Lost in the throngs of Small College Nationals was the best non-ITA tournament of the entire fall. The top six teams in the NE, and eight of the top nine teams in the region got together for the 2nd iteration of MIT’s new fall Invitational. True, it’s the fall so there were some players missing from most teams, but the amount of talent in this draw was even better than last year, and quite possibly as good as any tournament you’ll see outside of NCAAs. It’s a 64-person draw from only eight schools, so we got to see most of the guys contending for any/all of the starting lineup spots from Middlebury, Bowdoin, Wesleyan, Williams, Amherst, Tufts, MIT and Brandeis. Here is a team-by-team breakdown of the weekend’s action.
Singles: De Quant had another good tournament, backing up his finish here last year, running all the way to the finals. He beat teammate Kyle Schlanger in the semis who had some really good wins over guys like Finkelman and Farrell, both expected to play top 2 or 3 for their teams. De Quant’s draw was a little easier, but a very nice win over an unseeded Fung in the 1st round set the tone. Farrell continues to show a little rust, but I think you’re looking at his floor right now, and that floor would play top 3 for basically any team in the country. It should also be known that after Van der Geest lost to the elder Raghavan in the 1st round, he ran through the back draw, beating three Amherst players along the way.
Doubles: None. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Squadoosh. Midd went 0-4 in the first round of doubles, and then defaulted all of their backdraw doubles matches. Lots of the back-draw doubles matches were defaulted, so perhaps something else was going on? Likely the worst doubles performance from a Hansen coached team in many years. Nuff said.
Hot Takeaway(s): No Cuba here and Midd still had a good singles showing, but the loss of Cuba should only have affected one of the doubles teams, as De Quant paired with Xiao leaving their previous 2nd and 3rd teams in tact. Schlanger’s stock probably went up more than any Panther, but don’t sleep on freshman Nate Eazor who might be making a late push for a lineup spot. Not time to press the doubles panic button, especially after their early fall success, but it’s troubling.
Singles: Not the most successful showing for the Polar Bears, but that’s what happens when you’re missing three of your top four guys. Wolfe, the highest remaining Polar Bear, lost in the first round Calvin Chung, but I think that says more about Chung than Wolfe, who had a slow fall last year too. Roddy was the only Bowdoin player to make the Sweet 16 in the singles draw, and showed he’s as tough as ever with a 6-4 in the 3rd win over Zain Ali (projected Tufts #2). Only Wolfe played and won two matches in the back draw, but Bowdoin’s younger players did gain a lot of match experience from the weekend, including Justin Patel picking up a solid win over Victor Cheng.
Doubles: On the doubles side, Bowdoin also struggled mightily. Patel/Carstens picked up an easy 1st-round win, but then lost to a Williams team in the 2nd round. Roddy and Wang actually won one of the few consolation matches that were played, but then promptly defaulted their next match.
Hot Takeaway(s): Thus far a rather uninspiring thing, Bowdoin’s fall concludes at the Bates Tournament next weekend. Granted, not having your top players in Urken and Tercek will really hurt your chances, and don’t forget that Jiang hasn’t played at all this fall (likely abroad), but a strong finish at Bates would be a good sign for the Polar Bears.
Singles: Finkelman and Chen both made the quarters, but neither played an opponent they’d likely see during the year until those quarterfinal losses. Samson made his return, and picked up a solid win over Cauneac (projected MIT #2-3), but lost to Kaplan (projected Amherst #4-6) in the 2nd round. Win Smith also had a nice first-round win over an Amherst freshman, and pushed Sachin Raghavan (projected Wiliams #3) to a 3rd set.
Doubles: The Cards won every single first round doubles match they played over the weekend! However, three of the four teams lost in the second round and the most wins any team got was a whopping two. Nice to see The Little Prince back out there, as he and Sweeney were the team that made the quarterfinals.
Hot Takeaway(s): Still no Eusebio, but we did see Princeton Carter and Joachim Samson, so Wes fans can breathe at least a little easier. The depth looks ok, and without Eusebio it’s hard to judge the Cards too strictly, but the losses of Roberts and Liu anchoring doubles lineup means there is a hole that Coach Fried will need to plug towards the top.
Singles: Man, Lil’ Austin Barr just continues to impress. Earning a seed off his ITA performance, he took out Kaplan (projected Herst #4-6), Chen (projected Wes #1), teammate Alex Taylor, and Will de Quant (projected Midd #2-3) en route TO WINNING THE WHOLE DAMN TOURNAMENT. As I just mentioned, Alex Taylor also had a very nice run beating Ethan Hillis (projected Amherst #4-6) and Zach Bessette (projected Amherst #1-3) on his way to the semis. Freshman Calvin Chung also had a great 1st-round win over Kyle Wolfe (projected Bowdoin #3), and senior Sachin Raghavan had a solid tournament before falling to MIT’s Deng in the quarters.
Doubles: The Ephs didn’t have a great doubles tournament, with their best result coming from Barr and Taylor making the quarters, but their doubles teams appeared to have been thrown out of whack, consider Sachin didn’t play, Sadowsky is abroad, and they were missing their top doubles player in Grodecki. The freshman duo of Kam and Chung also took home the doubles back-draw title.
