I’ve hinted at it before, but we’re going to do things a little differently this year. We have three new regional writers coming in, and this is the first installment from either of them. I’m hoping this will allow more teams to get some coverage without dipping the overall quality of writing (it’s so high that it will be tough for these guys to do). Without further ado, here’s D3Central.
Just to start-
This is my first time doing this and I hope everyone enjoys my thoughts.
What we learned from Singles-
1. Gustavus Adolphus College is going to be a force, top to bottom. They got 5 players into the round of 16, 4 players into the quarters, 3 into the semis, and had the eventual winner (Mya Smith-Dennis). Last year GAC proved that they were a team on the rise, and this year, they returned basically their whole lineup. It is clear that they have improved both by development and addition. The semifinal match between Juan-Luis Chu and Smith-Dennis was one an absolute battle. Donkena simply ran out of legs after his grueling draw (see below for more info) against Fabricio Moncada. However, credit has to go to Moncada for stepping up after getting solidly handled the first set. Tyler Johnson continues to be a solid performer match after match, and is a tough out at whatever position he plays (likely 4?). All in all, a great performance from the Gusties. Look out for them next semester. On another note, it will be interesting to see how Smith-Dennis does in ‘Bama and how they order their lineup during dual season.
2. Noah Sprinkel and Jeff Lotz deserve some air time. Both players have greatly improved from last year and got through some very difficult matches. Lotz had an incredible performance to outlast Whitewater’s McGlashen, and gave Smith-Dennis a good run in the quarters. Sprinkel played magnificently until the second set against Chu, where he finally ran out of gas against Chu’s fresh legs. That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if both these guys qualify next semester for individuals. Specifically, Sprinkel has proven he can beat some top guys, including a “near win” over Putterman last year at team nationals. All I can say is, I wouldn’t want to face either of these guys at 4 all in dual match. Both have clutch genes.
3. Whitewater still has work to do if they expect to be a top-tier team. For the second year in a row, they failed to have a player reach the quarterfinals. That being said, they had two freshman reach the round of 16 and both Ben Klein and Jake Humphreys had very solid performances in their respective matches. Humphreys had what was likely the match of the tournament against #1 seeded Amrik Donkena. However, Donkena proved why he is one of the toughest players in the Central Region to put away, showing incredible grit to get through the match 8-6 in the third set tiebreak. Andrew McGlashen once again proved he can play great tennis, but the question still stands: Can he stay level-headed enough to beat top players and be a consistent performer? Division 1 transfer, Ben Shklyar had a solid performance, but had to pull out due to back spasms against Chu of GAC after falling 6-4 in the first set. It will be interesting to see how he can do in dual matches if he can stay healthy. The biggest question marks for the Warhawks: What happened to Byron Balkin and Andrew Bayliss? I can imagine they were disappointed in early exits.
4. Fabricio Moncada is a player to watch. Two years in a row he has reached the final and come up just short to respective GAC players (Donkena and Smith-Dennis). He’s the Roddick of this region who can say, if only those two weren’t there… In all seriousness, he improved tremendously from last year and proved he can hang with the best in this tournament, falling just short in the final.
5. Overall, the strength of this region is definitely increasing, but can they compete with the rest of the country is yet to be seen. This is definite proof that the quality of D3 tennis is improving every year.
What we learned from Doubles-
1. Whitewater’s doubles is still its backbone. They got 3 teams into day two, 2 teams into the semis, and the eventual winners (Byron Balkin and Mitch Osborne). I think there is a chance the doubles combos change next semester, but what is clear is they have plenty of good doubles talent. Balkin and Osborne are now playing together for their 3rd year in a row and may be one of the most aggressive and talented doubles “teams” in the nation. They could do some definite damage in ‘Bama. If they can find the three best teams for dual matches, they could start a lot of matches up 3-0…Upsets?
2. Coe College has showed much improvement the last few years. Two years in a row the Newman/Sprinkel combo has done well. The question will be: Is this the best combo or is there a better partner for Sprinkel? It seems they are just a step away from having an elite doubles team. They just need the right combo.
3. GAC had a stellar performance in dubs from their top two teams. Both reaching the semis and their number 1 team (Smith-Dennis and Donkena) losing in the finals. It’s very possible this team from GAC fell victim to the grueling nature of the tournament, and had nothing left for the finals. They did, after all, finish the year ranked 2 in the nation in doubles, and, as most people know, had match points to win the championship last Spring. A thing to consider, Donkena and Smith-Dennis had only 5 losses all year to Div 3 opponents. If GAC can have 2 more similar caliber doubles teams…look out.