This is an exciting moment. After this post, I will no longer only be posting about things that might happen in the future. I will be able to start analyzing things that actually happened, and we can all point and laugh at the futility of my doubles predictions. Anyways, welcome to the West region. If New England was the clusterf*** region, this one is either clusterf*** 2.0 or the poor man’s clusterf***. I’m not really sure which regional is stronger. My tendency is to think the NESCAC is way stronger than SCIAC + Cruz, but that’s a debate for another time. I think we can all start on some common ground by recognizing that this regional is ridiculously deep.
CMS, Cruz, Pomona-Pitzer, Redlands, Cal Lu, Whittier
Bernhardt, Marino, Kotrappa, Cahill (CMS)
The Stags absolutely dominated this tournament last year, with their three big-time freshmen making big-time debuts. Bernhardt, despite not playing in the starting lineup last year, might be the most dangerous, as he actually held a match point against eventual champion Alex Lane in their four-hour thriller. He battled injuries all year, but if he’s healthy, he might be due for another breakthrough. Marino is an obvious contender pick. He had a similarly good coming out party in this tournament last year, falling in three to Nick Ballou in the quarters. When he eventually got into the singles lineup for CMS at the end of the season, he was very solid, with his only dual match loss coming against Middlebury’s Spencer Lunghino. Look for him to repeat his quarterfinal appearance. Kotrappa fell out of favor in the singles lineup for the Stags last year, but he was a constant presence in doubles. Given CMS’ tendency to have players come out of the woodwork for this tournament, he could have a big tournament. Cahill is another player that has been rock-solid for CMS for three years. In this, his senior season, will he put together a magical run in the Fall regional? Stranger things have happened.
Alex Johnson (CMS)
The two-time finals Alex Johnson deserves this distinction, but I just don’t believe that he’s actually going to win this tournament. After getting to the finals for the second year in a row here last year, he struggled immensely in the regular season before finding his groove at #5 singles. He’s obviously capable of winning the tournament, but I’m not sure he had the drive and the passion to push himself to the next level this past season. I guess we’ll find out in a couple weeks.
Warren Wood (CMS)
I’m still not entirely convinced Wood was better than Lane last year, but he had a decent season at #1 singles. There were a couple bad losses in there, and he couldn’t come through when his team really needed him against Kenyon, but there’s no denying that he’s a dangerous player. When he’s on his game, his level is truly frightening. I would absolutely say that he has the highest ceiling of anyone in this tournament. At the same time, he can be incredibly inconsistent. You’ve heard me say this time and time again, but if you’re not consistently great, you probably won’t win a tournament like this one. It feels absolutely silly not making a CMS player a favorite in this tournament after what happened last year, and I’m confident they will get two players into the semis somehow, but I just don’t really think they will be able to beat Ballou this year.
Joe Dorn (CMS)
Here’s a guy who is supposed to be very good, but who I have never seen play, know nothing about, and have no comparative results to base any sort of prediction on. He’s basically the definition of a wild card in this tournament, and I’m excited to see what will happen.
Erich Koenig (Cruz)
Koenig had a terrible Fall and a horrendous start to last year’s season, but he picked it up quickly from there, and was soon playing like the NCAA singles qualifier that he is. He has wins over Kowalski, Razumovsky, and Weichert. I would say those are pretty good indicators that he has the stuff to win a tournament like this one. I don’t think he’s consistent enough to win four straight matches against some of the best players in the country, which is what he’ll have to do to win.
Chris Wiechert and Max Sabel (Pomona-Pitzer)
Wiechert is the obvious pick play #1 for P-P this year. He played lights out for a very long stretch in the middle of last season, during which he picked up wins over Razumovsky and Justin Wilson. Then, when it seemed that he had cooled off at the end of the year, he tallied a win over Lane. Wiechert, like Koenig, hasn’t shown that he has the goods to beat 4 great players in a row, and that’s why I don’t think he’ll win this tournament, but I could see him in the quarters or semis. Sabel is more of a Dark Horse, but I wanted to throw these guys together. You gotta love the story of a 0-star from Ketchum, ID working his ass off to get into the starting lineup, making several big leaps in a row, and ending up near the top in both singles and doubles. He has shown consistent improvement for four years, and if he made another leap this summer, I could see him going deep.
