Let’s review Amherst’s season against opponents currently ranked top 20 in the country.
Hopkins 6-3 win (Led 2-1 after doubles)
Carnegie 8-1 win (Led 2-1 after doubles)
Bowdoin 7-2 win (Led 2-1 after doubles)
Cal Lu 5-4 win (Led 2-1 after doubles)
Pomona-Pitzer 7-2 win (Led 3-0 after doubles)
CMS 6-3 win (Led 2-1 after doubles)
Bates 5-4 win (Down 2-1 after doubles)
Williams 5-4 win (Down 2-1 after doubles)
Middlebury 9-0 win (Led 3-0 after doubles)
Middlebury 5-1 win (Led 2-1 after doubles)
Bowdoin 5-2 win (Led 2-1 after doubles)
That’s a combined 5-0 against teams who made the Final 8 and a combined 22-11 in doubles against teams ranked top 20 in the country.
Let’s review Wash U’s season against opponents currently ranked top 20 in the country.
UC Santa Cruz 5-4 loss (Down 0-3 after doubles)
Kenyon 5-4 loss (Led 2-1 after doubles)
Bowdoin 6-3 loss (Down 2-1 after doubles)
Hopkins 5-4 loss (Led 2-1 after doubles)
Case 5-3 win (Down 0-3 after doubles)
Carnegie 5-4 win (Down 0-3 after doubles)
Emory 8-1 loss (Down 2-1 after doubles)
That’s a combined 0-4 against teams who made the Final 8 and a combined 6-15 in doubles against teams ranked top 20 in the country, including 1-8 in their last 3 matches. There was absolutely no way to see this coming. Wash U’s best win to this point was the 17th ranked team in the country and they struggled in that. I’m thinking so many different things I can’t even explain how big of an upset this is. But the bottom line is this: Wash U is a great program with a phenomenal coach that always believes they are going to win when they step on the court. They played a fantastic hour of tennis against an overconfident Amherst team, whose whole team didn’t show up to play today. Granted, Wash U is ranked 15th in the country, but the Final 8 is the Final 8 and you have to come to play. Amherst didn’t do that today and they ran into the wrong bunch of guys. Parizher, Farah and Putterman have been there before, and they were able to propel their doubles teams to early leads which were big enough for them to hold onto. Amherst didn’t want it enough, and they had a bad day while playing a team that had a great doubles day. With the 9-point system, anything can happen, and we saw that in action today. I apologize to Wash U for saying they had no shot because clearly I was wrong, but this just dwarfs every other upset in NCAAs since I’ve been a part of D3. While Williams over CMS last year was a shocker, this is a team who really had no business even making it to North Carolina beating the odds-on favorite to win the national title and the defending champion. I’m still in shock and don’t know what to say, but I’ll have more time to gather my thoughts and talk about this after the season. One thing is for sure and that is Amherst has a very long time to think about how they performed today. They did a complete turnaround compared to how they’ve played the past 3 years and I can’t help but think they weren’t hungry this year after winning it all last year. Overall, a hard earned D3-leading 5th consecutive Final 4 for the Wash U Bears, and a golden opportunity to get back to the Championship for the first time since 2008.
Kenyon played a flat-out awesome match today. They beat CMS fair and square and earned their first ever Final 4. Just as I said above, this is the 9-point system being the great equalizer. I don’t want to speculate, but it’s very possible this would have ended up being 5-4, which means CMS wins in the 7-point system. Either way it doesn’t matter, but what does matter is that Burgin stepped up for the Lords just as I said he had to. He got both of his spots, and along with the shocking victory for Kenyon at 1 doubles, it was enough so Kenyon never really was in danger of losing this match. In the Final 8, Alex Lane is now a combined 0-4 over 2 years, and that really hurts CMS. For the Stags, it’s another good year and another squandered opportunity in NCAAs, and it’s still not clear what goes wrong with these guys every year. Today, Kenyon was clearly the superior team. They played and acted like it from the first ball, and all the talk about the shaky regular season helping the Stags in the postseason turned out to be irrelevant. The Stags came very close to putting it all together near the end of the season, but that clearly wasn’t the case as evidenced by today. Part of me feels bad for CMS because they really deserve that national title, but I also feel great for Kenyon, who really deserves this Final 4. The late matches today were a case of 2 teams who played poor doubles for the majority of the year being able to turn it around against favored opponents. Although we’ve seen it more this year than ever, it really is incredibly difficult to dig out of an 0-3 hole, and no matter how great Herst and CMS were, they forgot to play the first hour of their respective matches and that’s not going to get it done against quality teams this late in the season.
