Happy Wednesday, boys and girls. It’s fall recap season here at The Blog, and I’m kicking things off with a look at my eight teams. D3RegAS will be following me later this week, and D3RegNEC should have his 47-team manifesto over the weekend. I have been waiting for more than 24 hours to add the new ITA rankings to this article, but they still have not come, so forget ’em. The rankings next to each of the teams below is the Blog Power Ranking from the start of October, because that’s what you really care about anyways. Check back through the next couple weeks for all the bloggers’ fall recaps, and then we’ll be moving onto the 2018 Fantasy Draft and Season Previews.
Fall MVP: This could’ve gone to a lot of people, but I’m gonna go with Will de Quant for sheer strength of singles wins. He made the semis at Midd before falling in a super to Cuba (projected Midd #1), made the quarters at the ITA before falling to Finkelman (projected Wes #2), looks like he won the backdraw at Farnsworth beating 4 D1 players along the way, and won five rounds at MIT before falling in 3-sets to Barr (projected Williams #2) in the finals. If WDQ plays #3 behind Farrell, expect him to win almost every match.
Why fans should be excited: Because on paper this is still the best team in the country. A top of the lineup consisting of Cuba, Farrell, De Quant is absurd. Throw in guys who have had outstanding falls like Schlanger, Van der Geest and Vanezis and you have the best starting singles lineup in the country, without even including Midd’s 5-star freshman.
Why fans should be worried: The doubles seem very up and down, Farrell has yet to totally shake off the rust, there are rumors about not taking the season seriously, blah blah blah. Look, until Midd loses a spring dual match, they are the favorites and anyone who tells you differently is selling something. That being said, everything I said sounds like a readymade excuse if the Panthers fall again late in May.
Words of advice for the winter: Play a lot of doubles. This may sound dumb, but it’s imperative that the Midd Kids don’t shrink into the grays of that campus in the dark Vermont winter, and practice their doubles. They are beyond talented, and should have no issue at least splitting singles with any team out there. If they can take a 2-1 lead after doubles, this team will be extraordinarily tough to beat, even by those perennially deep teams like CMS and Bowdoin.
Fall MVP: Luke Tercek. Tercek’s singles results were better than Urken’s this fall, which was really the tiebreaker between the two as both were your New England ITA doubles champs. Luke held his seed and made the quarters of the ITA before dropping a not-so-close match to Cuba. I believed it was possible that Urken take the top spot away from his doubles partner this spring, but that doesn’t seem to have happened yet.
Why fans should be excited: The gang’s all here. With nobody graduating last year and a couple possibly impactful freshmen, Polar Bear fans should be excited about the possibility of a 3rd-consecutive trip to the Final Four.
Why fans should be worried: Wolfe started the fall very slowly, the #6 spot really seems to be up for grabs and the middle and lower doubles were inconsistent. All very normal fall problems, and all things imminently fixable through an offseason training program and captains practices.
Words of advice for the winter: Don’t skip leg day. There are going to be some very long spring days ahead of you, Polar Bears, and while you have some young guns for the future, any injury to an upperclassman could prove devastating. Do more than just work on your milk-man beach bodies this winter, work on flexibility and stretching so as to better prepare you for the likes of Stag Hen and grueling days in the non-Maine heat against championship quality teams.
Fall MVP: Andrew Finkelman. Wins over Cuba (projected Midd #1), De Quant (projected Midd #2-3), and Wei 2x (projected Amherst #1-3), highlighted the amazing fall for the freshman. His amazing run to the ITA finals was captivating, and even predicted by D3ASW (due to the sound of his name). I had Finkelman as my #5 freshman in the region coming into the fall, so I will admit that he more than surprised me. Here’s hoping that trend continues in March!
Why fans should be excited: While Michael Liu’s leadership will be sorely missed, the worry that Wes is without somebody able to step up and fill the #2 spot is seemingly unfounded with the emergence of Andrew Finkelman! Steven Chen has looked good, although not a worldbeater, but the top of the Wes lineup seems pretty secure. Given how good their depth has been in recent years, Cards fans should be excited about their team’s chances to contend for another quarterfinal berth.
Why fans should be worried: Lots of injuries riddled Wes’ fall, but what I’m most worried about is the doubles. We saw Samson and Carter play after missing a fall tournament. Eusebio will hopefully be ready for the spring, and that’s a major improvement to the doubles lineup; but, even though the Cards only graduated one singles player last year, they graduated their entire top duo, and another player who played in the doubles lineup over the year. We saw some decent doubles from Wes this fall, but we’ll need to see more come springtime.
