So I’ve had a busy past couple of weeks, and haven’t been able to get these recaps out to you, but I’m guaranteeing that I get all THREE recaps done for y’all this weekend. Makes sense for me to start off with the Atlantic South, considering that’s the only one I did a preview for and it is my namesake. I’ll do this in report card fashion like D3West did, even though he did steal the team-by-team format from me.
Carnegie Mellon Tartans – ITA Grade: A
This was the ITA tournament that the Tartans have been waiting for for many years. I’ll bring you through some stats that will tell you how good CMU’s singles performance was. They had five players in the quarters, three players in the semis, one in the finals, and the eventual champion. The success came from a mix of freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. This team needed a big start to the year and they sure came out swinging. Abhishek Alla, who was one of my players to watch in the preview, put together a dominating performance. He crushed Hwang 2 and 1 in the final – an extremely surprising rout. Congrats to Alla for a hell of a tournament. Additionally, we saw #2 seed Heaney-Secord make it to the semis where he ended up losing to Hwang in an absolute heartbreaker. Kudos to him for getting another set out of Hwang, this could have played a big factor in the finals match of a grueling ITA. Some more performances to call out were the CMU freshman trio of Kenny Zheng, Jack Kasbeer, and Kiril Kirkov. Zheng ended up in the semis, losing 4 and 2 to his teammate Alla. Kirkov ended up getting to the round of 16, only to lose to Hwang in a semi-routine battle. The freshman I do want to point out is Kasbeer, who had a stellar tournament. He took out Evan Charles in a tough three-setter, and we all know that Charles is no joke. Then, he took down Erik Lim in what could be the match of the tournament, 7-6 in the third set. For a freshman to come back from one set down and win against who I believe to be one of the hardest people to face in DIII is a huge testament to Kasbeer’s mental toughness. I also won’t forget to mention Will Duncan, one of my sleeper picks – he took down the Hopkins freshman Buxbaum and eventually became the only person to take a set off his teammate, Alla. Overall, a great singles tournament, but the Tartans did struggle a bit in doubles. They only got two teams into the quarterfinals where they both fell. CMU does tend to have a strength in either singles or doubles, and they’ll have to put together some good doubles performances before I consider them a top team. For that, I’ll give them an A instead of an A+ on the scorecard.
Johns Hopkins Blue Jays – ITA Scorecard: B+
At first glance, it seems that Hopkins didn’t have a great tournament with the way the Tartans dominated. However, let’s not be deceived by this performance. The Blue Jays still had a solid tournament that was really defined by a few unlucky breaks that didn’t go their way. Some of you are probably wondering “What happened to Brown [Tanner]?” Word is that Brown strained his calf in the round of 16, and had to pull out – leaving a clear path for some of the Tartans. If Brown doesn’t take that injury, he’d definitely end up in the quarters and potentially the semifinals with a battle against Alla. Even if Alla wins that, maybe that makes the difference in a final. That being said, Brown was still my favorite to win the tournament, and if this was played again, he’d still be my favorite. Hwang obviously had another good tournament, and his win over Heaney-Secord is huge considering he’s slated to be a #2 player from here on forward. It’s very possible those two meet later on in direct competition. Lim didn’t achieve the results I expected, but he was a few points away from beating Kasbeer, and that quarterfinals match would have been interesting. He’s still a very good 3 player and we can be pretty damn sure that he’s going to give people trouble in dual matches no matter who he plays. It was disappointing to me that Reiter missed the ITAs again, as I did want to see where his game was coming into fall. One thing I was pretty intrigued about was the play of the Hopkins freshmen, especially Buxbaum. He took Duncan of CMU to a tight 3 sets, and in addition took home the doubles championship with his freshman teammate, Emerson Walsh. Another nice surprise for the Jays was the team of sophomore Nick Garcia and junior Noah Joachim making the finals of the A draw, only to fall to their teammates. If you would have told me that Hopkins would be lacking in singles and dominate the doubles tournament, I would have said you were crazy. But it happened, and Hopkins still has the potential to be a really good all-around team now that they have legit doubles on their side. The season isn’t won in the fall, and we should all be well aware of the talent that is on this roster. With the additions of Buxbaum and Walsh, look for this team to be in that 10-15 range with a shot at the top 10 if they can really put it together.
