Can we please just be honest about what regional this is!!?? This is the Texas regional just like the “West” regional is the California regional!!!!! I hate to get that emotional this early in a post, but I just had to get that off my chest… or my fingertips if you’re a stickler for semantics. Anyways, this tournament has been absolutely dominated by Trinity for the last several years, but with the departures of Max Frey and Eric DelaFuente, there might be an opening for someone else to win this regional. I wouldn’t get your hopes up though, Tyler fans, because Trinity is returning 4 of its 7 quarterfinalists from last year, including finalist Greg Haugen. If there is any hope for Tyler, it’s that Ryan Spencer, who I believe is a transfer from Kennessaw State, didn’t play in last year’s Fall tournament. He is probably the only legitimate non-Trinity contender for this singles title.
Ryan Spencer (Tyler)
Speak of the devil. I figured I would start of this guy before I began listing everyone on Trinity’s roster. Spencer didn’t have a great year at #1 singles last year for the Patriots. His best win was probably a 1 and 1 whomping of Rhodes’ Morgan Slevin. Other than that, he got smoked by most of the good players he came up against: Lipscomb, Ballou, Seneviratne, and White. He even go beat by UT-Dallas and Hardin-Simmons. Perhaps I should throw their #1 singles players on this list? No. The reason Spencer is on here is because he has shown that he is a national-class doubles player, and he probably has a high enough ceiling to beat some of the Trinity guys. It’s a long road to back to relevancy for this program, and they need this guy to start playing to his potential for them to move back into the rankings this year. It all starts with this tournament.
Curtis, Mayer, Skinner (Trinity)
Here we go. Trinity always has their guys more prepared for this tournament than their competition, and even their #7 singles player has a shot at making the quarterfinals or later. These are the four guys who made it to the quarters last year without making it to the final. All of them know that they are chasing Haugen for the #1 singles spot at Trinity, but they also know they are capable of beating him on the right day. Curtis probably has the best chance out of anyone in this group (at least judging by his position on the team last year). Sure, he lost to Haugen in this tournament last year, but he showed great improvement throughout the Fall season. He started off at #6 singles, but worked his way to #4 after coming up with a number of big victories on their Spring Break trip. Mayer will be in the mix as well, but judging from his results when he played higher in the lineup, he probably doesn’t have the game to actually win a tournament like this one. Skinner, despite playing #6 singles last year, is not someone to be forgotten in this tournament. He made it to the semifinals of this tournament last year with a win over Ben Carrol (Fall Ben Carrol, not Spring Break Ben Carrol), but I would be surprised if he repeated the feat.
Greg Haugen (Trinity)
I’m sure there are some players from schools I don’t really know about who I should be giving credit to, but I don’t think there are any dark horses in this tournament. A Trinity player always seems to find a way to win, and, even in what will probably be their worst year in the past decade, I think one of them will find a way to win this tournament. Haugen has to be the favorite. He made it to the finals here last year with a win over DelaFuente, and ended up filling in very capably at #3 singles for the rest of the season. He started off the season poorly, but finished strong with wins over Connor Hyde, Max Sabel, Luke Granger, Noah Bragg, and, most relevantly, Ryan Spencer. At least at the end of last season, he was obviously favored over his teammates by virtue of his position in the singles lineup, and he has to be favored over Spencer with the direct win. The former #3 singles player is the favorite– not a strong favorite, but a favorite nonetheless.
How can the only NCAA qualifying team in the draw not be the favorite, you say? Let me answer your non-existent question with a rhetorical one. How the hell did a team with in-region losses to UT-Dallas and Lindfield qualify for the the NCAA tournament when their only good win was in a tiebreaker over a hot-and-cold Redlands team? Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce the least deserving NCAA qualifiers of all time. Now, perhaps that is a little harsh. These guys did have a very good season, but they got in over Ojai champs Erani/Lane and the much more deserving Sabel/Allinson combo from Pomona-Pitzer. That’s not right. Anyways, I would say these two have the second best chance of winning out of any team in the draw. After they got their NCAA selection, they somewhat validated the NCAA selection committee by beating Washington and Lee’s #1 team, and they put up a great fight at nationals themselves. This team seemed to get better as the year went on, and with at least another couple weeks of practicing together under their belts, I would not be surprised to see a non-Tiger tennis player in Mobile this year.
One reason that Trinity has always been extremely successful in doubles is that they tend to put a team together and stick with them. By the time they’re done with four years of college, they generally move with each other like they have ESPN or something (See: Cocanougher/Kowal). Accordingly, I would be pretty surprised if the coaching staff split these two up. They didn’t play together for much of the season, but they played well at the end despite a loss to Bowdoin. Oh… and… uh… they got to the finals here last year. That’s worth something, right? (P.S. they got destroyed in the finals)
I’ve been doing a lot of the “pick a player to win the singles tournament and then pick him again to win the doubles tournament” thing in the past couple weeks, but I’m sticking with it just like Trinity sticks with its doubles teams. These guys played #2 last year, and, though they had some mystifying losses (Rhodes’ #2? Really?), they were mostly solid. Their best wins included victories at #2 against Cruz, Pomona-Pitzer (their eventual #1 team no less), Bowdoin (twice), and Skidmore. Again, they lost to Curtis/Skinner here last year, so they are by no means a lock, but I think they are better than either of the two teams I’ve already mentioned. (Gump voice) And that’s all that I have to say about that.
*Cut to every movie fan ever smiling reluctantly*
Same word three times in a sentence, Forrest Gump. That’s so weird that I didn’t notice that he did that.
*Cut to everyone except the three remaining Scrubs fans in the world removing this site from their bookmarks*