Patrick Lipscomb and Nick Cummins (Redlands)
Lipscomb was phenomenal for Redlands early last season… and then his season just sort of fell off the tracks… and with his season went Redlands’ season… and that’s pretty much what happened last year. Anyways, I’m not really sure what happened with Lipscomb last year– perhaps playing so many high-pressure matches on your home courts gets a little stale after a while and it’s hard to summon the same sort of energy that was available early in the season– but if he can return to his early-season form, he will definitely be a factor here. Because of his late-season play, however, I’m just not a big enough believer in him to think he could actually win this tournament. Cummins also started the year pretty well for Redlands, but, unlike Lipscomb, he also had a solid stretch near the end where he picked up a nice straight-set win over Weichert. I’m not really sure what he’s capable of, but I’m putting him on here.
Ray Worley (Cal Lu)
Did you know Ray Worley got to the semifinals of this tournament two years ago? It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. He had himself a weekend, and he found himself in the semifinals. That’s what can happen when a good player gets hot on the right weekend. Will lightning strike twice in the same place? I kinda doubt it.
Julian Seneviratne (Whittier)
Seneviratne probably gets a little too much credit. He got smoked in just about every important match he played last year, he’s afraid of the net, and he doesn’t have the guns to win a tournament like this one. That was a negative rant. Seneviratne is also about as solid as they come and will not be an easy out for anyone. I would say he’s almost guaranteed to win his first couple rounds because lower-lineup players without the weapons to hit through him will not be able to out-grind him. Maybe it’s his time.
Skyler Butts (CMS)
What’s a 3-star freshmen doing on this list when CMS has a bunch of 4 and 5-star sophomores who could win this tournament. Butts is on here because he seemed to be playing very well in the ITA tournaments this summer, and CMS always seems to have a freshman step up and do well in this tournament. I think he’s more likely to do it this year than Yeh.
Andre Halabi (Cruz)
Hey, he did it in Ojai.
David Konstantinov (Whittier)
Here’s another freshman Dark Horse. This big hitter from NorCal has the guns to go deep, but when he goes cold, he can go very cold. If he has a good weekend, he could get to the quarters. Otherwise, he’ll lose within the first couple rounds.
Two Transfers Who Could Win If They’re Around
Alex Lane (CMS)
Do I really need to explain why I think Alex Lane could win this tournament? Anyways, I’ve heard that he’s not playing tennis or is abroad this semester, which is quite a shame. This guy is a great fighter and leader. His victory in this tournament last year was a testament to how important it is to have a ton of heart. He came back from a four-hour match to beat Nick Ballou in a three-setter the next day. That’s something else.
Devin Nurenberg (Cruz)
I also heard this guy wasn’t playing tennis this year, which could be a fatal blow for UCSC’s title hopes, but if he’s around, he could win. He didn’t lose an in-region match last year until he lost to Andre Halabi in the semis of Ojai… … … I just wanted to wait a while for you to digest that sentence. Anyways, he obviously has a bunch of good wins, and we didn’t get to see him in this tournament last year. I don’t think we’ll get to see him this year either.
Nick Ballou (Cal Lu)
You all knew it was coming. He’ll tell anyone that’s willing to listen that he’s played very well this summer to follow up on his NCAA finals appearance from last Spring. He also won Ojai, which is basically a Spring version of this tournament… Last year, he lost to Lane in the semis, and Lane”s gone. He lost to Nurenberg in the regular season, and he’s gone too. Wood or someone else could definitely beat Ballou on the right day, but I think it’s safe to say that he’s a pretty strong favorite here. One thing that could prevent him from winning: if the tournament plays out the way last year’s did, he’ll have to run a gauntlet of Stags just to make it to the finals. The CMS guys are such good grinders that they might just take him out by making him play several long matches in a row.
