Coach: Frank Barnes, 11th season
Location: Whitewater, WI
2009 Ranking: NR
2010 Ranking: NR
2011 Ranking: 21
2012 Ranking: 29
2013 Projection: D3Central: 18, D3TG: 23
Let’s be honest. The reason the Warhawk’s finished the 2011 season ranked as high as 21 is because of their “upset” win over Whitman. Really their only win was over Kalamazoo (30th), and of course Whitman in Nationals. However, this was a massive improvement from their previous years of being unranked and on the outside looking in. This program has seen a steady incline in its talent and it seems to be starting to show. They have a good coach and some good senior leadership with three likely starting. It is possible that the team from 2011 was rightfully the 21st team in the nation, but it was difficult to fully justify by their schedule. Sure they had their couple wins and close losses to good teams, but ultimately fell just short (i.e. Case Western). This year, as I will get to later, they have a REAL schedule and if they were waiting for an opportunity this is the year to take it.
The Warhawk’s seem to have had the “anyone can play 1 for us” syndrome. I think most teams can relate to this in some way, but for the Warhawks this has seemed to be an issue. They seem to have trouble counting on wins from the top and rely heavily on the three and four singles spots and their doubles. Last year, they had a lot of trouble finding big wins at the 5 and 6 spots as well. A lot of pressure was put on McGlashen (3) and Osborne (4) in singles and the two of them lead the team in singles wins. Unfortunately, this is not the ticket to becoming a top 20 team. But, this year I’m projecting them to be.
The reasons being; they brought in a Division 1 transfer who performed well at his first two tournaments of the year but seemed to pull out due to injury (hopefully just some minor tweaks for the team’s sake), Balkin, Bayliss, McGlashen, and Osborne, assuming they improved are all one year older and can bring some major experience to the table (the latter three are seniors), and finally their two freshman performed well at ITA’s Humphreys took Donkena (GAC #1) to a tight 3-setter and Ben Klein took Moncada (Semifinalist and St. John’s #1) to a close 3 and 5.All meaning, the Warhawk’s should finally have a clear number 1, if Shklyar can stay healthy, and a very solid and deep 2-6.
On the flip side, I think it is generally known that the Warhawks play good doubles (see, University of Chicago match). This year should be no exception. Shklyar played as high as #1 doubles in the Cleveland State lineup, while Balkin and Osborne won their ITA and should be a tough out. The question will be if they can find a good 3 team, as that seems to have bit them in the past. The addition of Shklyar should push Bayliss or McGlashen to the 3 doubles in combination with either one of the freshman or Friend who was 3 last year.
Overall, the lineup pieces seem to be there for the ‘Hawks. They finally have the talent to match their heart and intensity. The question will be: Can they put those pieces together?
As I eluded to earlier, the Warhawk’s have a very impressive schedule this year (especially given their standards in recent years). I mentioned in my Kenyon preview, the Warhawk’s start early with the defending runner-ups, who lost nobody. It’s a tough start for a program looking to make a statement this year. This will definitely be a benchmark for them. If they can test Kenyon and make it a match that should put them on the radar, but if they get trounced (which they very well might) it could be difficult for them to recover. Honestly, if you look they actually play four division 1 teams and Kenyon in their first five matches. This will likely go one of two ways; they will be absolutely crushed mentally from being beaten, or they will learn from these losses and become better for it. This will be an important time for them as the rest of the schedule leaves a lot of opportunities for them.
They then host a home invite where they play some weaker opponents. I do, however, want to mention Grinnell College is a much improved team in the Central Region and deserves some credit, as well as Wheaton College who had a very good year last year and likely were slightly outside of the Independent selection to NCAA’s last year (maybe if they played a better schedule).
Then comes the fun stuff. They play Kenyon, Depauw, Case Western, Gustavus, Amherst, Williams, Pomona-Pitzer, Middlebury, Univ. of Chicago, Kalamazoo, and (for their short stint on the National Rankings last year for ironically beating this Whitewater team) Coe. That is 10 Nationally Ranked opponents and each one of them, except Kzoo, is ahead of them in the rankings. Anyways, this is a fantastic opportunity where they give themselves a great chance to move up from their current ranking of 29, assuming they can take care of business against the likes of Coe, Grinnell, Carleton, etc.
The Warhawk’s destiny lies in its own hands. They can potentially beat Depauw, Case Western, Gustavus, Chicago, and Kalamazoo. But, any team that plays with as much heart as the Warhawks and has the ability to jump out to a 3-0 lead after doubles also has the potential to take out a superior team. This team should not be taken lightly or overlooked by some of these tier 1 programs; it may come back to bite them.
All in all, I’m predicting the Warhawks to avenge last years loss to Depauw. I think they can take an early lead in doubles and their improved depth can turn the tables. This is the same recipe that should help them edge out Case and Gustavus. In the past couple years they have dominated doubles over Chicago and squeaked out singles wins. I don’t see the Warhawks taking out any of the “Major” teams I mentioned earlier, but wins over the aforementioned programs could spell a very good season. I also see them winning their matches against currently unranked opponents (including Coe), which will likely have them around 20 in the nation before NCAA’s.
They will most definitely qualify as an independent school given their track record. This then puts them in a place similar to years past. This leaves them in familiar territory at the end of the year. Depending on the experience they gain throughout they could be a dangerous team to face in the round of 16. I’m predicting them to lose a close match in the round of 16 this year to a Wash U, Kenyon, etc. (editor’s note: for those that find this assertion ridiculous, remember that W-W was points away from taking a 2-1 lead on Wash U a couple years ago. They will be better this year)
This is where it will be interesting to see how each of the teams they played fair in their respective seasons. That will determine where they fall in the rankings at the end of the year. Ultimately, I see the these guys finishing with a solid year and a ranking around 18. This is, after all, a great opportunity with 3 division 1 transfers, and 3 seniors to take a step forward in the right direction for the improving Warhawks.