MIT, of course, is a school best known for its tennis team, and boy do they have a good one. They have brought in a ton of talent in the last couple years, and they only have one senior on their roster. The lone senior didn’t even start last year, so I think it’s safe to say that this team’s best seasons are still in front of them. The only problem for the Engineers is that they play an extremely weak schedule. They have played pretty much the same schedule the last three seasons: Tufts, Bates, Brandeis, and one elite NESCAC team (this season it’s Middlebury). The last couple years, they’ve also played some Fall matches against elite NESCAC teams, which don’t mean much when it comes to rankings in the Spring. But at least we have a general idea of what they’re lineup will look like. In this case, their lineup looks pretty much the same as last year, except they’ve replaced Tilburg, who graduated, with the freshman Eugene Oh at #2; they’ve flipped their 3 and 4 singles players; and two players who only started in doubles last year are playing numbers 5 and 6. Their 5 and 6 from last year haven’t played singles, but one of them have played doubles, and for all we know, the other was abroad or something. Anyways, their lineup looks really strong.
Where They’ll Win
Zhang was nearly unstoppable last year, as he bounced around the top of the lineup, ending up at #1. At the end of the year, he destroyed some good players at 1, and I have to wonder what would have happened in the Bowdoin match if he had been in the 1 spot against Sullivan. He is back this year, so I would say #1 singles is definitely their best position. They also managed to get doubles wins against the two best NESCAC schools this Fall, and last season, their #2 and 3 doubles teams went 7-1 against Bowdoin, Brandeis, Tufts, and Bates. Put together, I think they have strength at the top of their lineup in singles, and strength at the bottom of their lineup in doubles.
Where They’ll Lose
The Engineers also lost #1 doubles in all four of those matches I just mentioned. I don’t whether that just means that MIT has three equally good doubles teams, they’re stacking, or if the teams they played against just always had one great doubles team; but the Engineers will need to win, at least occasionally, at #1 doubles to improve their ranking. Their depth also betrayed them when they played Brandeis and Bowdoin last year, so I think they don’t have enough good players to hang with the top 15 teams. At the end of the year, they will probably end up playing Midd, Bowdoin, or Williams in the round of 32, and I think that’s when their depth will really be exposed.
I alluded to this earlier, but the Engineers play basically the same schedule they do every year: Bates, Brandeis, Tufts, Middlebury. I think Bates, Brandeis, Tufts, and MIT play a round robin every year (at least they did last year), and if someone were to go 4-0, they might find themselves in the top 20. That’s essentially the only chance MIT has at improving their ranking this year, but I think they have the best shot out of any of those four teams. Unfortunately, I think the Middlebury match is pretty much unwinnable for them.
I believe in the Engineers! At least, I believe in their ability to be second tier D3 teams, which is why I think they’re win their matches against Bates, Brandeis, and Tufts. Ultimately, they’ll lose to some NESCAC school in the NCAA tournament, but if I’m right, they’re making progress. It’s only a matter of time before they start competing with the better schools in the NESCAC. We just gotta keep these kids out of the classroom.