Happy Holidays all! A little Christmas special comes to you in the form of a season preview of the Trinity (TX) Tigers. The bloggers have been “on it” these last couple weeks with an unrelenting amount of posts but tis’ the giving season, isn’t it? Let’s get after it ladies and gents!
A well-respected team with great players, a solid coaching staff, and sound results year in and year out, Trinity (TX) is always a tough out for even the best teams in the country. Usually ranked #5-15 in the country, the Tigers biggest liability is their depth at the bottom of their lineup. The Tigers were able to play some great tennis towards the end of their season last year, as they took out Whitman in Regionals to set up a round of 16 match with CMS. Though they came up short against the Stags, a positive year overall. They can play some serious doubles and have solid players throughout the lineup, but what cost them a lot of matches last season was their mediocre play at #1 and simply not winning enough matches at the bottom of the lineup. If Trinity wants to play with the big boys again, they’ll have to a find a solid lineup that is able to compete with some of the best squads in the country. I’m a tad skeptical of their level this year considering their lackluster fall ITA performance, but I’m willing to look past that weekend and look at the glass half full. A couple of the promising freshmen I’ll soon talk about got dismantled to Arthur Fagundes (who gets games off of Fagundes nowadays though), but with a few new additions and minimal graduates, I believe Trinity (TX) will have a successful year. We’ve got a lot to look forward to in the Lone Star state.
Coach: Russell McMindes, 8th season
Location: Trinity, TX
Preseason Ranking: 13
Blog Power Ranking: 16
Twitter handle: @TUtennis
Key Additions: Wilson Hamilton (TRN 159, UTR 11.66), Jace Akagi-Okuma (TRN 210, UTR 11.35), Tristan Rudolph (UTR 11.48), Lars Wiik (TRN 186, UTR 10.81).
Key Losses: Chas Mayer (#1/2 singles, #2 doubles), Clayton Niess (#5/6 singles, #2 doubles).
#1. Wilson Lambeth, Junior, UTR 12.07
When your mom says drink your milk, DRINK YOUR MILK! Lambeth
(I’m told is a chocolate milk guy by the way) plays bigggg boy tennis. His tall frame, booming serve, and solid groundies makes him a tough out at the top spot. Though he didn’t do as well as he would have envisioned last season, he moved down to the #2 spot where he went 9-8 with some big wins at the end of the season. Lambeth will have a lot of weight on his shoulders this year as I believe he’ll play #1 all year. Unlike last year where Mayer picked up some of Lambeth’s slack at 1, he needs to be prepared to play every match at the top spot against some of the best players in the country day in and day out.
#2. Jordan Pitts, Sophomore, UTR 11.35
Jordan had a good season playing mostly at the #3 spot last year. With the departure of Mayer, I believe Pitts will move up and play at the #2 position this year. He’ll be playing against some tough players, but with a year of experience under this kid’s belt, he could provide some solid results for the Tigers. He had some big wins against Derbani, Bouchet, and Friedman last spring, but a jump up to #2 is a big step up for Pitts. He lost in the first round of the this fall’s ITA to Norman of Southwestern (I heard Norman knows his way around the court), but I think he’ll bounce back and have a successful year.
#3. Wilson Hamilton, Freshman, UTR 11.66
McMindes’ most prized recruit, Hamilton is entering this Spring with some heavy expectation. Hamilton, out of all the Trinity players to compete this fall, was the only player to reach the quarterfinals where he lost to Hunt of Hardin-Simmons. He may have the second highest UTR, but I believe that if Hamilton plays at the #3 position, he’ll bring a ton of wins to the Tigers and add to the team’s depth.
#4. Liam Crawley, Junior, UTR 11.41
Liam had a successful year last season playing mostly at #4, where he went 10-7. He occasionally played up at #3 (going 4-3), but I see him sticking at the same position he held for the greater part of last year. He had good wins against Carter (Whitman), Spaulding (Emory), and Gomez (Texas Tyler), but in my opinion, with the mix of the incoming freshman in Hamilton and a lack of marquee wins last year, I don’t see Crawley playing any higher than #3 and #4 this season. Someone through the grapevine told me he wouldn’t be playing this year… hmmm I’ll believe it when I see it.
#5. Jace Akagi-Okuma, Freshman, UTR 11.35
Awesome name Jace, but since my spelling sucks (for the most part) and to well… save some time, your nickname now and for always is JAO (pronunciation: jow). Hope you like it. Not much to go off of, but JAO had a very promising fall ITA. He won his first two rounds, and even though he lost to Dimanche of Southwestern (7-5 in the third) in the third round, it shows that JAO can play some ball and will most likely slot himself into the lineup come spring.
#6. Mckenna Fujitani, Sophomore, UTR 10.98
Mckenna played #5 for the better part of last year. Despite his losing record, he was able to pick up a big win against Whitman’s Foster in regionals. Now that he has a year of experience under his belt, I still see him playing in the lineup this year and adding more wins for his team.
In the Hunt:
Tristan Rudolph (UTR 11.48) – Welllll, Tristan has the third highest UTR, but I’ll keep him on the fringe considering I have absolutely no information to go off of. He seemed to not play this fall, but if he is indeed playing this spring, he could play as high as #3 or #4 simply based off his ranking.
Matt Tyer (UTR 10.87) – Tyer played occasionally at #6, but is mostly known for his doubles prowess. We could see Matt play more singles matches this coming season as a senior.
