- Coach: Paul Settles, 10th season
Location: Claremont, CA
2009 Ranking: T-5
2010 Ranking: 3
2011 Ranking: 5
2012 Ranking: 6
2013 Projection: 5
As you can see, Claremont has been “stag”-nant rankings-wise in recent years. (ha. ha.). We often talk about them as a team on the brink of greatness that just hasn’t been able to break through for the national championship. Perhaps I’ve been a little too harsh on them. After all, only one team can win a national championship every year, and there have been some pretty stacked teams recently. Still, it’s not that they lose; it’s the way they lose. Three years ago: huge favorites against Amherst, lose 7 team match points. Two years ago: huge favorites against Williams, lose 7 team match points. Last year: perhaps slight favorites against Kenyon, lay an absolute egg. They should be able to consistently compete for a national championship, but instead, they consistently underperform at the end of the year. I think they’re probably headed for more of the same this year. They have an incredible talented roster, and they will undoubtedly crush several top 10 teams throughout the season, but they don’t have the same passion as a Kenyon or a Williams at the end of the year, and I think that’s why they lose.
As far as strengths and weaknesses go, the Stags were all over the place last year. At the beginning of the season, they appeared to be stronger in doubles and at the top of the lineup (sweeping doubles and winning 1 and 2 singles in their two Stag-Hen matches), but by the end of the year, their doubles had become a liability, and they couldn’t get consistent production from the top of the lineup. In their last match against P-P, they lost 1 and 2 singles, and when they got swept by Kenyon in the Elite Eight, 1 and 2 singles were the first two matches off the court. I think their strengths this year will be more consistent with their later-year performance. They lose (maybe) Lane and Erani, but add Dorn, Yeh, and Butts. I’m skeptical as to whether or not any of the new guys can match a Lane-like level of production. Whoever ends up at the top of the lineup for the Stags will undoubtedly be very good. They will win against almost any team outside the top 10, but we have to hold the Stags to a different standard. Most national championship teams need a good alpha dog who can just go out and win every match (Pottish, Rattenhuber was a beast his junior year, Peters, Liberty-Point), and the Stags don’t have that.
That being said, their depth will be absolutely insane. Wood, Dorn, Marino, Kotrappa, Cahill, and Johnson are all proven winners. Yeh and Butts will definitely be very good. Bernhardt is filthy if he’s health. Ellis is a guy who would play for almost any other team. And Pereverzin is a former NCAA doubles finalist. They have a lot of options, and they will definitely finish in the top 8. I think Lane is the player that might push them from “very good” to “national champions.”
The Stags have one of the best schedules in the nation, as always. Even though they got a little complacent against Swarthmore last year, a schedule like this one can’t really hurt you because you have plenty of time to make up for one little slip (like Claremont did last year, finishing the regular season at #5 despite the losses to Swat and Cruz). Their first DIII test of the season is a February 23rd match with Bates, and then they just sort of run the DIII gauntlet. After that, they have NCW, Trinity (Tx), the Stag Hen (Case Western, Kenyon, and Emory or Wash U, I think), Whitman, Middlebury, Williams, Pomona-Pitzer, GAC, Cal Lu, Redlands, Whittier, Cruz, and the SCIAC Championships. For those of you counting at home, that would be 15 of the current top 25 teams. Crazy.
The most important matches of the season for them, post-season implication wise, will be Pomona-Pitzer and Cruz. They should be able to handle Cruz pretty easily this year, but they also should have won the regular-season matches the last two years and lost, which ended up costing them home court one post-season. Pomona-Pitzer looked sneaky-good in the Fall tournament, and they have been gaining on CMS in recent years. I would still expect the Stags to win those, win the SCIAC tournament, host the California regional, and win that, but the Hens will be their biggest competition.
Their matches against Kenyon (potentially), Emory or Wash U(potentially), and Williams will be most indicative of whether or not they’re ready to win a national championship. With a schedule like this one, it’s ridiculous to think they would win all of those matches, but one win is all they would need to believe that they could win the national championship. I think they’ll probably end up winning one of those three and losing in the Elite Eight again.