I want to start by saying, I would have posted a “Best of the Rest” preview a while ago… But unfortunately, technical difficulties decided otherwise. Since I couldn’t deprive everyone of these I will throw in a small preview of each of the teams I was going to cover in some of the recaps of matches between Central opponents. Hopefully, giving some much deserved recognition to some under the radar teams that could prove to be on the radar towards the end of the year. Let’s get at it…
#2 Kenyon-7 def. #29 Whitewater-2:
This match didn’t get hyped all that much, and I can understand why. Kenyon really came together late last year and after their performance in ITA’s I think everyone expected them to come out on fire. The senior leadership of Paul Burgin and CJ Williams will be huge for them this year. Both guys played huge in this match and that clearly set the tone from the onset. Whitewater’s forte has been their doubles and clearly having Williams/Raz at 1 and Burgin/Ye at 3 gives them the upper-hand in nearly every match. Both teams must have played very solid to handily beat the Hawks 8-4. Apparently, two doubles for Whitewater was up most of this match, and had match points…Boy would it have been an interesting match if the Hawks pulled this one out. They did not, however, and that shows the toughness of Turlington/Heerboth at 2… After this start, it is hard to imagine the Warhawks standing a chance at winning 5 singles matches against arguably the toughest singles lineup in the country. Having said that, Whitewater played very well and pushed these guys at 3-6. Burgin and Raz are rocks at the top and they made quick work in this match. Heerboth at 3 is a tricky player who won nearly every match at 4 last year. McGlashen fought hard to split sets, but I gotta wonder what happened in the second set… 6-0? At 4 CJ Williams proved it’s good to be a senior when your playing a match tie-break. This was an impressive match score and Williams must feel a little lucky to have won 13-11 in the super against freshman Jake Humphreys. As D3TG said, Bayliss and Osborne are tough outs at 5 and 6 and they proved it against Tim Rosensteel and Turlington respectively. Turlington has had some impressive wins this year, but was not in the lineup against Chicago after this match. Kaye finally saw action and it will be interesting to see where everyone sits come NCAA’s.
All in all, this was a much better match than anticipated. The Lords rose to the challenge and proved why they are a front runner for the Title this year. However, Whitewater proved that they may be ready to take a big leap forward as a program and that they can hang with anyone in singles. If they can get their doubles back on track, look out for them to put together a nice resume. The Lords should feel good about this 7-2 win, but it does open up some issues for them to take care of by season’s end.
#2 Kenyon-9 def. Chicago-0:
Wow. For anyone thinking this could have been an upset…should really question their predictive abilities. After the Whitewater match people may have been thinking Kenyon isn’t as good as advertised and this tricky Chicago team could give them trouble. Boy did the Lords prove those people wrong. Chicago’s weakness has always been their doubles and Kenyon rolled through at every spot. Okay, well they did that last match, but Chicago’s singles is what saves them…right? Wrong. The Lords puffed out their chests in singles and handily won at every position except 2 and 3 singles (which 2 singles was still in straights). Raz played 1 in this match and I wouldn’t be surprised if he stays there (and don’t be surprised for Burgin to play 1 here and there for ranking purposes). A combination of Raz being one of the best players in the country when healthy, and Chicago being somewhat weak at 1 singles with Sabada moving from 5 to 1 from last year, is why this match was so lopsided. Honestly, I see Raz doing this to a lot of players this year. Barghava will be a tough out at #2, but Burgin played well enough to get through there. Heerboth again proves to be clutch on the court winning 6-4 in the third to Freshman Jake Crawford. Crawford will definitely be a great player for the Maroons moving forward. Williams is a nightmare matchup for Golovin and he took care of business in straight sets. Golovin will be a formidable 4, but I don’t know if he can get it done against top teams. Freshman Gordon Zhang played one tough set (5) against Rosensteel who bounced back nicely in this match. Look for Zhang to improve throughout the year and he will be a good 5. At 6, Tristan Kaye popped into the lineup against Harrison Abrams. This is a huge mismatch and Kaye rolled through. I find it hard to believe that Chicago doesn’t have a better option at 6, but maybe not.
All in all, the Lords really stood up in this match. Chicago proved that they are still young and need a lot of work. One thing I will say, it’s better to play Chicago now then in 2/3 months. These guys will definitely improve as the year goes, but they are not ready to beat any top teams as of yet. I still think this team should finish around the 28-30 range, but I don’t know if their schedule is good enough. Time will tell.
Earlham-5 def #27 Denison-4:
Go Earlham! In my preview of Denison I mentioned that Denison doesn’t look as strong this year and might fall out of the ranking, I also mentioned that they have a weak schedule. While I probably should have given more attention to the Earlham match, I don’t think many people saw this coming. That being said, the #1 doubles team of Anton Bratashevich and Jack Ventura-Cruess did get to the finals of arguably one of the most difficult ITA’s. That was a shock as well, but it seems this team has some talent and might have a shot at knocking off the likes of Chicago and Depauw later on this year.
I think the most shocking thing about this match is where Earlham got its points. One would have thought (as most upsets go), Earlham would jump out in doubles, especially considering the success at 1. However, the lone win came at 3 and all the matches were pretty lopsided. This, to me, speaks to the strength of Denison at least at 1 doubles. Either Earlham has 3 comparable doubles teams, it was a stack, or Denison is weak there…my guess is Earlham’s 2 and 3 are pretty equal and 3’s played a big match. At this point, Denison probably felt very confident. Clearly Earlham had a couple tricks up their sleeve.
