I apologize as this is probably my first article in about a month. I’ve had a ton of other things to do recently, but all you readers can expect our determined team of writers to be able to keep up with all the DIII action and keep you guys reading throughout the winter. We’ll be releasing three team previews a week beginning next week, as well as finalizing our DIII Calendar so that you all can mark your calendars for the big matches. Please continue to follow us on Twitter as well as continue to keep discussions flowing in the blog, as we always appreciate your comments! Anyways, about that Amherst weekend a few weeks ago….
Amherst defeats Johns Hopkins, 5-4
Overall, this started a really great preview to the Amherst season. I really wasn’t expecting Amherst to go into Baltimore and Pittsburgh and win two straight matches against potentially top 10 teams, but they went in and did just that. Starting with Hopkins, I thought that the Jeffs would roll through this one. With Tanner Brown out and the freshmen Buxbaum and Walsh coming off the doubles ITA Nationals, you had to figure that the Jeffs had the upper-hand, even if the Blue Jays were at home. That didn’t really turn out to be the case. A positive surprise for the Jeffs was doubles. With the emergence of Walsh and Buxbaum as a legit #1 team for Hopkins, I thought they would come out with a strong doubles performance and take 2 of 3. The Hopkins freshmen took the #1 spot, which wasn’t surprising as Amherst never really has a dominating #1 team, especially in the fall. However, the surprising part was the domination of the #2 and #3 spots by Amherst. The combination of Solmiano/Rezvin took down a very solid team in Joachim/Garcia, one that notched a few solid wins at #1 and #2 last year. The 8-4 final in that match makes it look pretty routine. At #3, freshman Anton Zykov teamed with sophomore Yaraghi to crush what a potentially makeshift Hopkins #3 team by the score of 8-2. It’s good to see the young players for Amherst get some doubles experience, as we all know how different college doubles is compared to the juniors. Moving on to singles, I think this went as we would expect, with one big time difference. With Tanner Brown out, I personally didn’t think the Jays had much chance at the top of the lineup. This leads us to our performance of the day, which is the freshman Buxbaum beating the sophomore Yaraghi in what looks like two routine sets. We’ll see later on in this preview that the former ITA champ Yaraghi may not have his best game right now. In addition, there were encouraging performances from both sides. Ben Hwang of Hopkins took Fritz to three sets, again proving to us that he belongs with some of the best players in DIII. When Brown comes back, it’ll be very interesting to see who they have at the top of the lineup. Either way, it should be a good advantage at #2 against 90% of the DIII teams. On Amherst’s side, the freshman Zykov is really turning some heads right now. His three set win over Lim was the turning point of the match as it put Amherst up 4-3 at the time with Fritz up in the third. What a match. Hopkins was able to take two at the bottom of the lineup to make this a 5-4 match, but this was a very good effort by the Lord Jeffs to take this in a hostile environment.
Amherst defeats Carnegie Mellon, 5-4
It’s really funny how things work. Last year, Carnegie-Mellon didn’t have much momentum going into this match, yet they came back from a doubles sweep and won 5 out of 6 singles spots. This year, Abhishek Alla comes back from winning a national title, and the Tartans fall. Crazy how tennis works. Amherst used a similar formula to win this match, taking 2 of the 3 doubles matches to give themselves a nice edge going into a tough singles fleet. Again, the #2 and #3 teams came up big. Despite dropping the #1 doubles spot (which may be a common theme for the Jeffs), the two other teams won tight matches, both 8-6. If Amherst can really rely on getting 2 out of 3 doubles against top teams, their national title hopes take a huge boost in my opinion. Although Hop and CMU are singles oriented teams right now, it’s still an accomplishment. With that 2-1 lead going into singles, I still expected the Jeffs to fall at the 1-3 singles spots, and I figured one of the CMU freshmen could pick up a win at the bottom of the lineup. Joey Fritz had some other ideas. Fritz took down the #1 player in the country, Alla, who was literally fresh off of his national title. Caveat here is that Alla had just finished playing 4 matches in 3 days down in Fort Myers. Could this have potentially turned the match in CMU’s favor? At #2 and #3, we saw two really routine wins for CMU. This was a disappointing weekend for Yaraghi as he got totally trampled by Heaney-Secord, 6-1 6-1. At #3, Will Duncan of CMU showed why he will be a force in the middle of the lineup, taking down the upstart freshman Zykov 6-2, 6-4. After splitting the bottom two singles spots, the match came down to #4, where the sophomore Solmiano battled with the freshman Kirkov (CMU). In my eyes, experience played a huge factor in this match, and this is why Coach Garner goes out there and throws his young guys into the fire during the fall season. Kirkov was up a break in the third set, but just couldn’t finish Solmiano off as he rattled off 4 games straight to take the set 6-4. Moving forward, the Tartans will need a better performance from their freshman as they can’t rely so heavily on the top 3 to reel off automatic wins. On the opposite side, it’s clear that we probably don’t need to worry about the Jeffs too much. They didn’t play their #3 player Fife from last year, as well as SENIOR Chris Dale, yet still won twice in two days. Awesome weekend for the Jeffs and I’m looking forward to the spring for them.
That’s all I’ve got for tonight… but look out for our team previews which will be starting on Sunday! Three team previews a week keeps the doctors away. Good to be back.