Let’s take a quick moment to recognize the halfway point of season previews…… that was fun. Let’s jump into a short discussion on Redlands. It’s been a rough couple years for the once-great Redlands team. The old strategy of not traveling at all and giving every single player “merit-based” financial aid doesn’t seem to be as effective anymore, but they need a niche that keeps them competitive in an environment dominated by academically prestigious schools. The Bulldogs seem to be perpetually in transition, and it’s hard to predict who will stay on the team from one year to the next, but the incoming recruiting class at least has the potential to provide some sort of stability into the future, something this team desperately needs if they want to reclaim their place in the top ten.
Where They’ll Win
Redlands played sneaky-good doubles last year. They won doubles against Cal Lu twice, P-P twice, Middlebury, and came within a couple late breaks of sweeping Emory. Even though they will be switching out many of their doubles players, I expect them to play good doubles again this season. They always bring tons of energy into a match, and I think that helps them compete exceptionally well as a team for 40-minutes. The problem for them is probably maintaining that energy for a 4- or 5-hour match. Regardless, the Bulldogs have always been a strong doubles team, and that will probably continue this season.
Where They’ll Lose
Redlands suffered a couple heart-breaking losses last year. They lost three matches 7-5 or 7-6 in the third to lose against Trinity (CT). They lost a third set with the match tied 4-4 against P-P the first time they played. And then they got swept by P-P in singles the second time, despite winning two out of three doubles and four first sets. I don’t know if they’re out of shape, worn down from the heat and their brutal schedule, or if it’s a mental thing, but it seems like they are beatable if you can keep them on the court for a long time. With regard to position, I don’t think that they’re particularly weak at any position. Dahl and Hyde should provide a solid base at the top of the lineup, and between the returning starters and the freshmen, we can expect them to be exceptionally deep. With Redlands, like Hopkins, it might not be so much a matter of where they’ll lose as it is a matter of when. They will have to get over some of the mental scarring from last season if they want to make it back in the top 10, but for the first time in a long time, they might not have the talent to do it anyways.
Redlands actually starts competing in a couple of days, but their D3 schedule doesn’t start for a few more weeks. Like always, the Bulldogs will be playing a ton of ranked teams, and like always, they will all be on their home courts (with the exception of SCIAC matches). If they want to get back into Pool C, they need to beat one of Trinity (TX), Williams, Cruz, CMS, or P-P without accumulating bad losses against Bates, Tyler, MWU, Brandeis, Cal Lu, etc. etc. etc. I feel like Redlands has always tried to get into the tournament by the law of averages. If they play enough good teams, they’re bound to play a great match once, get one good win, and use that to distinguish themselves from the rest of the Pool C teams, as they’ve always been solid enough to avoid an upset. D3 tennis is getting better, though, and it might be harder for them to avoid an upset now than it has ever been before.
Redlands’ success this year depends so much on their freshman class that I don’t even want to try. I will probably look dumb for this later, but I think they’re going to lose to either Cal Lu or Mary Washington this year and see themselves drop outside the top 15 for the first time in a long time.