The #1 doubles teams for three of the top four teams in this regional are returning (and CMS’ #2 team ain’t bad either). Given the way these teams beat up on each other last year, I think it’s safe to say that this tournament will be a barn burner. One thing that could possibly come into play in the later rounds of doubles is whether or not the doubles competitors are still in the singles draw. This is important in the other regional doubles tournaments too, but this is the first time I’m mentioning because California tends to be a little hotter, and longer matches tend to be played here. (Don’t talk to me Texas. Teammates end up playing each other in the semis and finals there anyways). Last year when Ballou and Worley beat Lane and Wood in the finals of the doubles tournament, the three players who got to the semifinals of the singles tournament looked completely spent, but Worley was relatively fresh. Not saying that Worley carried (because he didn’t) or that this definitely altered the result (because it didn’t), but I’m saying it could be a factor.
This team came together in the middle of last year’s Spring season as Marino came back from illness. They immediately got placed at #1 and had a moderate amount of success. After Lane and Erani won the Ojai, Settles dropped this team down to #2 where they struggled for some reason. Nevertheless, they tallied a couple good wins together, and if they are paired together for this tournament, they will almost definitely make a run to the semis or later.
These two played #2 doubles for most of last season before a sustained streak of good play combined with some struggles from the previous #1 team bumped them to the top of the ladder where they thrived. They beat Rosner/Stanley, Lipscomb/Bloom, and Wood/Marino near the end of the season, but they couldn’t topple Erani and Lane either in the Ojai or in the NCAAs. I always like to see a couple unheralded seniors playing together in a doubles tournament like this one, and I would like nothing more than to see some Hens in Alabama. If their returns get hot, they could win.
Koenig and Larsen got to the semis here last year, but they went out with a whimper against Lane and Wood. Though they only played #1 doubles together for a couple matches last year, they got a win over Erani and Lane, which is something other teams on this list failed to do. I feel that this doubles team and Cruz in general really suffered from Larsen’s prolonged absence, as these guys really would have benefited from a couple more months of experience with each other going into a tournament like this. As I said above, these two will also have senior mojo on their side, and Larsen has one this tournament before. It’s been a while since Cruz has won something meaningful, and a doubles tournament win might be a fitting way for them to start what will probably be Cruz’ last year in the top 10 for quite some time.
Cummins was playing pretty well with Hyde at the beginning, but the Redlands coaching staff must have known what they were doing when they switched Hyde out for Jones because the Redlands #2 doubles team just kept truckin’ along after that. Though they had a rough stretch in the middle of the season when the entire Redlands team apparently went into a coma, they actually finished the season on a five match win streak with wins over Meyer/Singh and Marino/Wood. Redlands has a rich doubles tradition, and they have a history of having lower doubles teams make deep runs in individual tournaments (see: Ojai 2011). They are a definite Dark Horse, but if they stay together for this tournament, they will be a tough out.
Dorn/ someone else like Bernhardt or Kotrappa or Pereverzin (CMS)
I would call this team a contender, but you have to admit that an undefined doubles team has to be a Dark Horse. CMS got two teams into the semifinals of the doubles tournament, but it’s hard to pick who that second team could be this year. If Dorn is as good as people are saying, I’m guessing he would be half of the team, but who makes up the other half. Bernhardt made it to the semis with Marino here last year; Kotrappa was a fixture in the doubles lineup with Wei, and Pereverzin is a former NCAA doubles finalist. Pick your poison.
I’m not really sure why I think this doubles team would be so good. I just think Konstantinov and Seneviratne would have that “fire and ice” doubles team moxie with Seneviratne dipping balls low and Konstantinov shoving them down peoples’ throats. One thing is for sure, Whittier better start producing or I’m going to have to stop considering them a legitimate team.
Ballou/Worley (Cal Lu)
Oh hey look! I picked one person to win the singles tournament, and then I picked him and his partner to win the doubles tournament. I swear I’m not doing this on purpose, but come on! You basically have to pick Ballou to win the singles tournament if Lane and Nurenberg aren’t around, and these two are the defending champions. This doubles team lost four matches in a brutal regular season for Cal Lu last year. Two of them were to Lane and Erani, who are gone; one was the mystifying loss to Mary Washington; and one was to Goodwin and Pottish. Both of these guys crush their serves and returns. If you’re going to get to them, you have to beat them at the net, but their volleys aren’t half bad either.