Words of advice for the winter: GET HEALTHY and stay that way. This is similar to Bowdoin’s message, but it goes even further. When you’re coming off an injury, you’re significantly more likely to miss more time, whether it’s because of re-injury, or compensating and injuring another part of your body. The Cards need to be doing all of the injury recovery exercises prescribed, and those who are healthy should be stretching and doing things like yoga each and every day to improve both flexibility and durability.
Fall MVP: Brian Grodecki. Normally this would go to Austin Barr, without a moment’s hesitation. In fact, if Barr were on any other team and put up the same #’s this fall, he would be their MVP, but he’s up against the fall MVP for the entire region, Mr. Brian Grodecki. BG started the fall with straight-set wins over the #1’s from Springfield and Vassar, then ran through the ITA, notching wins over Farrell (Midd projected #2-4), Barr (Williams projected #2), and Finkelman (Wes projected #2). He then made the most of his berth into Small College Nationals, beating Lipscomb (projected Redlands #1) and Jemison (projected Emory #1), before bowing out in the finals to Alhouni (projected GAC #1). Besides that, BG also made the ITA semis in dubs with Alex Taylor, losing 9-7 to the eventual champs.
Why fans should be excited: The top of the lineup, the thing I was most worried about for the Ephs, has suddenly become its strength! Grodecki, Barr, and Sachin Raghavan all had tremendous falls, and should be tough at the top of the lineup. BUT that’s not all, the depth also had its moments, with freshman Calvin Chung getting wins over Kyle Wolfe (projected Bowdoin #3) and Nathan Kaplan (projected Amherst #3-6). Lil’ Raghavan made the Sweet 16 at ITAs, and Alex Taylor notched a huge win over Bessette (projected Amherst #1-4), before losing to his teammate Barr in the semis at MIT. With Indrakanti and Sadowsky coming back from abroad this spring, the Ephs are everybody’s favorite dark horse right now.
Why fans should be worried: I glazed over Deepak and Jordan’s semester’s away, but that’s a big deal. Who knows how much tennis they are playing while away from Williamstown. While we see kids go away every year and come back stronger than ever, it’s always a rough period at the very beginning. The Ephs will have a month of practice before their first matches, but they play Pomona, Chicago and Redlans all in their first week of matches. No time to shake off the match rust.
Words of advice for the winter: Don’t get complacent. Yes, you likely had the best fall of any team in the country. Yes your top players look significantly improved. Yes, you’re coming off the first quarterfinal berth since 2013. Yes, you should be confident, but don’t allow confidence to lead to complacence. Keep working as hard as you have been over the past year, and things will only get better.
Fall MVP: Sean Wei. Wei took down Ben Rosen (projected Bates #1) in his first collegiate match, and then backed it up with a 3-set win over Alex Taylor (projected Williams #4-5) at the ITA. He took Fink to three sets in the Sweet 16 there, and then again in the same round of the MIT Invite. At the Wallach (Bates tourney), he rolled through the A-Flight, beating Kogan (projected Brandeis #1-4), and Wolfe (projected Bowdoin #3) in the semis and finals. Sean was a highly touted recruit, and has been living up to that and then some so far.
Why fans should be excited: The freshmen look good. They will hit bumps along the way, it’s not like anybody comes in and dominates right away (even Barr and Fink have lost matches this fall), but they’re playing well and look like they have a lot of room to grow. If they continue to work hard, you will be hearing a lot about guys like Wei, Hillis, Ma and more for the next four years.
Why fans should be worried: No Burney. No Marchalik. Yet to see Owens. Last year was not a good year for Amherst, despite the top-8 seed at NCAAs. We’ll see if the program has finally turned a corner. Coach Doebler has proven himself to be an amazing recruiter, and his freshmen appear more than capable of balling out, but can he put together a deep run at NCAAs with such a young squad? Perhaps more importantly, can the team overcome the chemistry issues of the past couple years?
Words of advice for the winter: Play matches! Training is great, and hitting 1,000 serves per day will help you get better, but at some point you’ve gotta put something on the line. This team doesn’t have any seniors, and only one junior (Bessette) is very likely to start. That means there is a big lack of match experience from the other starting singles players. So play sets this winter. Play sets with extra conditioning on the line. Play sets with “soda” money on the line. Just make sure to play for something you don’t want to lose. It’s not the same, but it’s a start.
Fall MVP: Boris Sorkin. Young Boris started off his fall with a win over Pickering (projected Skidmore #3-4). Then, Sork took down Urk in the 2nd round of the iTA when the latter was forced to retire down 4-1 in the 1st set. Boris pushed Grodecki to 5&6, but eventually was bested by his fellow fall MVP. Sorkin won a round at MIT, and then won the entire B-Flight at the Wallach, picking up nice wins over Zhao (projected Bowdoin #5-7) and Aizenberg (projected Deis #3-5) in the semis and finals. Sorkin also won the B-Flight doubles draw that same weekend beating two Bowdoin teams along the way including Roddy/Wang in the finals.
