When Whitewater showed up in the low 20′s of the rankings at the beginning of last season, I don’t think I was the only person who thought, “why?” Now that they’re in about the same spot this year, I find myself thinking the same thing. All they did last year was lose to Case and Gustavus, then beat an overrated Whitman team in the NCAAs. Regardless, they did make it to the Sweet Sixteen, so I guess that has to count for something. It looks like they’re returning 5 out of 6 starters, and a doubles team that made it to NCAAs last year, so they will probably be the same team this year, only with one more year of experience. Unfortunately, with the schedule that they have, we might not know whether or not these guys are good this year until they take their Pool B bid into NCAAs.
Where They’ll Win
One thing that W-W definitely did well last year was play doubles. They beat Whitman, Case, and Kalamazoo, and competed extremely well against Wash U. They lost doubles to Gustavus, but the Gusties are a notoriously strong doubles team, especially on their home courts. The Warhawks return two of their doubles team, and they should have no problem fielding another strong one. I think, on a good day, they’re capable of beating anyone outside the top 10 in doubles, but I would expect them to run into problems once they hit singles.
Where They’ll Lose
Wisconsin-Whitewater’s singles lineup just isn’t very good. I don’t want to dwell on recruiting so much, because it definitely is possible to come into division 3 as a 1-star and become a national champion (Max Liberty-Point). I just don’t think you can make a legitimate top 15 team out of 1-stars. They lost 4 out of 6 against Case, only won three singles matches against Kalamazoo, didn’t really come close against Wash U, and got swept in singles by Gustavus. Let me repeat that: they got swept in singles by Gustavus. That’s not good enough for a team hoping to crack the top 20. I don’t know how if they can improve on that this year, but they better…
The Warhawks already beat Luther, so that’s a good start, but other than that, they don’t have that many good matches on their schedule. The only higher-ranked team they play is Chicago, but they don’t actually have a prayer against them. Their other big matches are against Kalamazoo and Gustavus, but really, the only way to go for these guys is down. I think they’re good enough to beat both Kalamazoo and Gustavus, and if they can do that, they can protect their ranking, but that’s about it. It will be interesting to see which region they get put in, and whether or not they can make it back to the Sweet Sixteen.
I wish I knew more about the NCAA travel rules, so I could try to predict where they’ll go in the NCAAs. No matter where they go, I think they will probably lose in the round-of-32, unless they somehow avoid another top 30 team. I said in the weekend preview that I kind of like Kalamazoo this year, and since everyone loves an underdog, I’m going to predict that the Hornets will beat the Warhawks, and W-W will find themselves on the outskirts of the top 30 at the end of the season.