Before I get into it, I want to start off by saying that I’m going to try to get through season previews for the top 30 before Indoors, so they might get a little shorter. Obviously, a few teams outside the top 30 like Kalamazoo deserve a season preview, but you have to draw the line somewhere.
Anyways, Rhodes is the antithesis to the saying, “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” They have played almost nobody in the last couple years, yet they are rewarded with their #23 ranking because they haven’t lost. This year, they will finally have to back up their ranking against someone other than UT-Tyler when they travel to Mary Washington. Because they have so few meaningful results, it’s extremely difficult to get a pulse on this team. They also make it deliberately difficult to figure out who is on their team by not keeping an accurate tennisrecruiting profile, but they actually have a ton of talent. They lost their 4 and 6 singles players from last year, as well as their #3 doubles team, so they might have depth problems. It’s impossible to tell who they brought in, so we’ll just have to wait and see.
Where They’ll Win
They only played 3 matches against ranked teams last year, but in those three matches, they went 11-1 at 1, 2, 5, and 6 singles. I think it’s fair to say that they had two standouts, and then four players that were about even with each other. Ryley Erhardt won almost every match he played last year at 1, and he’s back this year with a little more of an opportunity to show what he’s got. Morgan Slevin also had a strong season at 2, and he’s back also, so 1 and 2 singles should be Rhodes’ best positions. Slevin and Erhardt also played well together in the Fall, so if the Lynx keep that doubles pairing, #1 doubles will also be a strong position for them
Where They’ll Lose
Two years ago, the Lynx really struggled in doubles, but they shored that up last year by splitting their two best players. If they keep them together this year, Rhodes could be weak at #2 and 3 doubles, but what I’m really concerned about for them is the middle of their singles lineup. They went 0-6 against ranked teams at 3 and 4 last year, and their #4 player graduated. So their #3 player, who struggled last year will still be playing three, and their #5 will have to move up and play 4. I’m guessing that the Lynx will have players to step in and fill the void at 5 and 6, but they will need wins from the 3 and 4 positions to beat ranked teams this year.
I’m glad I got to this season preview now, because the bulk of their significant matches take place this weekend. They’re in the Mary Washington, Whitman, Kalamazoo quad, and they will probably need to win two of those to keep their ranking. They play Emory two weeks later, which will be good for them to see what’s out there, and then they have their yearly matchup with UT-Tyler. The Patriots have taken a couple tough losses from the Lynx in the last few years, and this should be a good grudge match. After that, all they have is the SCAC tournament, and, with Depauw out of the way, you bet on a final match with Trinity.
There’s just so little to go off of, it’s difficult to make a prediction for this team. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if they went 3-0 this weekend, but I also wouldn’t be that surprised if they went 0-3. Either way, a win over UT-Tyler might be enough to keep them in the rankings, but they only way this program takes a step forward is if they beat Trinity to make it to the NCAA tournament. That’s not happening, so I think the best case scenario for the Lynx this year is a year-end ranking around #19, and that only happens if they beat MWU, Whitman, Kalamazoo, and Tyler. I don’t think that’s going to happen, and my guess is that Rhodes will end the year a little lower than where they started it. Probably in the 26-30 range.