I’m trying to keep pace with D3 Central in terms of these team previews, and so today I have the honor of presenting one of the potential dark horse candidates to make a mini run in the NCAA tournament. They’re smarter than you, and they know it. Boys and girls, the MIT Engineers…
Head Coach: Dave Hagymas (9th season as Head Coach)
Location: Cambridge, Mass
2011 Regional Ranking: 8th (National Ranking: 25th)
2012 Regional Ranking: 8th
2013 Regional Ranking: 6th (National Ranking: 26th)
2014 Projected Regional Ranking: 9th
2014 Projected National Ranking: 28th
This MIT team has had some extreme ups and downs over the past couple of years. Last year their top singles were strong, lower singles were weak, and doubles were inconstant. Not once did MIT win more than 1 doubles matches against teams ranked in the top 10 regionally (Bates, Stevens Tech, Amherst, Tufts, and Skidmore). They still managed to beat Bates and Stevens Tech, but their doubles hole proved too deep with 5-4 losses against Tufts and Skidmore to end their season. If coach Hagymas can improve the dubs this year, the Engineers have a shot to play spoiler to some teams NCAA hopes. MIT will undoubtedly win the NEWMAC (they have won their conference for 15 years in a row) and earn a Pool A bid to nationals where they will likely lose in the round of 16.
Best case scenario: The Engineers cruise through their cupcake schedule, win the NEWMACs, earn a #2 seed in a bad region (unlikely because of their proximity to Amherst/Midd/Williams), get Mother Nature’s help with a downpour and then shock the world by beating a bad #1 seed indoors (these guys are way more dangerous indoors) and make the school’s 1st quarterfinal appearance since 2001.
WORST CASE SCENARIO: MIT loses to Bates, Bowdoin, and Tufts, limps through their conference tournament, gets a #3 seed in a region with a team like Bowdoin as a #2 seed, and loses 5-0 in their 1st round tournament match.
Key Additions: Kenny Gea
Key Losses: Larry Pang, Matt Skalak (both graduated)
Losing Pang and Skalak will hurt the Engineers as the two seniors combined for a 21-7 singles record in dual matches last season. Pang was solid at #2, earning big wins over Berg (Bates) and Glickman (Tufts), while Skalak’s only two losses all season came at the hands of good players in Jacobson (Tufts) and Dale (Amherst). It’s funny to compare these two guys because they always seemed so different. Pang was hot headed and never hesitated to get in a confrontation in order to get under the skin of his opponent; Skalak went about his business as if he wasn’t even playing an opponent. Both gentlemen will surely be missed. Let’s take a look at the possible 2013 Engineer lineup…
#1 Edwin Zhang, senior.
This needs to be Zhang’s year. He is a standup guy, an extremely intelligent tennis player, and needs to find a way to win a few more matches if his team is going to make noise in his final year. We all know he has skills, but the fact of the matter is that MIT’s schedule does not let us have a true idea of Zhang’s talent. He was 10-5 in dual matches last year, including losses to the #1’s from Amherst, Bentley, Franklin & Marshall, Tufts, and Wheaton. Zhang hits a very solid ball, but is a bit streaky, and that has cost him at times. This fall, Zhang has dropped two tight matches, Fritz (Amh) in a super and LaBarre (RPI) in 3 sets. He was the #3 seed at ITAs and coasted to a win over Lai (UMass-Boston) but needed to comeback from 0-6 down to beat Astrachan (Will) 6-4 in the 3rd. Zhang is a great player and has the ability to beat anyone that opposes him. In order for the Engineers to win more team matches against the top 10 teams in the Northeast, Zhang will need to be a rock.
#2 Kevin Wang, sophomore.
Wang went 11-2 in dual matches at #3 for the Engineers last season with loses coming to Yaraghi (Amh) and Knight (Skid). While the Yaraghi loss was unsurprising, the Knight loss was a bit perplexing. However, I’m willing to give Kevin the pass because he also beat the likes of Planche (Bates), Renfrow (USCG), Yavanoff (Deis), and Lutz (Tufts). The tests at #2 will be a little tougher for Wang, but I expect him to pass with flying colors. The extra year of experience, coupled with two closer-than-the-score losses to Fritz and Yaraghi this fall have me believing that Wang will succeed at #2.
#3 Eugene Oh, junior.
Similar to Wang, Oh won the majority of his matches for MIT last year. Notable wins included Blau (Tufts), Fife (Amh), and Siegel (Deis) and he took a 6-0 set from both Blau and Fife. Again similar to Wang, Oh mysteriously lost his NCAA match to Steerman (Skid) in 3 sets. Perhaps without the Thoroughbreds on the schedule this year the Engineers singles players will steer clear of upset losses. I think, like Wang, that Oh is poised for another great year, and will be the most successful spot in the Engineer lineup.