In singles, Earlham has a very strong top two (Baratashevich and Locklear) and Denison has a lot of young players. The strength of the top propelled Earlham to two routine wins at 1 and 2. This looks to be the strongest spots for Earlham and where Denison continues to be vulnerable. Casey Cempre came through nicely at 3 for the Big Red. Four, five, and six singles are really the tell-tale of this match. Earlham was able to gut it at and pull off third set wins and Denison was not. This tells me Denison has a lot of growing up to do before there are ready to be a contender again. Ventura-Cruess and Brad Maisley put together big time matches to get the win for Earlham. I can only imagine how pumped these guys were when Maisley pulled it out in the tiebreaker.
Overall, a great effort by Earlham to pull off the upset. It’s too bad that Denison can’t seem to put together a talented “team”, because they assuredly have talented players. This match goes to show you hard-work and determination can prevail over talent. Let it be a lesson that the D3 tennis world is vastly improving and teams cannot underestimate anyone.
Matches to watch for Earlham are against Univ of Chicago and Depauw. It will be interesting to see if this match was a fluke or if these guys can be a top 30 contender.
Coe-7 def #30 Kalamazoo-2
Well, I called this one. In my preview I mentioned how Kzoo lost its top 3 from last year…Well they recruited no one and those three players (Eddy, Denenfeld, and Dombos), were the heart and soul of the Hornets. Coe, on the other hand, lost two lineup players to graduation (Krishtenko 2s and 2/3D and Rodgers 6s), but recruited two good players in Riley Galbraith and Yasushi Inoue. Coe had a short stint at the #30 spot last year after their win over Whitewater, but fell out by years end. This year they hope to solidify that ranking and this was a good start. Unfortunately, it’s hard to know whether Coe is that good…or Kzoo is that bad. Honestly, I’m leaning a little more towards the latter.
Coe has very solid doubles, and normally Kzoo is decent at doubles so Coe came in with the edge here. Eddy and Denenfeld were a great 1 doubles team, but with them gone Hanselman and Rothstein have to step up. Noah Sprinkel and Curtis Newman are a very tough team and they took it to the Hornets 8-4. The Sprinkel/Newman combo will be very formidable this year. Two and three doubles were very similar stories, the Kohawks bring a much higher level of play to the table and the scorelines showed it. Basically, an embarrassing 0-3 start for Kzoo, and a picture perfect one for Coe.
In singles, Coe had the clear advantage at #1. Sprinkel is likely the most underrated 1 in the Central. As has been mentioned, he was up on Adam Putterman 6-2, 5-2 before the match was called at NCAA’s. That’s a big stage and a big name. He made solid work of Rothstein who moved up from the 4 spot from last year. Rothstein is a solid player, but I really don’t see him able to hang with most good number 1’s this year. Hanselman, to me, is more of their 1 player but he gives the Hornets a better shot at 2. He pulled off Kzoo’s only straight set win in singles. This could be in part due to the fact that this was the first “big” match for Freshman Galbraith, but he should not be ashamed of this loss by any means. Yasushi made quick work of the grinding Mike Korn 2 and 2. Impressive win there. Senior Curtis Newman had a nice win at 4 singles over David DeSimone in three sets. This is where Coe becomes weaker and where they will be vulnerable against the likes of Whitewater (really their only other big match of the year). Five singles was the final point going the Hornets way Robert Hudson pulled off a match tiebreaker against Sean Stokstad. Finally, Ryan Hickman rolled through at 6 singles over Matt Colapinto 2 and 0… I think that really shows how weak Kzoo is this year.
Final thoughts. Coe is very solid this year and given their schedule should win every match with the exception of the Whitewater match, which should be a good one. It’s really too bad the Kohawks don’t play a Depauw, GAC, or Chicago to see exactly where they fall in the Central this year. Honestly, it’s a shame. Lucky for them they are still young and could put together an equally capable squad next season. As for Kzoo…ouch. I don’t know what happened to the recruiting of this program, but if they don’t get back on the right track there will be a lot of teams getting their first ever program win over the Hornets. On another note, Kzoo better look out for Elmhurst next weekend because that Elmhurst squad is hungry for a big program win. Oh, and I don’t know how good Hope College is but could this be the year the Hornets don’t win their conference? I doubt it, but they better work hard to make sure it doesn’t.
Chicago-8 def #30 Kalamazoo-1
Did I mention that Kzoo is down this year? Well this scoreline definitely proves it. I won’t spend too much on this one because I’ve covered both teams already. A couple things to take away from this match.
1. Chicago is VERY weak at 1 doubles: Chicago has messed around with the combo they put there but it’s clear they don’t have #1 doubles talent. Rothstein and Hanselman are good players but by no means are they a great doubles team. Kzoo took it 8-6. Chicago is just deeper than Kzoo and was able to walk through the 2 and 3 spots.
2. The Hornets are WEAK in singles: This was an utter blowout in singles. One set went to a breaker which was 7-2… Chicago is obviously stronger at singles than doubles, but jeez.
Overall, Chicago has to be happy with how easily they got through match, and Kzoo has to be frustrated with their level of play to start the year. Chicago still has a lot of work to do in doubles, but they might be a top 30 team this year…Nothing more than that though.