I know, I know. You guys are all thinking: life was so much better without this sarcastic douche! How come he’s writing five of these in the last week? Well, the good news is that you won’t have to deal with me for much longer. With Redlands coming out today, I’ve completed the SCIAC swing, and I believe the only teams I have left are Trinity and UT-Dallas. Without further ado, your Redlands Bulldogs.
Coach: Geoffe Roche, 16th season
Location: Redlands, CA
2010 Ranking: 16
2011 Ranking: 15
2012 Ranking: 17
2013 Ranking: 14
2014 Projected Ranking: 10
I know I give Redlands a lot of shit, but has there ever been a team as consistently bad at winning close matches? For the last several seasons, they’ve been one or two wins away from being in the top 10, but you can always count on them to blow a couple 5-4 matches a year. Last season alone, they had 5-4 losses to Bowdoin, Williams, Middlebury (7-6 in the third of the decider), and (the nail in the mediocrity coffin) P-P. The previous season, they had a 5-4 loss to Cal Lu – to go with two other nailbiters with the Kingsmen – and a 5-4 loss to Trinity. The season before that, they had 5-4 losses to both Trinity and P-P. It goes back a couple more seasons, and in all that time, they had just one 5-4 victory over a ranked DIII team, and that came against 2012 Whittier. Yikes.
Now, you can look at that in one of two ways. You can look at it and say: this program is irrevocably damaged. They have chemistry issues; they have heart issues; they have coaching issues; they have transfer issues. You can also look at it and say: hey, if we pull out just two of those 10 matches, the perception of this team is completely different, and we’ve finished in the top 10 twice in the last four seasons.
Point is, Redlands was once a top 10 team consistently competing for the SCIAC championship, and that’s because they were winning those matches at about a 50/50 clip. If they can get back to that, they will be in the top 10 again, and that is a definite possibility.
Key Losses: Connor Hyde (2 singles, 2 doubles), John Brewer (5 singles)
Key Additions: Parker Wilson, Tom Suchdolski, Jake Ly, Josh Lieberman
Time to switch to positive mode… If there’s something Redlands has never had a problem with, it’s recruiting. This roster is absolutely loaded with talent, and there’s not a senior in the bunch. They have several impact freshmen looking to make it into the lineup and five total returning starters who won’t be eager to give up their spots. I think this season will rely a lot on how their doubles lineup shapes up because they really got spanked in the Fall tournament.
Up top, it’s gotta be Patrick Lipscomb. The Bulldog #1 is currently broadening his intellectual and cultural horizons in Spain, but he has been an absolute stud for Redlands the last two years. As a mere 3-star, nobody could have predicted what a profound impact he would make his freshman year, and he was similarly fantastic last year. It might take him a little while to get back into the swing of things, but he’s a very legitimate #1.
After that, I would predict the next four in the lineup would be some combination of Cummins, Hunt, Wilson, and Suchdolski. Cummins was a good-not-great #3 last year, and a year of experience will serve him well, but the favorite to take over the #2 spot in my head is 4-star freshman Parker Wilson. Wilson earned a seed in the ITA, losing to fellow freshman Max Macey of CMS in a brutal 3-setter before winning the 2nd-round consolation draw. To do so, Wilson had to beat CMS’ Seifert in straights, Cummins and Suchdolski in 10-pointers. Despite losing to Cummins, Suchdolski had a very nice win over P-P’s Maaaaaasssssen. Hunt was the only Redlands player to make the 3rd round of the ITAs where he had to retire in the middle of a 1st-set tiebreaker against Konstantinov. All told, those are four very strong players. Whoever takes the #2 spot might struggle, but Redlands will be incredibly strong at #4 and #5.
If I’m write about that, the Bulldogs will have an absolute war on their hands for the last singles spot. Incumbent junior, Graham Leahy will be looking to hold on to his spot, but to do so, he’ll have to hold off a trio of streaky juniors including doubles starters Max Licona and Teddy Jones, as well as Ted Burchett. Sophomore Collin Black and freshman Josh Lieberman are probably the next most likely Bulldogs to crack the starting lineup. Either way, any time a team has 10 players who could succeed in the starting lineup, it’s generally considered a good thing.
