The quarterfinal matches of the ITA Fall National tournament don’t start until Thursday, but we still have two spots to fill. Since both Whitman and Trinity fall under my purview, it’s my privilege to preview these two matches. First, a bit of history. Though Whitman and Trinity are in the same region, they rarely actually play each other in dual matches. Last time they met, Whitman shocked Trinity 5-4 in the 2011 Stag-Hen, but Trinity dominated the series before that upset. Despite not playing often in the regular season, the two teams are pretty familiar with each other because they meet in these play-in matches every year. Trinity has won the last two doubles matches: Cocanougher and Kowal saved a couple match points against La Cava and Holton-Burke en route to the tournament championship two years ago. Frey and DelaFuente rolled over Holton-Burke and Tesmond last year. The two schools have split the last two singles matches: Cocanougher beat La Cava 7-5 in the third two years ago before La Cava came back to dominate Frey last year. On to this year’s matches…
Colton Malesovas (Whitman) vs. Aaron Skinner (Trinity)
This is probably the least-interesting play-in match in the history of the rivalry. Malesovas didn’t start for Whitman last year, and he won his tournament by hopping in a treehouse for a match and getting the easiest draw of all time. Skinner played 4-6 singles for Trinity last year, and while he was pretty successful, nobody would have expected him to win the tournament. His path to Mobile was a lot like Malesovas’. He won one big match against Ybarra, but a couple upsets gave him a pretty easy ride to the finals. I really have nothing to base any sort of prediction on because Malesovas doesn’t have any results to look at, but I’m going to go with Skinner. He’s more of a proven player, and his doubles victory indicates that he’s playing well all-around, not just the beneficiary of wild circumstance. Skinner in straights.
La Cava/Rivers (Whitman) vs. Skinner/Mayer (Trinity)
Both of these teams are comprised of returning doubles starters, but neither of them played together before this year. Though La Cava played most of last season with Tolman, he did combine with Rivers for a victory over Eastern Washington, and the duo absolutely dominated their regional tournament. Granted, they had a shockingly easy draw. They didn’t play anyone into the quarterfinals, and then met a couple teammates. Tesmond and Riggs were probably a good team, but they couldn’t have had much chemistry after playing with each other for two weeks. Skinner and Mayer had a similarly easy draw into the quarterfinals, but then they met Ybarra and NCAA doubles qualifier Kevin Singer. Their finals match wasn’t that competitive, but they had to squeeze through some tough spots in the semis. The experience of having played a close match in a tournament will definitely help them, but La Cava has been a brilliant doubles player for a couple years for Whitman. I’ll take Rivers and La Cava in a 10-pointer, but this one could go either way.