Mary Washington Eagles – ITA Grade: C
This was a tough tournament for the Eagles, and a C grade might even be generous. Out of the 7 players they had in the singles draw, only 3 of them got out of the first round. Even with tough draws, you’d expect a solid team like the Eagles to pull off one or maybe two upsets, but it just wasn’t in the cards this time around. Evan Charles lost in a three-setter to Kasbeer (CMU) in the second round in a tough match, but that’s one that I would expect Charles to win given his experience. Kaleb Nguyen had a pretty easy win in the first round, and gave the #2 seed a decent match, losing 4 and 2. The lone bright spot in singles for the Eagles was #3 seed Tyler Carey, who I mistakenly didn’t mention in the ITA preview. Carey made it to the quarterfinals, beating his fellow #1 singles player Taylor Shamshiri of Washington and Lee, eventually losing to Hwang in a fairly easy match. I would have loved to see Carey make a few big strides and really become a force in the Atlantic South, but it looks like he still has some work to do. In doubles, a lot of the same story. Many of the Eagles teams were knocked out by the Round of 16, expect the surprising team of Blahkin and Lundling-Johannson. This team was unseeded, and I really didn’t expect much from them. However, Blahkin has always been a solid doubles player as well as L-J. A really nice win for them over the Swarthmore seeded team, as well as the seeded team from CMU to make the semifinals. If Mary Washington is going to make a run at anyone this year, they’ll need their doubles to shape up, because they won’t be winning matches by taking 5 in singles. Overall, not a great start for the Eagles but it’s definitely not a terrible performance.
Washington and Lee Generals – ITA Grade: B-
The Generals came into this tournament with similar expectations as the Eagles, and I must say they did perform slightly better than their Mid-Atlantic counterparts. They were able to get five first round wins, and it was a well-rounded singles performance. Really big shout-out to Michael Holt, who has an awesome tournament based on expectations. He took out the JHU freshman Walsh in three sets in the first round, which was a surprise to me and good news for the Generals. He followed up with a tight win over a Newport player, and ended up losing to the eventual champion in Alla. Taylor Shamshiri, W&L’s only seed in the tournament, won the matches he needed to win and ended up losing to Carey in a close match. Expect those two to have some more close battles later on this year. W&L had a few more random first round wins that aren’t too notable as well. In doubles, Holt/Shamshiri were the favorites after their amazing run in Nationals last year, and despite falling short of the title, I think it was a pretty good run for them. They were cruising through the tournament up until the semifinals, where they met the eventual champion team from Hopkins. They were leading a break in the match (I believe) and were unable to finish it off, and had three match points in the tiebreaker and were also unable to finish that off. Really tough loss for them but it’s going to happen throughout the season, it might as well be in the ITAs. This is still a top doubles team and they will continue to perform until further notice. The rest of the Generals doubles teams were pretty underwhelming, but basically everyone lived up to what we should have expected from them. Not a bad tournament, but not a great tournament for this fiery team.
Swarthmore – ITA Grade: F
This was a brutal tournament for Swat. They had one seed in Anthony Collard (#4), and I had even mentioned him in the second tier players in my preview. He ended up losing in the Round of 32, and it actually ended up that Swarthmore got no one out of that round in singles. Not to mention they got no one out of the Round of 16 in doubles, and you’re looking at a team who’s top 30 ranking is in jeopardy. I expected better out of a team that does have some singles talent. It’s going to be a tough year for the Garnet if they continue this level of play up.
The Others – ITA Grade: C
I’ve always been told that C is like your “average” grade. It’s not mediocre, but it’s not good either. That’s basically what the performance of everyone else was. Usually we see a few random breakthroughs from random teams, but this year there was really no noise from the likes of Salisbury, Haverford, and Christopher Newport amongst others. The one performance to note was Luis Acaba making the quarterfinals, but it was really because Brown had to pull out with an injury. No other big performances in doubles as well. Average tournament for the lesser known teams of the Atlantic South.