This past weekend the Northeast ITA (the first of the 2 ITAs in my region) took place at the beautiful Ithaca College. The schools involved were (in no particular order), Skidmore, Stevens Tech, Hobart, TCNJ, Rochester, Nazareth, Vassar, RPI, Union, Bard, RIT, Drew, St. Lawrence, Ithaca, Oneonta, Alfred, Ramapo, Hunter, and Elmira. That’s a lot of schools that have never been mentioned on this site before, although only one school, the Skidmore Thoroughbreds, should feel particularly good about the results of this ITA. I know I bashed Skidmore in the Middlebury recap, but that’s because they deserved a bashing, and while the competition was weaker at last weekend’s ITA, totally dominating a draw always commands respect. In singles, Skidmore took 5 of the quarterfinal single spots, and remarkably ended the tournament with 2 semifinalists as well as the eventual champion in Oliver Loutsenko. In doubles, the Thoroughbreds were just as impressive and comprised both sides of what was a rousing doubles final. For the Northeast ITA, I’m going to recap by tiers, Clint Eastwood style: the great, the good, the decent, the meh, the bad, and the ugly.
I’ve already touched on it, but what an impressive display of dominance. Last year’s draw had quarterfinalists from 6 different schools, and semifinalists from 4 different schools. This year, Loutsenko, Ransom, Knight, Sherpa, and Steerman each won 3 matches en route to the quarters, and the Thoroughbreds’ final participant, Epstein (who was a seed in last year’s tournament), won 2 rounds before bowing out to eventual semifinalist LaBarre (RPI). In the doubles, Sherpa/Hoblitzell and Loutsenko/Knight faced off in an all-Skidmore final. Both teams must’ve been sharp all weekend as neither was really challenged (save for a tough #2 seeded Stevens team in the quarters.) Playing your teammates in the finals of a tournament can be very unsatisfying for a player (though undoubtedly extremely satisfying for a coach,) but playing a 6-7(2), 7-5, 7-5 match for a chance to go to Small College Nationals must’ve been fun for all 4 guys. Coach Simms has to be pleased with how his squad responded to a disappointing weekend up at Middlebury. Instead of dwelling, the Thoroughbreds moved on and did exactly what they were supposed to do and shone through a weak ITA. This team is deep enough to challenge some of their Northeastern counterparts, and should have little trouble winning their conference. If they work as hard as Simms wants them to, they have a shot of playing spoiler in the NCAA tournament this year.
Unfortunately, this was a fairly disappointing result for a Stevens Tech (SIT) team that had 2 of the top 8 seeds in the draw. SIT only had one player advance past the 2nd round (Heinrich,) and he was upset in the quarters by Wu from NYU. Last year SIT’s 1st doubles team of Heinrich/Rosenteel was consistently ranked among the top5 in the Northeast, and Stevens continued their doubles success to a point at the ITA. The ducks had one quarterfinalist and one semifinalist and both lost to each respective Skidmore finalist. Though Stevens Tech might have been hoping for a better result, they shouldn’t be too disheartened with the loss to Skidmore. Instead, this should merely be a motivator. SIT will likely return to the NCAA tournament by winning the Empire 8 conference, but taking a point off of a top 8 team will be a tough task.
Unlike Stevens Tech, finishing off in the “good” category means that RPI had a successful tournament! Freshman Matt LeBarre held seed (which is more than I can say for most top non-Skidmore seeds) and made the semis before meeting his demise in the eventual champion Loutsenko. LeBarre (and his senior partner Regier) also held seed in the doubles and made the semifinals. Overall it was an outstanding 1st ITA from the talented Canadian freshman, and I look forward to watch him improve over the coming years in Troy, NY.
