I had 7 hours left of my “10 Hours of Eagle Noises” video when I finished my Emory season preview, so I decided to use my momentum to write a preview for the University of Mary Washington Eagles. This article may take me the full 7 hours of eagle calls to write as I’m currently in a state of semi-permanent food coma but still continuing to eat like I’ve been starving for 12 weeks. I will need frequent snack breaks. It’s a good thing I no longer have to worry about staying fit for tennis season! Let’s get this party started.
Location: Fredericksburg, VA
Coach: Patrick Catullo (13th season)
Assistant Coach: Art Canizares (8th season)
2017 Year End ITA National Ranking: 15
2017 Year End ITA Regional Ranking: 5
Twitter Handle: @UMWWomensTennis
UTR Power 6: 47
The story of Mary Washington’s 2016-2017 season was that they won all the matched they were supposed to win and lost all the matches they were supposed to lose. They suffered 3 losses to CMU last year, including their season ending 5-2 loss in the NCAA 2nd Round and a 5-1 loss in the first round of Indoors. However they did come as close as 5-4 with the Tartans in mid-season play and need to translate this competitiveness into their tournament play if they want to make a run at NCAAs this year (they tend to be in the same regional as CMU- more on that later). The best win of their season was a 5-4 victory against regional foes Washington and Lee, who ended the season ranked 12 in the nation.
Key Losses: The Eagle’s suffered one major loss at the conclusion of the 2017 season in the form of Taylor Diffley. She was a transfer from Kenyon College her junior year, and started at 3 singles/2 doubles in her first season with the Eagles. Last year she held down the 2 singles and partnered with Kait Brogan at 1 doubles, and she rode off into the sunset as a doubles All-American. As the only senior, she undoubtedly had a strong leadership role on the team, and her strong performance in both singles and doubles will be dearly missed, especially with Brogan already contending with injury this year.
Key Gains: Coaches Catullo and Canizares brought in 4 new players this year: Emily Bowerman (1 star, UTR 6.44), Rachel Cooper (3 star, UTR 7.25), Sophie Dixon (2 star, UTR 6.32), and Olivia Moore (2 star, UTR 7.32). Cooper was the only freshman to see singles main draw action at regionals, and it looks like she will start for the Eagle’s when spring arrives. I’d love to watch some of the other freshman make moves into the lineup though. I hope they’re practicing.
Key Returns: I realized that I give so much attention to the incoming freshman and graduating seniors, but nowhere do I mention the rest of the girls who make up a majority of the lineup. Key returners this year include senior Caroline Mosberg (UTR 7.57, 3 singles last year), sophomore Rachel Summers (UTR 8.52, 4 singles last year), senior Hannah Jabusch (UTR 7.57, 5 singles last year), and junior Danielle Mirabella (UTR 7.48, 6 singles last year). Aside from the Diffley/Brogan pairing at the 1 spot last year, doubles seemed to be mostly musical chairs at the 2 and 3 spots so I won’t try to sift through that here.
This Year So Far: Sophomore Rachel Summers showed some newfound moxie by claiming the Mary Wash regional and advancing to the Oracle Cup, where she placed 7th. She is currently ranked 9th in the country and was the first Eagle to win regionals since 2000. On the doubles side, Summers and senior Caroline Mosberg made a run to the regional semis before falling to a tough CMU team. Kait Brogan, senior and last years #1 in both singles and doubles, was forced to retire in the regional round of 16, presumably due to injury. If this injury persists into the spring, this could bode very poorly for the Eagle’s season.
Eagle Indoor Invitational:
The Eagles will not be gracing Indoor Nationals with their presence this year, so they will open their season by hosting the Eagle Indoor Invitational, where they will play the likes of D3 teams Dickinson, Methodist, and Franklin & Marshall. They will be the heavy favorites in all of these matches and will likely give many of the younger players opportunities to get some match play in and test out some doubles teams.