#4 Kenny Gea, freshman.
Coach Hagymas seems like the type of guy who would go for smooth jazz. I’d have recruited Kenny Gea for his name alone. The Engineer faithful needs to hope his tennis skills are as delicious as the mellow sounds of his saxophone. Now that I’ve beaten that joke to death, Gea is a 3-star recruit from Irvine California. Perhaps D3 West can provide us with a bit more insight as to whether his ranking reflects his talent? Gea took out Vu (the #1/2 from Babson) in the 1st round of ITAs, before running into Lil’ Weiss in the 2nd round. Gea also lost in straight sets to fellow freshman Zykov (Amh) in their fall dual match. His inexperience will be better suited towards the bottom of the Engineer’s lineup, but look for him to continue to improve as he becomes more comfortable playing college tennis.
#5 Curtis Wu, senior.
The first part of MIT’s rhyming bottom of the ladder tandem, Curtis Wu has been a bit of a disappointment over the past couple years. He came into school as a 4 star from Yorba Linda, California, and went 9-2 in dual matches playing anywhere from #2-#5. His sophomore year, Curtis went a misleading 7-3, losing all three matches against ranked opponents (Midd, Tufts, Bates) while playing #’s 5/6. Last season Wu wasn’t even in the singles lineup for the NEWMAC conference tournament or NCAA match against Skidmore. However, Wu was very solid at #1 dubs with Zhang, and that is how I see him contributing to his team this season. Wu lost to Hendrix (Amh) in straight sets already this fall, and if he doesn’t work hard this winter could likely lose his lineup spot again this spring. If that happens, look for somebody like Dennis Garcia to slip up into the bottom of the Engineer lineup. On the other hand, if Wu plays to his ability then this spot could become automatic for the Engineers.
#6. Jeffrey Bu, sophomore.
Wu’s struggles may be Bu’s gains as he stands to have a spot in the bottom of this year’s Engineer lineup. Bu was a perfect 13-0 (dubs and singles combined) in dual matches last spring. Though he did not play against a ranked team, the mere fact that he won all of those matches while only once dropping more than 3 games is impressive. Bu was another 3-star from California (the Engineers seem to collect them) so we know he has some talent. This fall, Bu played #3 dubs and #6 singles against Amherst, losing 8-4 to Amherst’s likely real #3 team and 10-8 in a super to likely not Amherst’s real #6. Those results are not totally discouraging; taking a set from Amherst (even if Arnaboldi isn’t their real #6) is a good sign. I think Bu will be able to win all the matches he should, and challenge ranked teams like Bates & Tufts where depth is not their specialty.
|Feb 28||UMass Boston||4:00 PM|
|Mar 14||at Bates College||4:00 PM|
|Mar 29||at Springfield College *||3:00 PM|
|Apr 2||Wheaton College *||4:00 PM|
|Apr 5||U.S. Coast Guard Academy *||1:00 PM|
|Bowdoin College||4:00 PM|
|Apr 9||at Brandeis University||3:00 PM|
|Apr 12||Clark University *||1:00 PM|
|Apr 16||at Emerson College *||3:00 PM|
|Apr 19||Babson College *||1:00 PM|
|Apr 23||at Tufts University||3:30 PM|
MIT’s schedule obviously has its benefits and consequences. The Engineers play in a conference where they should not lose a match. A loss in the NEWMAC can only hurt their regional and national rankings. In fact, if they lose just one conference match, then they will likely fall out of the national rankings. Brandeis has the potential do some damage, though I do not believe they will beat the Engineers this year. Losing to a top 10 team like Bowdoin will not hurt MIT; however, the matches against Tufts and Bates will be where we see how good this Engineer team truly is. The match at Bates is early, and has become a bit of a rivalry match for the two teams with the home team winning each of the past three years. I see the trend continuing this year, MIT will fall short in another hotly contested match 5-4. The Tufts battle should also be very close as both teams are stronger at the top of their respective lineups. I’ll wait to predict the outcome of this match until later in the season because lineups are sure to change before the end of April. As I see it, the issue with this schedule is that there is no real room for improvement. Due to the lack of ranked teams on their schedule, even if the Engineers go 10-1 and win their conference tournament, their ranking will not improve drastically. MIT does not play a team ranked between 11-23, which will likely hurt their chances to make the top 20. No matter their schedule, MIT has the firepower to make an impact this year, and I see them being a team that top schools do not want in their section of the NCAA tournament draw. Good luck to the Engineers, and remember that the two most important parts of tennis are Mens et Manus…