Last year, Hopkins looked like a top 10 team on paper, but they never put it all together (partially because they only had a few chances against top-ranked teams). This year, they look absolutely ridiculous on paper, but everyone will be watching to see if they fall apart in May again. The Blue Jays return 4 starters from last year’s Sweet Sixteen team, and they add a recruiting class that would make a pretty solid Division I team. We might have to wait a year or two before this recruiting class puts Hopkins in the national championship picture, but if one or two of these recruits are good enough to significantly improve the singles lineup, we can expect to see these guys cracking the top 10 this year pretty easily. I wonder how the returning players will respond to having younger players challenging them for their spots. Best case scenario: the freshmen push the upperclassmen to knew heights, and the Blue Jays find themselves in the top 5 at the end of the year.
Where They’ll Win
Hopkins played so few significant matches last year that it’s difficult to say where they were strong and where they were weak. Add in the new freshmen, and we have almost no idea what the Jays’ lineup will look like this year. Against Amherst this Fall, four of the freshmen were in the singles lineup. The match was competetive, and they Blue Jays managed to win some matches at the bottom of the singles lineup. Amherst was missing 3 of its top 4 players, but that’s still an impressive feat. Accordingly, I think we can expect depth to be Hopkins’ strength
Where They’ll Lose
Hersh had a great Fall, finishing 4th in Mobile and taking a set of Fritz in their dual match with Amherst, but whether he can consistently beat the #1′s from other top schools remains to be seen. Still, I would not say that the Blue Jays are weak at the top of their singles lineup. Last year, they played extremely close with Pottish-Goodwin-Egan and won at #2 and #3 against NCW. I also wouldn’t say doubles is a weakness. Though they got swept by Williams, they actually won two out of three doubles matches in their other two D3 losses last year. (I don’t know if I can get away with this or not, but I’m saying it anyways) With Hopkins, it’s not so much “Where they’ll lose” but “When they’ll lose.” Last two years, they laid an egg in the Sweet Sixteen. Maybe the best advice for beating Hopkins is to play them in NCAAs…
Hopkins didn’t play very many matches against schools ranked above or near them last year, and that might be part of the reason they didn’t play very well in NCAAs. Maybe they weren’t used to the pressure. That shouldn’t be a problem this year. They play all the same schools they played last year (Emory, CMU, NCW, Bates), but they add to that three invaluable matches in the Stag-Hen. I think it will be good for them to play big matches against big teams on a big stage in the tournament setting. They might struggle in the Stag-Hen because of weather/time zone/freshman growing pains, but it will pay off in the long run. The match I’m really looking forward too, ironically, is their second match of the season. In the last two years, the Blue Jays have suffered painful losses to NCW, so they will be extremely hungry to beat them this year, especially in Baltimore. If the Jays can win that one, I think it sets the tone for an incredible season that will land them in the top 10.
I think the Blue Jays will start off the season with an emotional victory over NCW, but then struggle in the Stag-Hen. Despite that, I think this is the year they finally make the Elite Eight, but I don’t think they’ll go any further than that. It will take a year or two for these freshmen to realize their full potential, and with the commits Hopkins already has for next year, the Blue Jays will be competing for a national championship very soon.