The Eagles will then make their pilgrimage to Southern California where they will play Whittier, Chapman, Redlands, and Caltech. Again, they will be heavy favorites in all of these matches (the highest ranked of these teams is Redlands who ended 2017 ranked 35 in the nation). Given the abundance of talented teams in California this time of year, I almost wonder why they aren’t getting some tougher matches in. Rachel Summers is coming off of a hot streak this fall and will need to play some harder matches if she wants to keep herself sharp for post season play and qualify for NCAAs.
After spring break, the Eagles will host the Blue-Grey Invitational in mid-March, featuring matches against #22 MIT, #18 Case Western, #20 Skidmore, and Bates. These are all teams ranked slightly below UMW, and this is where I worry that a lack of tough early season competition will hurt the Eagles. They don’t have much to gain by winning these matches, but losses will end up hurting their ranking and their confidence. It will be up to the coaches to keep the girls sharp, especially in doubles, in order to not slip up and lose one of these matches they are perfectly capable of winning.
April 2018 features what I think are the 3 most important matches of UMW’s season – regional foes Carnegie Mellon, Johns Hopkins, and Washington and Lee. These matches will be important for determining the NCAA regions as well as helping individuals qualify for the NCAA tournament. In a perfect world, Mary Washington would beat all three of these schools and banish them to other regions while earning a 1 seed. However, it won’t be that easy for the Eagles and if history has anything to say, we can probably look at 0-1 of 3 wins for the Eagles from these matches.
Conference and Post-Season:
The good news is even if they don’t win any of their regional matches, the Eagles have dominated their conference tournament for longer than I have been alive, winning all but 2 conference tournaments since 1991 (with those 2 losses coming in 2002-2003 to Salisbury). Thus, they should have no issues winning the CAC conference tournament in early May and making the NCAA tournament. However, their central location in the ASouth almost guarantees that they will be stuck in a region with either CMU or Hopkins or both, and historically it would be pretty shocking for the Eagles to emerge from one of those regions to compete in the Elite 8. But I welcome them to prove me wrong.
Bold Predictions for the Freshmen:
Emily Bowerman: Will be the road trip MVP by remembering to bring her copy of She’s the Man to watch on the bus ride.
Rachel Cooper: Will dominate a rap battle with Coach Art and discover her passion for spitting fire. Keep an eye out for her debut album, titled The Coop Swoop, in 2020.
Sophie Dixon: Is actually just 4 eagles stacked on top of one another wearing a tennis outfit.
Olivia Moore: Will win fall regionals in September 2019. Calling it now. Start practicing Olivia. I believe in you.
I was really taking my time with this article since I was expecting D3AS to invite me to the group chat by the time I reached the conclusion. No such luck. He’s probably practicing with his acapella group or taking selfies with his dog or something. Typical.
But back to Mary Washington. What I like about Mary Washington, aside from their beautiful facilities which allow them to host ALL the tournaments, is that they are so consistent. Lots of other teams have really up and down years but you can always count on Mary Washington to show up at all 30 of their scheduled matches and just do their best. They also have a very sportsmanlike reputation, which makes it all the easier to get in their corner. This is a team that has a lot of talent and is very consistently ranked in the mid-teens in the nation. They rarely underperform and frequently find themselves on the cusp of over performing. Their dominant status in the CAC conference makes their NCAA berth basically a given, so they really play the rest of their season just for giggles.
This year they have regional champion Rachel Summers in their arsenal but loss of Taylor Diffley and Brogan’s questionable injury status make me a little bit concerned. However, they bring back the rest of the starters from last season plus 4 freshmen who are eager to make a dent in the college scene, which makes me think that their depth will be similar to last year. This most likely will not be enough to make a breakthrough into the NCAA Elite 8 next May, as they will have to overcome the likes of CMU/Hopkins/W&L to get there. This is where I defer to the rackets to do the talking, as I would like nothing more than to be proven wrong.
And those are all my thoughts on this team. Let me know what I missed in the comments below! And someone please tell me if Kait Brogan is ok to play this spring! My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happy holidays everyone! Time to get back to my mashed potatoes.