Coach: Worth Richardson, 1st Season
2009 Ranking: #16
2010 Ranking: #9
2011 Ranking: #12
2012 Ranking: #13
2013 Prediction: D3ATS #23, D3Tg #26
Welcome to the team preview that I’m pretty sure neither myself nor my colleagues here at D3Tennis wanted to do (editor’s note: it’s true). This team has been an enigma for pretty much its existence, mainly because of the 100% international lineup that they throw out each and every year. With the graduation of Khussainov (probably not spelt right), Lemongo, and the transfer of another couple of guys, this team is a ton of guesswork. To make this even harder, they are bringing in Coach Richardson, who replaces Coach Modise and will look to continue to keep this team as a top 15 mainstay. I mean, even the team performance was an enigma last year, as they had a huge win over eventual runner up Kenyon, a loss against #19 Carnegie Mellon, and ended up dominating Whitman in NCAAs before losing to Emory in their regional. They really had an up and down year last year with a ton of talent, and I can’t help but expect a down year with a rookie head coach and a team that is losing a ton of graduates. That has a larger effect than just the talent they lose, and there has to be a feeling of worry in NCW about their season this year, even with the success of Kjellberg and Prostak this fall.
When we talk about the North Carolina Wesleyan Battling Bishops, we’re pretty much talking about two people: Robert Kjellberg and Artisiom Prostak. Kjellberg, who has had a storied career already with NCW, was a surprising runner-up. He was one of the best #2s in all of DIII last year, and looks to be one of the best #1s as well this year. If NCW has any chance of doing any damage to the top teams this year, it begins with Kjellberg. He can definitely steal two points from pretty much any team this year, especially given the general upheaval of #1 players in DIII. The most likely #2 player for the Bishops will be Prostak, who had a decent fall, but in my eyes a disappointing performance in the ITA regional. He doesn’t look to be a singles player and if he does play #2, he will be one of the weakest #2s in the top 30. However, please let it be noted that I don’t have much information on the other 6 players on NCW’s roster. One of these guys could be better than Prostak, but given that they decided to only send these two to ITA regionals is a bad sign regarding their talent. They continued to send off Kjellberg and Prostak to the other DI tournaments they played in, so there are basically two different possibilities here. Either NCW has a few gems that they are hiding from all of DIII (highly unlikely) or their team simply is not that good this year. They probably have a decent amount of talent to be around #20, but as you can see from my prediction, we’ll see if they can keep that up for a whole year. I just don’t believe in a team that relies so heavily on top 2 guys, one who isn’t even a good #2. Doubles is pretty much a similar story, although I must say… wouldn’t the best strategy here be putting someone like Hviid with Kjellberg at #1, and Prostak at #2? If they can steal 3 points from mid DIII teams, they could honestly win a few matches. But, I’m not a coach, I’m just a blogger.
The Bishops begin their spring schedule in the UMW Quad-Tournament. Given the lineup analysis above, I see the match against Case Western being a blowout, where NCW loses 7-2 (guess who the 2 wins are). Then they’ll play Mary Wash, a team that doesn’t look that deep this year either, but will probably give NCW trouble because they at least have 6 viable players, something that I can’t really say the Bishops have at this point. I’d be surprised if the Bishops are able to win this one, but maybe they can pull it off with a few things falling their way. The tournament finishes with a match against Vassar, and I think this will be the lone win for the Bishops in Virginia that weekend. If they come away with a loss, you can pretty much put the Bishops season in the dumpster before it even begins.
To finish off February, they’ll compete in Indoor Nationals, where they will take away a spot from a team that is much more deserving than them. Kenyon will destroy them in the first round, and they’ll probably end up playing another better team in the first round of the back draw. Then comes the inevitable match vs. Gustavus, a team very similar to the Bishops. However, Gustavus will probably sweep doubles, and that’ll be too much for NCW. Chalk up another loss.
March will begin with a very important match against CNU, who is another mediocre team in that conference but NCW’s main competition. I’m not really too familiar with Newport’s team at this point, but I do know they’ve lost Shulman, Heyer, and King, so that team is not looking too good either. I have NCW there due to Kjellerg/Prostak. The Bishops will then move on to Spring Break where they’ll most likely get slammed by P-P, CMS, and Trinity Texas, but will get Kjellberg some nice wins and more experience for his NCAA Individual campaign. The rest of the season will then conclude with likely losses to Washington and Lee and Hopkins, and a conference win, moving them to the NCAA tournament for the 5thyear in a row, at least.
Overall, it looks like this season will be Kjellberg’s season, and he’ll probably be playing in individuals for both singles and doubles (it will be hard for them to earn one of A South’s four spots with Emory, CMU, Hopkins, and Case all throwing out talented doubles teams). Otherwise, I don’t believe in this team at all and they will most likely suffer a Round of 32 exit in NCAAs.