming off a pretty encouraging fall as well, especially from their younger guys. For them to have a chance, seniors McKinley Grimes and Tristan Wise are going to have to contribute more than they did this fall.
After some really nice recruiting classes, I’m not sure Hobart brought in enough to really replace Michael Rusk and Danny Kot to the point where they can compete with Skidmore, but I also think Dubrovsky, Salita, and Atwater will continue to keep this team relevant near the top of the conference.
Shoutout to Vassar, too (not just because they are fans of The Blog). The Brewers sit as fourth best in the conference and have some separation on either side, but they’ve continued to bring in solid recruits and if some develop well, they could absolutely finish in the top three this year.
- NYU and Rochester’s once compelling rivalry is dead for now
Checking in on the UAA bottom feeders, my main takeaway from NYU’s fall is, as usual, they are a huge wild card. This team always has a ton of talent, but struggles to put it all together on the court for any number of reasons. This year is no different. Umberto Setter, Ben Teoh, and Yanik Parsch all bring multiple years of experience to the table, and there are a lot of guys that could also have an impact this spring, among them their top recruit Jay Min, Case transfer Josh Piatos, and sophomores Michael Li and Vishal Walia.
On the other side of the state, I hate what I’m seeing at Rochester. It wasn’t long ago that these two teams had some great battles and both were in the national rankings. While NYU has taken a small step forward, Rochester has taken a massive step back. They lost several 5-4 matches last year where they held big leads on multiple courts, and now their two senior captains are no longer listed on their online roster. I don’t like being harsh on teams, but what’s happened at Rochester recently really jumped out at me. Looking at results from the fall, they were pretty dismal, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Yellow Jackets fall out of the Northeast top 20. NYU will not have to worry in the slightest about finishing last in the UAA this year.
- Get excited about Denison, but not THAT excited
I was watching Denison closely this fall, because if there’s one thing I love, it’s getting overly-hyped up about teams with big time recruiting classes. There were definitely some nice results from the newcomers, but as I learned with last year’s fantasy draft, it’s foolish to write much into fall results from freshman. What I really liked about Denison’s fall was the play of some of their upperclassmen, namely James McDonald and Kevin Brown. Neither one had any amazing wins, but Brown beat Vishnubhotla (Wash U) and McDonald had wins over Stroup (Case) and Zalenski (Kenyon). Vlad Rotnov and Mitchell Thai are among the freshmen that could play a big role in Denison’s quest to win the NCAC. While Oberlin should also be solid, the real test is how Denison matches up with Kenyon. For the record, just like Skidmore, I’m not picking against Kenyon unless someone actually beats them. Every year it seems either DePauw or Denison looks like they’ll have a chance, and while my sense is that the TIgers will be down this year, the Big Red have the talent to beat Kenyon on the right day. @NewD3Central is our resident Kenyon expert so I’ll defer to him on how the Lords are looking, but as usual, the NCAC should be a fun conference to follow.
- Will UWW and Coe’s April 29th match be as huge as it was last year?
As we all remember, UWW was on the cusp of missing NCAAs via Pool B last spring, and needed a late season win over Coe to solidify their place. They pulled the upset, and now sit one spot ahead of the Kohawks in the national rankings. These two programs are terrific at developing talent and getting the most out of their players, which makes their head to head battles so fun to watch. Both have very good schedules with lots of chances to move up (or down) in the rankings before their match, but it’s not unrealistic to think that UWW’s NCAA fate might ride on this one. Obviously a lot depends on how their seasons go, along with those of TCNJ and Santa Cruz, and since there’s no way in hell I’m going to start considering Pool B scenarios in NOVEMBER, we’ll just have to wait and see.
I know I just said I’m not going to get into Pool B scenarios, but I already planned on having a Pool B section, so here it goes: If it’s like last year (and I have no idea if it is) there will be two Pool B spots, with the three most likely candidates being TCNJ, UWW, and UCSC. As usual, UCSC doesn’t have much of a schedule, though it is slightly improved from past years, with matches against George Fox, Whittier, and Cal Lu all being pretty much must wins, and an upset over Redlands, PP, or by some miracle CMS or Midd pretty much guaranteeing them a spot. UWW and TCNJ have more opportunities to get good resume wins, but the trickiest part of all this is that the three schools (which also happen to be the three best public D3 tennis schools) have no common opponents. UCSC only has seven matches vs D3 schools (all but Midd are west coast teams), UWW plays a ton of matches, but all against Central teams, and TCNJ only plays NE and ASouth opponents. So between the three of them, they’ve got a lot of opponents covered, but NONE in common. I actually don’t think there’s a single team that more than one of TCNJ, UWW, and UCSC play. So basically it’s all shaping up to be a big mess at the end of the year, unless there’s three spots, in which case this paragraph was a waste of time!
- Where do Babson and Colby fit into the mix in the Northeast?
I could be wrong, but I think I’m supposed to cover these teams this year. Even if not, I’m not stopping now, especially with the knowledge that one of Colby’s freshmen has a tweet of mine posted on his wall. Anyway, Babson is another team that had a quietly solid year and brought in some strong recruits this fall. Alberto De Mendiola narrowly missed NCAAs last spring and could be a major presence in the Northeast singles rankings. Freshman Andre Libnic had a good win over Wang (Bowdoin) at ITAs, but followed it up with a 1&0 loss to Lil Raghavan (Williams). I think Babson is probably only slightly improved from last year, but a team with De Mendiola at the top and Libnic, Brandon Rosenbluth, and Ben Roque in the middle of the lineup is pretty respectable. The Beavers aren’t going to beat MIT in the NEWMAC, but they could get up to about 17 in the Northeast rankings.
