Much like the teams we cover, we have our ups and downs. I admittedly was not as active on twitter or with new articles as I have been, and for that I apologize. Behind the scenes things are still getting done (like three hour Skype calls with other writers), so don’t fret. Besides, I’m here now, ready to talk tennis and give you all that hard-hitting Northeast and Central regional discussion you’ve been craving.
I’m a little tired of just previewing/recapping matches, so with last weekend being a bit quieter due to the holiday, I thought this would be a good time to mostly focus on some of the individual players and doubles teams that have been having an impact this year. Only a few of these guys have a shot to make NCAAs, but even to get into the ITA rankings is a great accomplishment deserving of some blog love. So without further ado, let’s get into some of the individual stars of 2017 that find themselves in the ITA regional rankings.
Branden Metzler, Kalamazoo: Is Kalamazoo my team, or D3Midwest’s? Don’t know, don’t care. All I know is Metzler has followed his run to the NCAA finals last year with an unbeaten spring, and is one of the favorites to win the singles crown this year.
Justin Ancona, Wheaton: An NCAA qualifier a year ago, Ancona is currently #4 in the region, but a loss last week to #8 Abban of Carthage moves him down closer to the bubble. A win over Brady Anderson (Coe) has him in the top 5, and with another shot against Abban likely, I think Ancona still controls his own destiny.
Brady Anderson, Coe: Wins over David Liu (Chicago), Herman Abban (Carthage), and Dan Rodefeld (DePauw) all help to give Brady a really good resume and put him in a great spot to make nationals. Anderson is one of those guys that just gets better every year, and it’s been a pleasure to get to follow his development.
Dan Rodefeld, DePauw: Rodefeld has the game to be a top-7 player, but unfortunately some untimely losses have been his downfall in the past and it appears they might come back to bite him again. An early season win over Chua (Chicago) puts him at #7, but he’s going to drop in the next ranking period after losing to unranked Martin Mora of Wittenberg. Unfortunately, I don’t think Rodefeld will have a chance to play his way back in at NCAC’s, and will have to hope for a bit of a miracle to make it.
Herman Abban, Carthage: His only losses are to Anderson, Al-Houni in the fall, and Babson’s Alberto De Mendiola. Unfortunately those are among the best players he’s faced, but he currently sits at #8 and as long as he keeps taking care of business, he should move up and be in good shape after beating Ancona. A huge rematch against Wheaton could determine which one of them makes nationals, though.
Grant Thompson, UW-Whitewater: Wins over Ancona and Bera (Wooster) have Thompson at #11, though he’s lost seven straight matches. Injury struggles and a big jump in the lineup have taken their toll, but credit to Thompson for still finding some success despite the adversity.
Jad Abdul-Aal, John Carroll: Jad is really good. This isn’t new, but he usually flies under the radar because he plays for a smaller school and is a tier below the NCAA qualification conversation. He also apparently utilizes an interesting scoring system for tiebreakers, as his match from the fall against Shaun Berman (Wash U) has the listed result of 6-7(5-0), 6-7(9-0).
Ian Paik, Oberlin: Ian has been in almost every match he’s played, holding his own against a very tough slate of #1s thanks to a pretty robust Oberlin schedule. Just by pushing these guys are hanging around, he’s having a big impact on the Yeoman’s chances of pulling an upset. I count at least four ranked wins this spring, a very nice accomplishment so far.
Titas Bera, Wooster: Titas has been a big part of Wooster’s improvement over the past few years, so I tip my cap to him. He’s usually good for a few upsets per year and rarely gets blown out, hanging around and playing lots of three setters with some of the better players in the region. Just recently he had a great three set win over Jacob Zalenski of Kenyon.
Georges Adam, Rose-Hulman: A three set win over William Reifeis is Adam’s best result this spring, though the Brazilian senior’s impact has been felt throughout his career, as he’s one of the winningest players in school history.
William Reifeis, Wabash: Will has had a brutal schedule, playing seemingly everyone ranked ahead of him. He’s still managed to get into the rankings though, thanks in part to a win in February over Fojtasek (Case Western). A recent win over Martin Mora (Wittenberg) looks really good now after Mora’s big wins.
Kevin Brown, Denison: It’s been an up and down year for Brown, who just narrowly missed a big win over Rodefeld last weekend, falling 8-6 in the third set tiebreak. Still, a win over Reifeis of Wabash should help him move up, and a big NCAC tournament would be huge for him and the Big Red.
Sam Totten, Augustana: He’s got wins over Thomspon (UWW), Reifeis (Wabash), and Pawel Jaworski (Carthage), three very solid results. Any time a guy from a lesser-known team breaks into the rankings is pretty impressive, as the typically weaker schedule makes it harder to get noticed. Good stuff, Sam.
Kyle Appel, Luther: Kyle’s win over Tykhonenko (CSS) is what has him at #23, though a win over Kevin Mei of Carleton helps as well. The senior has had a great career for the Norse, so it’s cool to see him finish it off with a spot in the top-25.
Serhii Tykhonenko, St. Scholastica: The freshman from Ukraine is at #24 right now, only the start as he tries to reach his goal of a career slam, according to his bio on the team website. So far, his best win of the year was also his first, a three setter over Zack Ekstein of Gustavus.