I would have been happy with today’s drama if both afternoon matches were blowouts. I feel spent writing this post already and I haven’t even discussed the best match of the day yet. Finally, Hopkins was not able to dig out of a 2-1 hole, and that’s because they played a team who could match their talent in singles. Emory jumped out to the doubles lead as expected and managed 3 first sets. Pottish and Kowalski held on for wins, and despite Goodwin’s shocking loss to Brown, Emory’s freshman Halpern was the more clutch player in his match at 5. Hopkins couldn’t have asked for a more picture-perfect scenario in this match. They had their senior up 3-0 in the 3rd set of what would be the deciding match against Emory’s freshman, but through the years Emory has been the tougher team and that proved to be the case today. For Hopkins, a gritty and impressive performance that their young guys will use to their advantage next year. And for Emory, they got a great win against a great team, and with Amherst out, they have a clear path to give Pottish and Goodwin their national title. I think Emory is too focused to let the Amherst loss distract them, because the really big match for the Eagles is tomorrow. Whoever comes out of the Emory-Williams semi will be the heavy favorite entering Wednesday’s final. The Eagles crushed both Kenyon and Wash U, so they have to feel good about their chances. The key for Emory tomorrow is to jump out to that 2-1 lead and let their big guns take care of business. Goodwin didn’t have a great day, but his teammates bailed him out and he has another tough match tomorrow against Sun, which his team really needs.
As expected, we had an old-fashioned NESCAC street fight, with two very complete teams playing a tight match. But this time, it was the more experienced Ephs who were able to come back from the 2-1 doubles deficit and take control of the match, winning 5 first sets, led by senior Will Petrie’s comeback in his first set. Bowdoin has nothing to hang their heads about because they played a great match, but the better team won today. I don’t think there’s a ton to break down when it comes to this match, it was just a typical tight college tennis match and Williams was more solid in the end. Bowdoin returns the core of their team next year, and I’m sure the lessons they learned today will help them in the future. Watch out for the Polar Bears next year because they are for real. They came out firing in doubles and had Williams on their heels start to finish. However the Ephs dug deep and gutted out the win to make their 2nd consecutive Final 4. Just as Emory would be a heavy favorite in the final if they won tomorrow, so would Williams, and you better believe Williams sees the opportunity ahead of them.
Looking ahead to tomorrow, I like Emory and Kenyon. Williams cannot count on winning 4 singles matches against Emory, and with the Eagles 3 doubles team being really tough, if they can steal 1 or 2, I love Emory’s chances heading into singles. That said, Williams is very tough at the top 2 doubles spots, and if they can grab that 2-1 lead, this is a winnable match for them. I like the chances for Sun, Micheli, Chow and Petrie tomorrow. They’ve all been there before and the last 3 will be playing less-experienced opponents. But I just think this is Emory’s year to win it all again. They are obviously aware of what’s at stake tomorrow and Browning will have his boys ready to go from the first ball in doubles. I’ll take Emory 5-3. I love how Kenyon played today, and despite Wash U’s outstanding win, I’m going with what I think is the better team. With both teams sweeping doubles, that will obviously be huge tomorrow. I like both teams at 3 of the singles spots, but I have to throw the doubles edge to Kenyon. I really like Wash U’s chances at 1, 3 and 6 singles as well as at 1 doubles, but I’m just not sure where that 5th point is going to come from. I think this is going to be a nailbiter just like the 3rd place match at Indoors 3 months ago, and I’ll take Kenyon 5-4 after they grab a 2-1 lead in doubles.