For Colby, my expectations are pretty low for now with the graduations of Murad and Reid, but I’ve liked what I’ve seen, especially from sophomore Scott Altmeyer and freshman Sumukh Pathi. Pathi had a great win over Tyler Barr at ITAs (Barr retired after losing the first set 7-6, and it’s worth noting if he had won he would’ve faced his brother), and Altmeyer also had a nice win over Rosenbluth (Babson) at the same event. Freshman Jeremy Atwater (brother of Hobart junior Jonathan) and senior Jonathan Mendoza also had some decent results at the Wallach Invitational, and I think both of those guys will need to contribute lower down in the lineup. Hard to believe Blog favorite Shaw Speer is already a senior, but he’s another guy who the Mules will be dependent on for some mid-lineup points. Overall, Colby’s a well coached team of good guys, and I hope they do well. BUT, what I said earlier this year about them being in over their heads in the NESCAC stands until I’m proven otherwise.
7. Where do Wabash, Oberlin, and DePauw fit into the NCAC?
Ok I’m going to try and chill with the massive overblurbs since I’ve still got to write about these teams again for the season previews, but to keep it somewhat brief: DePauw looks to be in for a down year, though several guys on their roster haven’t been in action, and if they return they might be good enough for top four in the NCAC, but not much better than that. Wabash doesn’t have many fall results to go off of, but nothing they did makes me believe they’re much different from last year (which is to say they are a middle of the pack NCAC team). Oberlin is coming off one of their best years in history, and right now I think they are firmly the third best team in the NCAC. With Paik graduating and everyone moving up at least one spot, I think they will struggle to compete higher in the lineup, especially against Denison and Kenyon. As much as I want to give a hot take on one of these teams, I really can’t given how little we’ve seen of them. If I had to guess, though, DePauw finishes last out of these three.
8. The CCIW is up for grabs this year.
Wheaton, Carthage, and Augustana are going to have a fun three-way battle for the CCIW title this year. At least that’s my conclusion after the fall. Wheaton three-star freshman Anderson Park had a really nice run at ITAs, which is huge for Wheaton, as they are losing their 1&3 and struggled with depth last year. Carthage still has Abban, and freshman Daniel Moore looks like he’s going to be playing fairly high in the lineup as well, but honestly beyond that I have no idea if they can compete. Carthage’s drop off after third singles last year was remarkable, and they did not prove this fall that they’ve shored up their questionable depth. I know I just said they could win the conference, but I actually would be very surprised if that happens. Augustana is an interesting team that has never really gotten much Blog love. Senior Samuel Totten and Brazilian freshman Caio DeRezende will both be very formidable at the top of the lineup, and if there’s one thing I know about the CCIW, it’s that there’s not a ton of depth, so if they can compete up high in the lineup, anything can happen down at 3-6. Overall, Augie and Wheaton showed me that this is going to be an interesting spring in Illinois/Wisconsin for D3 Tennis.
9. Anything notable happening up in the Land of 10,000 Lakes?
That’s Minnesota for you non-geography buffs. The short version is that no one is going to be remotely close to beating Gustavus in the MIAC. There’s not really a longer version of that, but I’ll at least point out the solid runs to the Round of 16 at ITAs from Carleton freshman Leo Vithoontein, Bethel junior Hunter Fernelius, and Macalester senior Josh Doyle. (No I didn’t just make those names up.) Vithoontein and Jordon O’Kelley also made the doubles semis, so Carleton looks like they’ll probably be good enough to stay put in the regional rankings. While not as exciting as Hawaii, Carleton’s spring break trip to Hilton Head will be a good week for them to get some decent matches against some different teams, and potentially pull an upset over UWW.
10. Who are the guys on less-known teams that could be in the mix for individuals?
You already know about guys like Herman Abban and Brady Anderson. But what about Serhii Tykhonenko? Caio DeRezende? Tykhonenko (College of St. Scholastica) had a nice run at the Gustavus ITA to the quarters, and DeRezende (Augustana) pushed Abban to a third set this fall in addition to his run to the Round of 16 at ITAs. Neither guy is going to be playing in Claremont come May, but they both should be a presence in the rankings. In the Northeast, RPI’s Sebastian Castillo-Sanchez has shown flashes of brilliance in the past, and the Engineers have a good enough strength of schedule that he could really get pretty high in the rankings in both singles and doubles alongside Andrew Imrie. JT Wynne is not really lesser known anymore, but he’s another guy from one of my teams that will start the spring in a great ranking spot (likely #2 in the Northeast…if the rankings ever get released). I’m sure I’m forgetting a ton of guys, so feel free to fill me in on who shouldn’t be overlooked.
I’m tired of writing, and you’re probably tired of reading, so let’s make this a quick goodbye. Thanks for reading and following along this fall! Excited for all that’s to come in the spring season both on the court and on The Blog. We appreciate all the support and interaction with players, parents, coaches, fans, etc. Click on the ad on the side of the website please, and if you’re so inclined, the donate button is on the top left on the site. As always, comments, emails, and tweets are welcome and encouraged!