Doubles is a bit of a sticky situation. The Dawgs used to be one of the harder teams to out on the doubles court, but they haven’t been as solid the last couple years (which is perhaps the main difference between old-Redlands and new-Redlands).
In the Fall tournament, Redlands got just one of their four teams out of the first round – though they did dominate the 1st-round consolation draw. Nevertheless, I suspect they will probably shuffle things up a bit in the Spring. When Lipscomb comes back, they will have the option of reuniting the successful pairing of him and Leahy. The two juniors picked up several huge wins all season before fading down the stretch. Cummins, a doubles force, lost his partner from last season to graduation, but has been paired with Wilson, which could be a fierce combination. Redlands could also stick with last year’s #3 team of Licona and Jones, but they have a wealth of options, and I think they will find a another team that plays well together.
Overall, I would say this roster is too loaded with talent to fail, and I think they will surprise some people this year.
If there’s one other thing I consistently complain about with Redlands, it’s the fact that they never go away from home. Well, they fixed that this year with a trip to Indoor Nationals to start the season.
If Ballou is playing, as he appears to be, that field is absolutely loaded. They start off against Wash U, and, frankly, it’s hard to see the Californians upsetting the Midwestern #1 seeds in the first round in their first match indoors. The second round isn’t much more promising, as they will be facing either Trinity or Cal Lu. Trinity looks like a better version of Redlands this year, but if Cal Lu slips up in the first round, the Bulldogs could sneak out a huge Pool C victory early in the season by utilizing their depth advantage. If they can’t pull that one out, the only other team in the field I see them possibly beating is Kenyon, as Emory, Hopkins, and Case aren’t really favorable matches. Even if they go 0-3, the experience on the road against great competition will be invaluable for them back in California.
At home, they schedule is as brutal as it usually is. They “ease into things” with matches against Stevens and Mary Washington. Both those teams are dangerous, but I see the Bulldogs winning both of those relatively easily on their home courts. If they’re going to lose one, it will be to Mary Washington, as they play the Eagles on the back end of the doubleheader. A couple days later, they have a potential rematch with Trinity. As I said, I think the Tigers are just a better version of the Bulldogs this year, but they always seem to lay one stinker and that might be the one. The day after TU, they play Carnegie in what could be a program-redefining match for the Tartan. They’ve seriously underperformed the last couple years, particularly on Spring Break (the 5-4 loss to Tyler comes to mind), and they absolutely need that match. My brain says CMU is too big to fail, but my heart is going with Redlands in what is probably the biggest match of the year for Redlands in terms of Pool C implications.
In the following week, they have a couple pivotal West region clashes with UT-Tyler and Whitman. The Dawgs should beat Tyler fairly easily, but Whitman is strong this year. I know I went with the Squirrels earlier, but I’m gonna flip-flop right now and take the Bulldogs 6-3. Whitman has never performed very well on Redlands’ courts.
The next week, they have home matches against Amherst, Cruz, and Williams. I’m obviously going with Redlands over Cruz. The NESCAC teams will be the favorites in those matches, but don’t count out Redlands. Remember how close they came to unseating the Ephs last year, even after getting swept in doubles. Nevertheless, precedent says Redlands loses those matches.
That brings Redlands to their SCIAC swing. The Bulldogs are playing all of their major matches on the road this year. Without Ballou, I think they sweep Cal Lu, Whittier, and P-P and ease their way into the SCIAC tournament as a #2 seed. With Ballou, I think Redlands probably loses that match 5-4 in a heartbreaker, setting up an epic semifinal in the SCIAC tournament. Either way, this season can only really end on of two ways for the Bulldogs. They either lose to CMU and Cal Lu and miss the tournament (with Cal Lu, CMU, Wash U, Case, Bowdoin, Midd, and Williams taking the Pool C spots), or they make Pool C and get shellacked by CMS in the California regional. As inevitable as that is, I think this program gets its breakthrough win at some point this season and finishes in the 10-12 range.