Coach: Peter Burling, 23rd year
Location: Granville, OH
2009 Ranking: 25
2010 Ranking: NR
2011 Ranking: 30 (Tied)
2012 Ranking: 27
2013 Projected Ranking: NR D3Central, NR D3TG
Denison’s program seems to be stuck between a rock and a hard place, especially the past few years. As you can tell from their rankings they have held pretty solid between the 25-30 range in the nation. This is due in large part to the lack of their strength of schedule year in and year out. They have the typical conference matches against Depauw and Kenyon and they squeeze in a match or two against solid opponents like Kzoo and Carnegie for example. This is really what has been holding them back the past few years. How can you prove yourself if you don’t give your team the opportunities at least 6-10 times a year? It’s not that Denison hasn’t had solid recruiting, because they have. In fact, since 2008 they have recruited 6 3-stars and 4 2-stars. But, it’s as if they put too much pressure on themselves for the scarce number of big matches they have and to this point have fallen short every time. This team has some obvious talent as they always seem to have a doubles team and a singles player fighting for the top spots to qualify for nationals every year, but it doesn’t seem they have the team chemistry to put together big wins. Couple that with the inability to prove themselves through their schedule and it leaves them where they always seem to fall… 2/3 in the conference, just outside of NCAA reach. Will this year bode differently for the Big Red?
Denison lost their 1 and 2 singles, 1 doubles, and half of 2 doubles from last year’s squad. They have a new freshman 3-star playing 5 singles but he lost 1 and 3 to Ohio Dominican. The team won this match 6-3, however, this could be a bad sign for the Big Red if they hope to move up in the rankings. Denison’s strongest point seems to always be there one doubles and overall their doubles play. It seems nearly every year Denison is able to qualify a doubles duo in one of the top four spots. In their only match thus far they swept doubles which is a good sign as they will likely need to lean heavily on it this year. Especially losing their top singles players from last year. In order for Denison to have any chance at an upset I see them having to win 3-0 in doubles to have a shot.
Denison always has “solid” singles players. They don’t necessarily match up talent-wise to the superior teams in the Midwest, but they rely on grit and toughness to help test top teams. Ultimately, as demonstrated by their recent rankings, they fall short. Their results at ITA’s were about average in the difficult ITA of the Central region. However, they clearly didn’t show up too ready in their first dual and didn’t put any fear into their opponents this semester. Losses at the top spot and bottom 2 doesn’t bode well for a team looking to make a move in the rankings.
As I eluded to earlier…This schedule is WEAK! You play 3 good matches all year and two of those matches are teams in your conference?? I need to rant quickly… I really don’t think it’s fair for Denison teams to get nods over other teams who play a better in region schedule in the Central when it comes to end of the year rankings. These guys get 1 good wins over Depauw and coast on that win along with some very weak Central team wins into the top 4… So lame.
Anyways, did I mention this schedule was weak? They play University of Chicago late February. This could be an interesting match if the Maroons don’t show up ready to go. However, with a new coach and some new players, and hopefully a new attitude, I see the Maroons handling the Big Red pretty comfortably…say 7-2? After that they don’t play anyone other than Rhodes (which I unfortunately do not know much about) but I will assume they can scrape up a V there.
They then venture to their actual matches against Kenyon then Depauw. Kenyon is looking very strong this year and will likely roll through this match. But, one thing I did mention is that Denison loves to pull off the random 1 doubles victory just to screw with Kenyon’s ranking so I’m gonna guess 8-1 Lords. Depauw was a very solid team last year that flew relatively under the radar… Speaking of Radar (nickname for Rardon), he graduated (too bad for Depauw, he was an absolute animal on the court). With the exception of him, however, they return most everyone and will likely be a big threat in the Central this year. I predict Depauw to win relatively comfortably 7-2ish.
They will then get a redemption shot in the semis of their conference tournament where I again see them falling short. I just don’t see the talent and the roster for Denison to make a big splash this year. Ultimately, with this poor schedule and really an unlikely scenario of them pulling off any big wins… I see these guys outside of the rankings this year. I hate to say this because I firmly believe this program might be a top 30 school… They just need to give themselves opportunities to prove it. I implore them to play teams like Coe, Luther, Whitewater, GAC….Someone!!