This region is basically the embodiment of the word “mediocre.” The region is far deeper than either the Texas or Northwest regions. As in, the best players from the “second tier” teams in the region have a reasonable chance of beating the lower players on Gustavus and Whitewater’s rosters, but at least with the NW and Texas regions, there’s usually a player in there that actually has the ability to do some damage in Mobile. I don’t think that has been the case for the Midwest region since GAC’s heyday, which, though it seems like it was only yesterday, actually ended about five years ago. Don’t get me wrong, there are tons of good players in this region, but there aren’t any great ones, and I’m a glass-half-empty kinda guy at the moment. This region’s saving grace is that they know how to play some doubles.
Gustavus Adolphus, Wisconsin-Whitewater, (Coe, Carleton, St. John’s)
Mya Smith-Dennis (GAC)
The returning NCAA doubles finalist had a very solid season playing predominantly #2 singles last year for the Gusties. He got to the semifinals in this tournament a year ago before bowing out to Moncada from St. John’s (see below), but he avenged that loss in the regular season, and seemed to get more comfortable as the year progressed. Personally, I’m really hoping for the unbearably awkward “doubles partners play each other in the singles final right before competing together in the doubles final” match. If that happens, someone needs to video tape the last couple points and send it to me. I live for that.
Osborne, Balkin, McGlashen, Bayliss (Whitewater)
I really hate to throw all of these guys together, especially since Whitewater deserves a little more air time, so to speak, but I have a hard time figuring out which one is better. Balkin played #1 last year and picked up a couple good wins, including a win over the defending champion here, so that probably makes him the Warhawk most likely to end up in Mobile. Bayliss, however, saw time at #1 singles the previous year, and has a very steady game that could get him deep into the tournament without too much energy spent (which can be very helpful). McGlashen probably has the highest ceiling, but he’s also a little crazy, and might not have the mental ability to make it through a grinding tournament like this one. Osborne has senior mojo on his side, but is probably slightly inferior to his three teammates. Regardless, any one of these guys could make a deep run, and I would be stunned if one of them didn’t at least make it to the semis (to make up for last year when none of them got to the quarters. Whoops).
Fabricio Moncada (St. John’s)
Moncada got to the finals here last year before falling in three sets to Donkena. Though he beat a couple good players on the way and had a solid season in the Spring, his Fall result from last year had to be the highlight of the season. I would say that he has probably fallen behind Smith-Dennis and the Whitewater guys in the past year. Not only did Smith-Dennis beat Moncada in the Spring, but he also had better players to practice with and better competition to play against all season. I would be surprised if Moncada got back to the finals, but he’s clearly capable of making a deep run.
Amrik Donkena (GAC)
This is a no-brainer pick, but it is by no means a guarantee. Donkena had to win three 3-setters last year to win the title, and I think all three of those players are back. He also never had to play his doubles partner, who I think is more consistently the second best player in the draw, in last year’s tournament. Finally, if any of you were thinking that Donkena is a lock to win this tournament, you have to remember that he lost a match to Balkin last year in the regular season. Again, he is definitely the favorite, so I shouldn’t really be throwing around all these “but”s, but that’s what I did.
Newman Sprinkle is my pick for “doubles team that sounds most like something you would get from the ice cream truck,” but they are not my pick to win this tournament. They came out of nowhere to make the finals of the doubles tournament last year, which had to be a proud moment for a Coe program that suddenly has some teeth. In the middle of a mid-season swoon, this doubles combo was split up, but they are still probably Coe’s best option at #1 doubles, and really their only legitimate threat to win the tournament.
The Bayliss/McGlashen doubles combo split time at #1 with last year’s NCAA doubles qualifiers Balkin and Osborne. I can’t really say which doubles team is better, but they are both very good and play very different styles. Bayliss and McGlashen generally try to blast their opponents of the court; whereas, Osborne and Balkin play with a little more finess (read: a little) and possess better traditional doubles skills. Basically what I’m saying is that Bayliss and McGlashen have a puncher’s chance to win this tournament, but they wouldn’t be my pick to put on a doubles clinic for a bunch of high school players.
Personally, I think these two are the better Whitewater doubles team, but that might be because I’m a doubles purist. When their returns are one, they are very dangerous, but I question their ability to keep it up for a 2 set match, which is what will be in store for them if they advance to the finals where they will probably meet Donkena and Smith-Dennis. If they can return well for one set, however, the potential final that I’m making up in my head and probably won’t happen would come down to a 10-pointer where anything can happen.
We all knew this was coming. Finalists of the ITA Fall Nationals in Mobile last year. Finalists at the NCAA Doubles Nationals in the Spring. Points (or point) away from winning both tournaments. I think these two are clearly the best doubles team in the draw, but anything can happen in a proset.