Tilden Oliver (UTR 10.44) – Oliver had a few good wins last season at #6 with victories over RPI, Kenyon, and Texas Tyler. We could see him make an appearance at #5/6 from time to time depending on the opponent.
The Tigers return their #1 team from last year in Tyer/Lambeth. This duo played at the top spot all last season finishing with a winning record, 14-12. They were able to clinch a spot for Nationals and earned All-American status; I see the same team coming back this season and holding down the fort at #1 once again. Unfortunately, Mayer/Niess are out of the picture and it will be very tough to replace these two, as each brought fire, depth, and doubles skill to the lineup. If McMindes is able to rile up two sets of doubles teams (I’m thinking a combination of Crawley/Pitts, Pitts/Hamilton, Crawley/Hamilton, Rudolph(?)/Crawley), the Tigers could make up for what they lost in their graduates. Again, Trinity(TX) is known for coming out strong and playing some serious doubles. It’s very important for them that they are able to replace Mayer/Niess and create a strong third doubles team in order for a lead to be taken into singles most of the time.
The Tigers start their spring campaign with a trip Northwest to Walla Walla, where they’ll play Lewis & Clark, Redlands, and Whitman. Three solid teams where results can really sway either way, but massive matches for regional purposes! All four teams competing in Walla Walla have to come out firing as these early-season matches are huge for national contention. I’m not too worried about the Tigers playing indoors as they seem to play a few matches each year in such conditions. After Walla Walla, they head north to Minnesota for Indoors… a match against the Stags in the first round is a tough test for the Tigers, but I believe if they are able to leave the Indoors with a 2-1 record, it’ll be a success for the squad. A brutal six days awaits them in So. Cal for the annual Stag Hen in which they face off against a hot team in Wesleyan. 6 matches in 5 days with matchups against Wesleyan, two more Stag Hen encounters, Cal Lu., Case Western, and Emory to top it off… have fun kids!
Trinity then comes home where they will play their remaining conference matches. Even with a dismal showcase this past fall at the ITA along with a Texas-Tyler beatdown, I still, however, see the Tigers winning their 8th straight SCAC conference title and clinching a pool-A spot for nationals come May. I don’t think the regional matches will come as easy in the past, as teams such as Southwestern with Dimanche and Norman, Austin College with Granberry, UT-Dallas with Hernandez, and Texas-Tyler with Fagundes (did I mention in this post yet that he rarely loses games anymore?) have their teams locked and loaded and prepared for this particular tournament. A little birdie told me that Texas-Tyler is going DII next year… that will only add to their motivation to take down the Texas Tiger Powerhouse and we saw that focus and intensity play out this past fall ITA. The winner of this conference tournament receives a berth into nationals… despite all the huge matches Trinity has earlier in the season, this, my friends, is crunch time.
I see on their schedule that they may also play Ojai too?! A tournament littered with SCIAC players, to have some Trinity studs in the draw would make this storied tournament that much stronger. That’d be awesome for the Texas team as that is one of the most enjoyable weekends college tennis players have to look forward to.
Overall, a ton of travelling and no easy pickings. Their first three trips (Walla Walla, Minnesota (Indoors), Pomona (Stag Hen)) will consist of brutal matches against some of the best teams in the country. I surely do not expect them to go a whopping 11-0 during this time of travel, but marquee wins against Redlands/Whitman, a 2-1 showing at Indoors, and a first round upset against Wesleyan in Stag Hen will make for a pretty good year. All big matches boys.
Keys to Success:
- Doubles — Can McMindes find two more teams to accompany Lambeth/Tyer? These two doubles positions will be huge for the Tigers if they want to head into singles with leads. Against the caliber of teams they play week in and week out, I’d say these two positions are most critical.
- Impact from the Freshmen — Hamilton and JAO are no doubt going to play in the lineup this spring. I’m no division III tennis psychic (though I wish I was), but if Rudolph, another incoming freshman, is indeed playing this spring, he’ll add a lot to the depth of the lineup. Best case scenario is that these three freshmen live up to expectation and UTR and are able to post a ton of wins in the middle of the lineup.
- Stocking up on airline points — Just a blogger’s theory here… McMindes is flying his team every which way for those coveted points on delta. Orrrr they hate playing at home. Orrr they love playing away! Orrr they have a fetish for Marriotts and Hiltons. Who knows, but Trinity is doing a ton of traveling this Spring and it will not be easy. Let’s hope they can adjust to the conditions and play some ball in hostile environments.
- Crawley out? Rudolph in? — I see on the Trinity roster that Crawley isn’t listed. Don’t know if that is a mistake or if he is indeed not playing this spring. This would be a huge shift in depth for the team as I see Crawley a solid #4/5 throughout the season. I’m also a little suspicious on the Brit, Tristan Rudolph. A player with a very solid UTR, I question if he is ready for the spring swing due to his fall absence. If Trinity is missing both of these talented players, that would be a huge loss. On the flip side, if both of these guys are on campus and ready to play, that would only add to Trinity’s skill and depth.
Trinity is always a fun to team to watch and follow. They’re a classy group of guys with potential to cause some serious damage against top ranked teams. Let’s hope that they could put the results from this past ITA behind them and come out swinging in Walla Walla. Trinity may have one of the toughest schedules out there but a few solid wins against such teams will propel them into national conversation. Wow… and as I’m writing these words, the God of DIII tennis, D3ASouth, just invited me to the coveted group chat. I guess the newbie has made it. That’s all for now folks. Time to celebrate!