Coach: Mark Riley, 6th year
Location: Kalamazoo, MI
2009 Ranking: 22
2010 Ranking: 17
2011 Ranking: NR
2012 Ranking: 30 (tied)
2013 Projected Ranking: NR D3Central, NR D3TG
Kalamazoo is a historic program. It hosts the prestigious USTA junior tournament. If your good enough to qualify for this tournament, however, does not mean you will play college tennis there. That seems to be the problem as of the past couple years. The Hornets looked to be on the rise in 2010 only to fall off in 2011. They proceeded the following year in similar fashion, barely hanging in there tied for the 30 spot (due only to their win over UW-Whitewater). Coach Riley is a great guy and I am surprised he hasn’t gotten any recruits recently.
This preview is going to be a little shorter… Simply because the future looks grim for this one-time powerhouse =(
So, when Kzoo was at their peak they had Nate Eddy, Mark Denenfeld, and Alex Dombos at 2, 5, and 6 respectively. Then, in 2011 those three were relied upon heavily at the 1, 2, and 3 singles spots as well as the top doubles pairing (Denefeld and Eddy) and 2/3 doubles. They were barely hanging in there with those three…Welllllllll those three are all gone. They must now drag down the remaining starters from last year, likely relying heavily on Steve Hanselman and Peter Rothstein. They lost pretty much all of their real doubles talent from last year and they could be in trouble early and often after doubles. The midwest region’s doubles has been its biggest improvement on a large scale. I don’t think they will be able to handle many good 1 and 2 doubles from teams like Coe, Elmhurst, Whitewater, Case Western, and Kenyon (obviously). Three doubles will still be a challenge but will likely be their best spot… Not looking good.
As I eluded to earlier, in singles they are not looking too hot unless their players returning worked like animals in the offseason and come back playing exceptionally, I think they will struggle mightily at the top of the lineup. It’s never easy for a team to lose their top three players from the previous year… Much less have 0 incoming freshman to note of… This means they will have their 4 or 5 from last year at 1 and 2… Anyways, as teams around them continue to improve (see: Coe, Elmhurst, Chicago, GAC, Case Western, etc.) I see Kzoo falling farther and farther behind. With the already hampered start in doubles I don’t see them finishing much better in singles… I hate to say it. But it’s the cold hard truth.
One thing the Hornets do have is a good schedule (get with the program Denison!!). Unfortunately, this will be a difficult year and I honestly don’t see the Hornets pulling off any big upsets. Especially considering, every good upset (except last years epic Swarthmore, I know) starts with a doubles sweep, and the Hornets’ doubles lineup is not one that strikes fear into opponents. So I don’t really need to go through every match because it should be relatively obvious who I would be picking to win this year. I will, however, use this opportunity to mention some other Central Region teams that might not always get a lot of airtime (and maybe should?).
#1 Coe College: Anyways, the Hornets first match is against Coe College… SO EXCITING! This has to be the perfect scenario for the Coe Kohawks. People may slightly recognize the name from last seasons victory over UW-Whitewater a couple weeks before NCAA’s, 5-4. For most, however, this most likely was news that was brushed aside and not paid interest. I’m here to tell you… Watch out for Coe this year. They are a very underrated team and for those who have seen their improvement can’t help but be excited for this year. They return #1 singles player Noah Sprinkel. Sprinkel has played phenomenal tennis for them the past year and a half and was up a set and a break on Adam Putterman of Wash U at NCAA’s last year. They lost their #2 and 3 dubs (Krishtenko) and their #6 (Rodgers). But they have a very solid freshman class and this team has worked hard and improved over the past year. These guys play with guts and aren’t afraid of anyone. Look out for their solid doubles combined with gritty singles play and they may give some trouble to some good teams this year. I see this match going in the Kohawks favor, possibly first time in a while?, 6-3. I see a doubles sweep for Coe and wins at 1, 2, and 5/6. But this will be a great match I feel like.
#2 Chicago: I think their may or may not be or is going to be one on Chicago so I’m not going into too much detail. I will say this team is talented and is under new management. They will be tough this year. I see this match going 8-1 in Chi city baby’s favor.
#3 Elmhurst: YESSS!!! Elmhurst! Haha I had to. This team has gone from utter obscurity to putting together a fiesty squad capable of some pretty impressive tennis. I swear I’m not making this up. They have a 3-star, 2-star, 1-star, and a guy from California. Come on how can you not be scared?! In all seriousness, this team has a lot of heart plays good doubles and has top talent at the top spot. A good recipe for some possible noise this year. I’m so nervous to do this because I could look like a fool but I really think this could be Elmhurst’s big year. 5-4 Elmhurst. Yikes!
#4 Case Western: I am doing this preview as I finish this one. Case Western 9-0.
#5 Luther: This team has been up and down and is usually a fairly well-respected team in the Central. They lost top player Scott Sundstrom but return the steady stroking Ramesh Kharki. Other than Kharki, however, is not as bright. This team doesn’t quite have the depth this year to challenge even this Kzoo team. I see Kzoo getting a much needed win 7-2.
#6 “The next few schools” Aka Conference: I unfortunately do not know as much about these schools, other than Hope, really. But, from what I have gathered, the Hornets have and always will have a relatively firm grip on the top spot and ultimately an NCAA bid. I don’t think that will change and I see the Hornets cleaning up in conference with a 5-4 close match win in there somewhere.
#7 Kenyon & UW-Whitewater: See: my other previews. But Kenyon? Yeah right, 9-0 Kenyon. Whitewater? I see the ‘Hawks avenging their loss from last year 8-1.
#8 Conference & NCAA’s: They win conference, I presume. They qualify for NCAA’s and get knocked out by the first real team they face.
All in all, a rough year ahead for the Hornets. I apologize for downer preview but I see the Hornets falling into obscurity.