After weeks of living in a hole I decided to come out for a hot second to bust out another season preview! At the end of his Emory Men’s Preview, the one and only D3AS said that I was “keeping it real but I wasn’t going to top his preview”. Well guess what, D3AS. You’re probably right. And that’s all I have to say about that.
For my next preview, the Johns Hopkins Blue Jays seemed to be the most logical choice, since I’ve already previewed the other two bird mascot teams in my region. I must say that the Hopkins women are still a bit of an enigma to me, seeing as they don’t have a twitter. I also don’t have a great idea about their depth this year because aside from one player, they got majorly overshadowed by the other teams at regionals this year – more on that later. But the fun part about D3 tennis blogging is that anyone can do it, and guess what, I fall under the category of anyone. So with that confidence boost, I’m ready to get started.
Location: Baltimore, MD
Coach: Dave Woodring
Assistant Coach: Ellen Berlinghof
2017 Year End ITA National Ranking: 13
2017 Year End ITA Regional Ranking: 4
Twitter Handle: @??? Do they not have a Twitter??
UTR Power 6: 47
Most of Hop’s season last year was painfully average, with pretty bad losses to then #17 Trinity (8-1), #12 Carnegie Mellon x 2 (7-2 and 5-2 at indoors), and #13 Washington and Lee (7-2), and some awfully close 5-4 wins against #17 Mary Wash and #24 CNU. Their only decisive wins came against unranked teams, and the only top 10 team they played in regular season was #6 Pomona-Pitzer at Indoors, where they got shut out 9-0. However, the girls found a way to end their season on a highly positive note by coming up with a 5-4 win against #6 Tufts in the NCAA Round of 16 to advance to the Elite 8, where they fell to the likes of #2 Middlebury.
As I’m sure we all love to do in our free time, I perused the season statistics from Hop’s 2016-2017 season, and frankly their lineup was a mess. Senior Ashnaa Rao played #1 singles and #1 doubles with fellow senior Mikey Barthelmass, but other than that it seems like everyone else drew straws for the rest of the positions most matches. The Bluejays posted an overall record of 19-6 last year in dual match play for total of 25 matches, but literally no player on the team played 25 matches. Like not even close. Sophia Strickland went 13-9 in dual play so 22 matches, but the next closest number of matches was Kimberley Zhou with 16. Ashnaa Rao only played 12 dual matches. 4 different players graced the #1 singles spot with their presence throughout the season, while 7 different players had a turn at #2 singles. 8 players tried out the #3 singles. What gives? What are they doing the rest of the time? Is everyone hurt? Is everyone taking 25 credits every semester? Do they take turns traveling so everyone gets exactly equal minutes of playing time? I was discouraged by the singles so I didn’t try to make sense of the doubles lineup, sorry. Let’s move on to key losses.
Key Losses: I feel like these are the easy points here but one huge loss for the Blue Jays is Ashnaa Rao, singles and doubles All-American, who spent the 2017 season at #1 singles and #1 doubles (that is, in the half of the matches that she played). Her doubles parter Mikey Barthelmass also ended her career on a high as a doubles All-American. Other graduates are Jody Law (#1-#3 singles, #2-#3 doubles), Anna Kankanala (#2-#5 singles, #1-#2 doubles) , and Amanda Soo Ping Chow (#3-#5 singles).
Key Gains: Also going for the easy points here with Anjali Kashyap (UTR 8.62, 3 star), who made the finals of the Mary Washington ITA this fall. Come spring she will presumably be looking to fill the shoes of departed Hop star Ashnaa Rao at the #1 singles spot. Other newcomers looking to make their mark are Dhanya Asokumar (UTR 6.75), Margo Gerke (UTR 8.52), and Sabrina Abrams (UTR 4.37).
Key Returns: This is where things get a little bit trickier but I will be keeping an eye on sophomore Sophia Strickland (UTR 7.70), who was Hop’s second best performer with a Round of 16 appearance at regionals this year. She saw action at #1-#3 singles last year.
This Year So Far: I feel like I’ve already touched on everything that needs to be touched on here. Kashyap was the star of regionals with a run to the finals, while everyone else struggled to get past the first rounds. Strickland made the Round of 16 but all 6 of her other teammates in the main draw lost in either the first or second round. None of the 3 teams in the doubles draw made it past the first round. I’m going to give this team the benefit of the doubt and chalk it up to a bad tournament – hopefully they can at least rearrange their doubles for a more successful spring. Maybe they’re a group of people that values the success of the team far greater than the success of the individual, so no one bothered to try during regionals. Kashyap obviously didn’t get the memo. Or maybe they all had to make it back to Baltimore for exams. I don’t know, but the point is, I’m hoping for some better results come late February, and I know they are too.
The Blue Jays come out of the gates with two big matches later this month, facing D1 Navy and regional rivals Washington and Lee before heading to indoors. Last year they lost to W&L 7-2 and nothing they have done so far this year inspires any confidence that this time around will be much different. However, the tops of both lineups will be different this year, so a loss for Hop is anything but guaranteed. They will need to focus on doubles these next couple of weeks to avoid going down 0-3 and losing the match before singles even begins.
The following weekend they travel to Chattanooga for Indoors. They will be seeded 7 and thus will play second seed Pomona-Pitzer in the first round. They will try to take advantage of Pomona’s relative inexperience with indoor play to pull off the upset a la their Sweet 16 upset over Tufts last year. I’m honestly not seeing that happening though and I’m calling a 7th place finish- boring and predictable, I know, but in this case I’d rather be right than unpredictable. This will be a very important weekend for Kashyap if she wants to make a mark on the national singles stage, as she will have extremely little tough competition for the remainder of her season.
The Rest of the Season:
Which brings me to the rest of the Bluejay’s season, which is composed of 13 more matches against opponents that they have no business losing to. This seems a little concerning to me as they will have basically no tough competition until NCAAs, where you would hope that the tough competition you’ve had throughout your season would give you an advantage. In these 13 matches, they have #15 Mary Washington, #20 Skidmore, and #26 Christopher Newport lined up, but the rest of the teams are unranked. A loss to Mary Washington is not out of the question and would be disappointing – last year the Eagles pushed them to 5-4. It also strikes me as odd that don’t have a scheduled match against regional foe Carnegie Mellon, since that match is usually very important for regionals purposes come NCAA time. Additionally, throughout their entire season, the only opportunity for Hop to move up the ranks is either against Washington and Lee or at Indoors, which puts a lot of pressure on early season success and could set a very somber atmosphere for the rest of the season if they underperform at Indoors.
Bold Predictions for the Freshmen:
Anjali Kashyap: This may be my boldest prediction so far but I’m going to say that she will play in all of her team’s matches this year. Crazy, I know.
Dhanya Asokmar: Will make and update a team Twitter, earning her the D3ASW 2018 MVP Award.
Margo Gerke: Is actually new D3 Women’s Tennis.
Sabrina Adams: Will become the world Butts Up Champion. Watch out for her in the 2020 Olympics.
There are a lot of question marks regarding Hop’s schedule, their doubles, their depth, and most importantly, their lack of a twitter. Fortunately for me the Blue Jays are less than 3 weeks away from a confrontation with Washington and Lee, so I will get a better idea of how the rest of their season will look. Indoors will be their greatest in-season competition, and as the 7th seed they will have plenty of opportunity to defeat higher ranked teams. Of course, they could just tank the entire season and make the quarterfinals of NCAAs again like last year. That would be fine too and is absolutely a possibility.
That’s all for now, folks! As always, if I missed anything obvious, forgive my ignorance and let me know! D3Asouthwomens@gmail.com! I shall now retreat back to my cave.