Daniel Henry, Kalamazoo: Nice to see Henry get some recognition for his great year playing below B-Metz. The experience he gains at #2 will be crucial as he likely has to try and fill Metzler’s shoes next year at the top of the lineup.
SNACK OF THE WEEK! In honor of the UAA tournament and the free soft serve at the legendary Jason’s Deli, let’s give ice cream it’s due. Pre or mid match it’s a no go, but afterwards, there’s nothing better than a team trip to get some ice cream. Regardless of what happened on the court, no one is ever upset with an ice cream cone in hand.
Abban/Jaworski, Carthage: Congrats to these guys for sitting at #1 in the region! They are going to drop after their loss to Wheaton, though may have a chance to avenge the loss. I don’t see a way both them and Wheaton make NCAAs, so these guys have to win out to have a shot at qualifying.
Elifson/Beck, St. Thomas: We haven’t heard much from the ITA winners, but they’ve managed to go unbeaten this spring and are still in position to qualify for NCAAs. It’s all going to come down to their match with Gustavus on April 29th, though, as the two teams are currently 3 and 4. Obviously the fourth team still has a shot with the wild card, but to be safe, these guys better keep winning.
Ancona/Steiner, Wheaton: Their stock is rising after a big win over the top dogs from Carthage. They’ve only lost to Metzler/Dantus of Kalamazoo back in February, and like I said above, their potential rematch with Carthage could determine who gets into NCAAs.
Metzler/Dantus, Kalamazoo: Two of their three spring losses came out of region, though the fact that they were against TCNJ and Haverford does not help them. Wins over Wheaton, Kenyon, Denison, and Wabash are among their best, though a loss to a Coe team no longer playing together is looming large on their resume right now.
Adam/Benedict, Rose-Hulman: Wins over Coe, Wabash, DePauw, and Case Western are part of what has made this team rise in the rankings. Nice to see the two seniors finishing their careers with such a solid year on the doubles court.
Brown/Burstein, Denison: They’ve only been playing together since March, and their only in-region loss is to Metzler/Dantus from Kzoo. If they had a full season of results, including the fall, I could see these guys being ranked higher. They still have some huge matches ahead of them with NCACs coming up.
Ford/Pudlo, Coe: While Coe often switches their pairings around, these guys have held it down nicely at the top spot since joining forces in March. A big win over Rhodes on Spring Break got them off on the right foot, and more recent wins against Wabash and DePauw also look good.
Paik/Lichtmacher, Oberlin: It’s been an up and down year for this pair, but they seem to be hitting their stride right now, as their last two matches were wins over Case Western and Kenyon. That should give them some confidence as they look to help the Yeoman pull an upset or two at NCACs.
Reifeis/McAuley, Wabash: A duo that’s been playing together since high school, the Wabash pairing has had a nice year, taking care of business against all the teams they should. I could list their losses, but it’s pretty much just the teams ranked above them.
Thompson/Englehart, UW-Whitewater: Limited results, but they just beat Wash U’s #1 team of Haugen/Kozlowski. Not much else to say, but hey, that’s an excellent win!
Mitchell Sanders, TCNJ: Though he’s coming off a loss today to Danny Polk of Stevens, Mitchell has replaced Pierce Cooper well at the top spot for TCNJ. Wins over Litsky (Vassar), Atwater (Hobart), Setter (NYU), and Stavrakas (Ithaca) have all been huge for him and are a big part of why the Lions have had a very solid season thus far.
Nick Litsky, Vassar: The senior is no stranger to the regional rankings, having been recognized many times during his four years. Like Sanders, his play at the top of the lineup has been a reason for Vassar’s success this spring. He also just notched his 100th career victory, which deserves another shoutout.
Umberto Setter, NYU: Umberto turned some heads in the fall by making the finals of the Northeast ITA, and he’s followed it up with a solid spring, remaining in the top 20. Probably his most impressive result was a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Michael Arguello as part of NYU’s upset over Brandeis. I’m looking forward to seeing how Umbe finishes his career down at UAAs this weekend.
Jonathan Atwater, Hobart: One of the many young talented guys for Hobart, Atwater has really taken a big step forward in his sophomore year, with wins over Stavrakas (Ithaca) and five-star Amherst freshman Jayson Fung.
Minos Stavrakas, Ithaca: The Greek freshman finds himself in the rankings thanks to wins over Castillo-Sanchez (RPI) and Fujimaki (Rochester) this spring, as well as a number of solid wins in the fall. As Ithaca moves to the Liberty League next year and has to face a tougher conference schedule, Minos will be key in helping the Bombers to make the transition smoothly.
Can you believe there’s not a single team from my coverage area in the top 15 doubles? Well, 11 of the 15 are NESCAC teams and the remaining four are from Skidmore, Babson, MIT, and Brandeis. Bummer (though I’m kind of glad, because this article has taken long enough as it is).
I didn’t really intend to have this article be 85% Central region focused, but unfortunately the way the Northeast rankings are with the NESCAC makes it very tough for my guys to get in there. Shoutout to everyone who does find themselves in the ITA rankings, though, regardless of region. A very small percentage of D3 Tennis players get the honor, so it’s really something to be proud of! I’ll be back soon as we head towards conference tournaments, and as always keep an eye on twitter for updates from myself and the rest of the Blog team, especially as we start to roll out the recruiting hub in the coming days and the UAA tournament gets underway.