Coach: Scott Thielke, 16th season
Location: Gambier, OH
2009 Ranking: 7
2010 Ranking: 12
2011 Ranking: 7
2012 Ranking: 2
2013 Projection: D3Central: 1, D3TG: 2
I think it’s safe to say Coach Thielke plain knows how to win. Pretty much wherever he goes his team wins. Whether its Kenyon Men, women, or Division 1 his record speaks for itself (146-54 in D1, 281-95 with Kenyon Men…wow). He clearly brings in some great recruits and also knows how to develop his players. Kenyon has been a strong program of late, including their breakout National Runners-up performance last year. This can be attributed to their talent coupled with their incredible grit, determination, and passion. Many were likely surprised by Kenyon’s run in the National Tournament, but really their body of work was very impressive. They only lost to Emory (3x, ouch), an early loss to an underestimated NC Wesleyan team (5-4), and to Cal Lu (5-4, also pretty early in season). The Kenyon program has given itself a great reputation and it is likely to continue this year. Especially considering they lost no one to graduation.
To start, the Lords seemed to have lost Austin Griffin. I am not sure what the reason was but he was half of their one dubs last year and did a solid job there. Kenyon’s achilles heal in some of their big matches was their inability to take a 2-1 lead after doubles. Luckily for them, the doubles team of Heerboth and Turlington won their ITA and placed 5th in Alabama. From what I understand, this team will likely be their 3 doubles…(at best). This bodes well for them if they can get a solid one and two doubles together. The return of Razumovsky from injury should also supplement doubles nicely. In addition, it certainly helps to have a group of guys together for more than one year, and the Lords have this luxury going forward.
As for singles, returning your whole lineup from a national runners-up team is certainly a nice bonus. The loss of Griffin shouldn’t hurt them at all here, and I suspect a freshman or two to hop into the lineup. Add that to another year of experience for Burgin, who has already shown he is a top caliber player by placing 3rd in Alabama. Who knows if he will play ahead of or behind Raz, but it’s safe to say this will be one of the toughest 1, 2 combos out there. CJ Williams was solid for them at three, and brings senior leadership and a wealth of experience. Heerboth was likely one of the best 4’s in the country, who only had 6 losses all year to D3 opponents (3 to Emory players). 5 and 6 is where I feel they could have a freshman or two step in to the 5 and 6 spots, or possibly Rosensteel and Ye have improved enough to keep them ahead. Either way, this is a very formidable and deep singles rotation that will be able to line up and likely smoke most teams this year. But let’s not forget this is assuming they bring that same fire and intensity this year as being favorites instead of (slight) underdogs.
The Lords’ schedule is very formidable and could be one of the toughest in the nation. But, that somewhat depends on how things shake out with teams in the Central Region. They start with D1 UW-Green Bay followed by UW-Whitewater and Chicago (don’t underestimate Chicago, however, with a new coach and a boatload of talent). Assuming they win those, they will roll into indoors as one of the favorites where they will have their first “real” D3 challenges. They will likely take on NC Wesleyan, then either JHU or Cruz, then (my guess is) Emory. If they can win this, the Lords will be poised to win the National Championship this year (editor’s note: because they will have vanquished their demons by beating Emory).
The rest of their schedule does not get much easier, but they can continue to ride their hot streak into the Stag-Hen. I’m not 100% sure which teams are in this tournament this year but if the Lords win Indoors they will be the favorites here (editor’s note: Emory, Kenyon, CMS, Bowdoin, Pomona-Pitzer, Case, Skidmore, Swarthmore. They get Kenyon first round, probably CMS second round, and then a potential rematch with Emory). This is where I can see them slipping up. Let’s be honest, a perfect run does not seem likely for any team this year, especially given the parity in recent years and the influx of talent all over. That being said this could be a good opportunity for a “good” loss, that will allow the Lords to use this as fuel moving forward. Every team likes to have a little extra motivation, and a team that relies on their passion as much as these guys I think it will only help them.
From there they have winnable matches against Mary Wash, Case Western, Denison, Depauw, and CMU. Now, all of these matches are trap matches. If the Lords don’t come to play in any of these matches they could slip up, especially the CMU match. But ultimately their experience and grit should be able to pull them through this rigorous schedule and get them into the NCAC with between 0-3 losses (0 if they play perfect, 3 if they come out flat against CMU, anyone in the Stag, or Indoors).
The Lords will likely cruise through conference like most years, given the benefit of playing on their home courts and their superior talent. They will still need to play well but I don’t see Denison or Depauw putting together back to back perfect matches to beat the other then take out Kenyon.
After that, comes NCAA’s. Last year the Lords proved they are ready to play when it comes tournament time, playing their best tennis yet to get to the finals then giving Emory all they could handle losing 5-3. They were finally able to pull out 2 doubles points, but fell just short in singles (editor’s note: they were up 2-1 in the Stag-Hen). With Emory losing three studs, (Emory beat them three times last year), Amherst being very young, and everyone else being…well everyone else. This could be the year Kenyon wins a National Championship. Now, I hate that the first team preview I do, I go out on a limb and pick the National Champion team…but! Like I said, they returned their entire starting lineup, added 3 very good freshman, Burgin placed 3rd, Heerboth and Turlington placed 5th, and they didn’t even have Razumovsky! These guys have experience, a great coach, senior leadership, have been here before, and are hungry for more. This could be the ticket that gets them to the promise land.