Now we arrive at the teams whose ITA I would characterize as “decent.” There are a couple bright spots, but mainly things to work on. Steven Wu from NYU made a run all the way to the finals before being handled by Loutsenko. However, major props to Mr. Wu who took out both the highest seed not named Oliver Loutsenko and the person with the coolest name in the entire tournament (Gonzalo Saez Garcia just rolls of the tongue.) NYU also had a doubles team make the quarterfinals, though their seeded team lost to Nazareth in the 1st round. TCNJ has historically had a better tennis program than NYU, but this year they both fall into the “decent” category. Like NYU, TCNJ had a team make the quarters of the dubs before losing a tight match to the Stevens #2 team. TCNJ also had two singles players advance out of the early stages of the tournament as Telson and Cooper each posted 2 singles wins before falling in the quarterfinals. However, it’s a bad sign when your #2 gets rolled by Skidmore’s #6 (as Buchbinder did against Steerman.) The final team with a “decent” performance was Rochester. Like its “decent” peers, Rochester had a team make the quarterfinals of the doubles, before they dropped a tight match to LeBarre/Regier (RPI.) Danko and Jachuck also won 2 rounds before dropping out to the Skidmore 5&6, respectively. Similar to TCNJ, the Yellow Jackets can take many positives from their performance, but it is tough to be too optimistic when your 1&2 are losing to another team’s 5&6.
Let’s start by welcoming the Vassar Brewers back to mediocrity. This program has been riding the Guzick family train for years now, and I was always curious to see what would happen afterwards. Vassar’s only highlight was the play of Nick Litsky. Before getting destroyed by Loutsenko in the quarters (1&0), Litsky took out a seed and one of my first twitter followers in Ben Shapiro (one of the many rewards of following the d3 tennis crew!) The Brewers got one singular doubles team into the tournament and lost in the 2nd round. This team, used to deep ITA runs and high-ranking doubles teams, will have to regroup and rebuild in the coming months in order to once again make themselves relevant. Like Vassar, Hunter lost its best player last season and the effects seem to be disastrous. Just like the Brewers, the Hawks won one round of doubles and had one singles player win two rounds (Saez Garcia.) This is a far cry from the now graduated Perepelov who was the overall #1 seed last year and made the finals of last year’s bracket. Finally we have the Ithaca Bombers. Unlike their “meh” peers, Ithaca did not win a round of doubles. Instead they had to rely on Chris Hayes’ two singles wins to pull them into this category. Hayes beat a seed and past quarterfinalist in Levine (Rochester) in the first round and beat St. Lawrence’s lone match winner (Schmitz) in the 2nd round before routinely losing to Ransom (Skidmore) in the quarters. However, despite their sparse victories, the participants in the “meh” category shouldn’t feel too badly about themselves mainly because we still have two categories to go…
Now we’re getting down and dirty. Each team in this category failed to have one player move past the 2nd round in either draw. Notably, Union’s Moor won his 1st round singles match, took his team off the schnide, and kept Bard winless. Schmitz and Barret from St. Lawrence both won their 1st round matches before falling in straight sets in the 2nd round. RIT’s lone win was picked up by Daub, which helped to push Oneonta in the category below. Hobart and Nazareth each picked up a doubles win before losing in the 2nd round to eventual semifinalists.
Because each school does deserve at least one mention, here goes for Bard, Drew, Oneonta, Alfred, Ramapo, and Elmira. All failed to win a match in either bracket. No disrespect, but for the most part this was not extremely surprising as neither Oneonta, Bard, nor Alfred got any people into this tournament last year, and Elmira and Ramapo combined to win one match in the 2012 tournament. The only surprise was to see Drew join the ranks of the “ugly.” After all, this was a team that won the doubles bracket last year and beat a solid team of Guzick/Freeman in the finals. Drew lost both its 1st round singles matches and didn’t even qualify a doubles team. That’s what graduation can do to a team. Without their top 2 it’ll be tough to repeat as champs of the Landmark conference, perhaps giving perennial 2nd place finisher Scranton a good shot to go dancing come May.
I’ll be back with a New England ITA preview as soon as possible…