Hot Takeaway(s): Remember, Grodecki was at Small College Nationals, and the Ephs had another good tournament performance, even without their top dog and senior leader. BG is atop both lineups, so everybody pushed up and they did so admirably. Lil Barr appears to be well on his way to becoming a really good #2 or #3 player behind BG, which should allow the rest of that lineup. As of this moment, no team has impressed me more this fall than the Ephs.
Singles: Kaplan bounced back from a rough start to the year. Bessette had a very good tournament overall. Fung pushed De Quant to 6-4 in the 3rd set. Wei had good wins over Zhao and Xiao before defaulting to Finkelman. However, Herst needs Wei to beat guys like Finkelman, not just very good bottom of the lineup players like Zhao or Xiao, both of whom are fighting for spots on Bowdoin and Midd, if Amherst is going to make a run this year.
Doubles: Three Amherst doubles teams entered the tournament, all three made the semis. Now, it was pointed out to me that Amherst was one of the few teams with all its players healthy and playing. While this may be true (still not sure what to make of Owens), the fact that all three teams made the semis of this tournament remains remarkable and the best result for Amherst tennis since last year’s win over Weseyan. Even though none of the three teams ended up winning the whole thing, the return of Jayson Fung, who was a part of one of the best doubles teams in the country last year, was most welcome.
Hot Takeaway(s): The doubles was phenomenal. The singles was mediocre. The main question for Herst moving into the spring is who will play at the top of a lineup full of talented but inexperienced players. They appear to be deep, but I don’t know how the top 1/2 of the lineup will fare against the best teams in the country.
Singles: Not a great singles showing for the Jumbos, who went 3-5 in the 1st round and 0-3 in the second round. Ali and Sorkin were #9-16 seeds, and both won their first matches, but then both lost to players projected to play below them on rival teams. Coran also got a singles win, before falling to Eazor (projected Midd #6-9). This is the 2nd tournament in a row without Gupte in the singles, so we hope he’s recovering and will be back to full strength soon. Seeing Bartok, Grant and Scanlon in this tournament give us some idea about who will be competing in the crowded Tufts’ depth for the one of the final starting roster spots.
Doubles: Tufts won three first-round matches and Battle/Schaff had a couple nice wins to get to the quarters, the Bos’ best result. Gupte was healthy enough to play dubs, which is an encouraging sign, and the doubles were likely a brighter spot than the singles.
Hot Takeaway(s): I worry for Tufts this year, because they just don’t seem to quite be on the same tier as some of the teams mentioned above them in this article. Their strength is their depth, which also happens to be the strength of the entire conference now, but they will need to rely heavily on their seniors, who will need to step up this spring. Biswas did win a few good matches in the back-draw, and I think has solidified himself as a frontrunner for a spot in the bottom half of the lineup.
Singles: The best singles win from Deis probably goes to freshman Nikhil Das, who took out Cam Daniels (projected Wes #4-6), in the 1st round in three sets. Das lost to Farrell in the 2nd round. Other Judges to win a singles match were Kogan and Coramutla, though both fell to seeded players in the 2nd round. Nothing totally shocking either way here from Deis, and the back draw didn’t go much better, as nobody won more than one round there either.
Doubles: Once again, Deis’ tournament is saved by the doubles, this time even more so than at the ITA. Saal and Wolfe won a round, but the most important Brandeis action over the weekend came from the new powerhouse doubles team of Coramutla and Aizenberg. Knocking off teams from MIT, Wesleyan, Williams, and two Amherst teams in the semis and finals, the top Judges, backing up their finals performance at the Middlebury Invitational, and Coramutla scored his 3rd straight tourney with at least a semifinal appearance. Out of nowhere, this team should be a top-3 doubles team in the region if the rankings were to come out now, behind only Tercek/Urken and Grodecki/Taylor!
Hot Takeaway(s): Most people believed Deis to be on a different tier than most of their competition in this tournament, which is why it should make you feel good to see Coramutla/Aizenberg take home some hardware. Brandeis has had some good doubles teams in the past with guys like White/Miller and Milo/Jordan. Those in Waltham have hope that Coach Lamanna has another great pair on his hands, with years still to mold them.
Singles: Deng. 1-7 in the first round of singles is not what the hosts were looking for, as the top of the lineup continues to struggle this fall. The lone bright spot was Charles Deng, the 5-star freshman from California. Deng had a good win over Sorkin (Tufts projected #3-5), and an even better win over the elder Raghavan (projected Williams #3) on his way to the quarters, where he eventually fell to De Quant. Very nice tournament for Deng, not so much for the rest of the Engineers on the singles side. Zhao, another freshman, did win two rounds in the consolation draw.
Doubles: MIT got five doubles teams in the draw (it’s good to be the
king tournament hosts), but four of them went down in the first round, and of those four losses not one of them played their proset closer than 8-4. Like in singles, one team was the saving grace, and that was Cauneac and Barr, who made the quarters before getting rocked 8-1 by Fung/Hillis. This was a welcome site for MIT fans as neither Cauneac nor Barr has had much success this fall.
Hot Takeaway(s): Seeing some positives from the guys at the top of your lineup is always a good thing, especially when they have been struggling, but it wasn’t enough to save MIT from a disappointing weekend. Like Tufts and Brandeis, they appear to be on the tier below the other five teams in this tournament. While that might not seem like news to some readers, I guarantee you it was tough for MIT to swallow, especially given the talent of their projected starting roster. Perhaps this fall was the proper motivational tool to guide the Engineers through the long winter and get the spring that was promised.