I’ve said it plenty of times on Twitter, but wow. What a great, great weekend we just experienced in DIII Tennis. All the drama, competition, and even more activity than we’ve ever seen, especially over Twitter! I’ll be going through each team’s indoor performance, and give my good and bad that they can take from the tournament. Hope you enjoy as much as I enjoyed following all the action this weekend.
#1 Kenyon Lords
The Good: Amazing tournament for the Lords. Obviously, the good news is that they took the whole thing, and beat Emory in the process. They’ll take over #1 in the next ITA rankings. However, I think the real win from this tournament is the fact that they have absolutely 0 holes in their singles lineup. We all knew Burgin, Raz, Williams, and Rosensteel could handle it. But Heerboth and Ye, who were question marks going into this, combined for a record of 12-0 over the weekend. This was punctuated by Ye’s 6-0, 6-0 win in the finals on the national stage. It can’t get much better than this for the Lords, and they are officially the favorite to win it all this year.
The Bad: This might even be a good thing, but the Lords seem to have a slight hole in the doubles lineup. 3 doubles is set, but their #2 doubles team struggled in this tournament and they made a surprising switch in the finals at #1 doubles, where they blew a 7-3 lead. They have all the players to play great doubles, however if they don’t figure it out in dubs they could be slightly vulnerable later this season.
(Correction: There was an error on the GAC website, it was Williams/Raz at 1 today. Doubles is still something that needs work though!)
#2 Emory Eagles
The Good: As always, the Eagles brought a fire and competitiveness that is matched by few in DIII Tennis. Some teams may complain, but these guys know how to win and they will put everything out there to do so. Personally, I think it was a very encouraging tournament for them. Eric Halpern, who I had some doubts about coming into the tournament, went on to beat Smith-Dennis, Skinner, and Burgin consecutively. That’s a huge slate of matches and we can count on him to be right there with the big boys from here on out. Another big plus is Rafe Mostick’s play at 5, with a big win over Rosensteel in the final and overall a great tourny. These guys will also be in the thick of things come the end of the year, and you can count on Coach Browning having these guys hungry for a repeat.
The Bad: Well, they didn’t win. And a lot of the blame has to fall on #6 singles for this tournament. Losing in 45 minutes is unacceptable at any spot in the finals, let alone when you play for Emory. If Szczurek has been outplaying players in practice, is Emory as deep as we think they are? This question will probably be answered very soon, as Emory gets into more of their dual match slate. Emory has made their name by being a challenge or being favored at every singles position, and there is just that much more pressure on this young team if they can barely count on a #6 player moving forward.
#3 California Lutheran Kingsmen
The Good: The Kingsmen were my second winner of Indoors this weekend. They were overlooked, and went out and proved they are definitely a contender. Not that we had any doubts, but Ballou clearly still has it going for him and he looked absolutely dominant this weekend. If you can get 2 almost automatic wins, that is a huge advantage. I think the biggest win this weekend, was the fact that they can count on their #2 doubles team of Treacy/Nichols, as well as at 3 and 4 singles. Both these guys showed awesome fight this weekend against very tough opponents. The Kingsmen have a very interesting formula of winning if they get those 2 points from Ballou.
The Bad: Not much bad in this tournament for the Kingsmen. However, the #5/#6 combo of Millet/Sousa definitely needs to step up if this team wants to be a national contender. I saw they replaced Sousa today, but got the same result at #6, so this is an area where things need to improve for sure. Like I said with Emory, you can’t throw away two spots against Kenyon or Williams or any other top 10 team for that matter. Is the spring season going to be enough for these guys to improve?
#4 Trinity (TX) Tigers
The Good: The streak is finally over! Trinity overcame their long losing streak to UC Santa Cruz, in dramatic fashion. Things got a bit hairy in their first round match, and D3tennis even emailed me “If they lose this, their season may be ruined,” during the third set at 6 singles. Another big time plus – they fought Emory hard and definitely had chances to win. Overall, their doubles performance was really great, as they took 2 of 3 from both Cruz and Emory, and were close in every match versus CLU. Looks like they still have that doubles swag. Skinner looks to be a true #1 after his amazing fall, and their bottom of the lineup came out and played well.