Why fans should be excited: Young depth. Biswas won his flight at Midd, and picked up nice wins at MIT over Zhao (projected Bowdoin 5-7), Patel (projected Bowdoin #6-7), and a win over Das (projected Brandeis #3-6), at Bates. Carl Grant won the D-Flight draw at Bates. Kalra had a solid showing at Midd as well. There are a lot of young promise at Tufts with hopes to start at the bottom of the lineup, and hopefully take the leap over the next couple years and replace the many graduating seniors.
Why fans should be worried: Top of the lineup. Now, before we get too carried away, let’s remember that fall performance is less likely to correlate with spring performance when the fall performance is lackluster. Gupte and Ali are seniors with as much match experience as anybody. Coran and Battle are senior team leaders who we know will give everything they have. The Bos are going to need multiple of their seniors to step up this spring if they are going to contend with the teams listed above, and that didn’t happen this fall.
Words of advice for the winter: Use the fear of senior year. There are generally two ways senior year can go for players. Either they accept this is the end, or they do everything possible to prolong it. The latter needs to be the case for Tufts this year. Prolong your tennis careers. Set the right example for the younger kids who will be leading the program when you are gone. Let the fact that you only have about six more months on campus motivate you like you have never been motivated before. There is a reason that the Bloggers constantly put the word “senior” after somebody’s name when they come up big. Use the fear.
Fall MVP: Charles Deng. The freshman had a nice run at his home tournament this fall, taking down fellow Team MVP Boris Sorkin in the 2nd round in three sets and notching the best win of his young career over Sachin Raghavan (projected Williams #3) in the Sweet 16. He eventually lost to De Quant in the quarters, but it was a great tournament for the California freshman who has already declared a major in computer science.
Why fans should be excited: The addition of Deng means that MIT is more solid from top to bottom than they have been in a long time. If Barr and Cauneac return to form (see below), combined with Cheng, Ko, Deng and Zhao (or somebody with a touch more experience), MIT will have tough outs at every spot.
Why fans should be worried: Both Barr and Cauneac have been really good over the past couple years, with each taking a turn as the lead dog. This fall, neither appeared up to the task. Both struggled, as did Cheng, causing some DIII fans to take a step back from the MIT bandwagon. While the fall didn’t make me feel all warm and bubbly inside, my confidence in the top of MIT’s lineup hasn’t wavered yet.
Words of advice for the winter: Set some time aside each and every day for something tennis related, and enjoy it. So often we hear stories from students at high pressure research institutions like MIT/Chicago/CMU/Hopkins etc. about the stresses of academics. Tennis should be your escape from stressful school situations, and a place for you to blow off steam. Whether it’s time in the gym, practice on the court, or simply going for a run through Cambridge, take the time to enjoy one tennis related activity every day through the offseason. It will not only keep you ready for the start of the season, but hopefully prepare you for the grind of the spring season.
Fall MVP: Ben Rosen. This isn’t shocking, but the way he got here is. Rosen went 6-6 on the Fall in singles and doubles, but those six wins were more than anybody else on the team, so he gets the nod. Two of those singles wins came over Schlanger (projected Midd #3-4) and Farrell (projected Midd #2-4), which were by far the best wins for any Bates guy this fall. In doubles, Rosen and Quijano teamed up to make the semis of the A-Flight at their home tournament, and had a good win over Wei/Fung in the process.
Why fans should be excited: The culmination of Rosen’s career! We’ve seen Ben make NCAAs multiple years in a row now, earning All-American status along the way. The only question left is what will he do for his swan song?
Why fans should be worried: When your team’s MVP went .500 on the fall, you didn’t have the best season. The graduation of Ellis/Ordway/Feldman coupled with the apparent loss of Schwartz has Bates fans looking to see who will step up this spring. There are a bunch of options, but all remain mostly unproven.
Words of advice for the winter: Outwork everybody. This may sound like a cliche or something you hear on a Nike commercial, but it’s exactly what Bates needs to do in the offseason. Outwork EVERYBODY. Every other team in this article had a better fall than the Bobcats. Do you know how much that will mean if Bates outworks them all this winter? Spend that extra morning in the gym, spend that extra evening working on your first volley, and even spend that extra afternoon hour in the library so that you can spend that extra morning in the gym or extra evening working on your first volley. Outwork everybody to become a somebody.