The Bad: Some of the Trinity veterans really need to get it going. DelaFuente, who I consider to be a leader on this team, went 0-3 at singles this weekend. I expected him to be a strong 3 this year and one win from him against Emory or CLU might be a momentum shifter. I think the bad news overall, however, is that they are a team that can be exploited if the opponent has a few “strength spots.” Results for the Tigers were all over the place, and if you can get a few guaranteed wins against them, they have to grind it out at all the other spots to get the win.
#5 Johns Hopkins University
The Good: Their singles is still really good. They were able to take 4 of 6 from CLU, 5 of 6 against NCW, and 4 of 6 from GAC. With the strength of their singles lineup, they can beat any team on any given day, and I still believe that. Being that they don’t necessarily love playing indoors, this tournament could be an aberration, but the questions are still there.
The Bad: Clearly, not a great tournament for the championship hopeful Jays. A disappointing loss first round to CLU, and they were tested pretty hard by both NCW and GAC, who are teams that I consider to be in the second tier. Hopkins should roll through those two, but instead things were interesting. The reason why – Hopkins did not come out on top in doubles against any of those teams. Thing is, GAC is the only team of the three that is considered to be a “top doubles team.” What if they come against Williams in NCAAs? Hopkins needs to figure out doubles right away or they are prime for some more upsets this season.
#6 Gustavus Adolphus Gusties
The Good: Hey, a 6th place finish for the Gusties against the best of the best is a huge win. They got that one win they needed against a tired/demoralized Cruz team, and fought the Blue Jays hard on their home courts. GAC proved to all of us that their bottom of the lineup should be taken seriously and can compete, as we saw in their match vs Cruz. Not to mention, Donkena scored a really great win against Brown today in the 5th place match. Oh, and not surprising – they can play doubles with anyone. They were in every match vs. Emory, and went up 2-1 against both Cruz and Hopkins. GAC has a great formula to pull off some upsets later in the season.
The Bad: Not much bad for the Gusties. However, the default at #2 doubles against Hopkins literally could have decided the match. There have been conflicting reports of what happened, but from what I hear it was because emotions were lost for a split second. Things may have been overblown, but you should NOT be in that situation ever. With the way GAC has been playing doubles – that could be the difference between them and a 5th place finish.
#7 UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs
The Good: UC Santa Cruz proved to me that they continue to be one of the most well-coached and mature teams in the nation. They came out and fought an unbelievable fight against the Tigers, and lost by a hair. They came out literally less than 10 hours later and fought the Gusties on their home courts. Although they lost, there are a TON of other teams that don’t come close in that situation. Not to mention, great individual efforts this weekend from the top 4 players, especially Bettwy and Sam “Discount Double Check” Rodgers. Rodgers was most impressive, winning two three set battles to keep his team in the first two matches, and routinely beating Hviid in the 7th place match to send the team home with one win. With a top 4 that’s this good, they’ll be a tough out against any team.
The Bad: With how good the top 4 is, the bottom players in the lineup really struggled this tournament. Twice they had the chance to clinch a 4-4 match, and both times they failed. This is why team tennis is so exciting – you can have all the best guys at the top, but those guys at the bottom need to step up at the right times as well. Normally, a Cruz team would have a lot of depth and the ability to coach up some of these players to be really tough 5s or 6s by now. Could they be missing Coach Hansen?
#8 North Carolina Wesleyan
The Good: Well, when you get last in the tournament, there really isn’t that much good to talk about. However, the good thing here is that they competed pretty hard this weekend. They had chances against Hopkins and Cruz, which is a lot better than what a lot of people expected out of them. NCW seems to have a pretty legit 3 and 4, as they played close matches all weekend. Not to mention, Prostak was a great surprise, as he took a set off Raz, Brown, and beat Halabi this weekend. He’s a legit #2 moving forward.
The Bad: They lost their chance to redeem their earlier loss to Case Western. They’ve now lost 4 of 5 matches against ranked teams, and their schedule doesn’t look to great from here on out. I don’t think they’ll be able to capitalize on enough opportunities to give themselves a nice seed when they win their conference, so they could be looking Emory in the eye again – which sucks. Real tough weekend for the Bishops.
Please feel free to leave your comments/thoughts about this weekend in comments!