The Judges finished the season two years ago on a high note by beating Chicago, and jumped into the 2011 season with a shiny, new national ranking and high expectations. Unfortunately, they didn’t deliver on the expectations, but they did enough to keep their ranking. Despite losing their #1 player, Nick White, and their #5 to graduation, Brandeis will probably have another strong team this year, as they return a lot of veteran leadership. They also brought in a solid recruiting class that should help them fill the holes, and they could be even better this year, depending on whether or not Yovanoff is ready to step into the 1 spot.
Where They’ll Win
White at #1 singles was probably their most consistent winner last year, so losing him is going to be tough for the Judges. After Miller left their lineup, they had a hard time winning at #2 and 3 singles, but they picked up several wins at the lower positions. If the new freshmen are better than Brown was at 6 last year, he will probably play there again, and that will make them very, very strong at the bottom of the singles lineup.
Where They’ll Lose
The Judges really struggled in doubles last year. The only ranked team they took two doubles matches from was Bates (a team that has it’s own doubles woes), and they got swept by CMU and unranked Rochester. Getting swept in doubles basically kills Brandeis’ chances of beating any good team, and they aren’t so good in singles that they can consistently come back from a 1-2 hole. But if the Judges can find a way to start winning doubles matches against ranked teams, their singles lineup is strong enough to win them the match. The only other problem they might have this year is winning matches at #1 singles. Yovanoff and Bernstein are strong 3/4 combo, but they had a hard time winning at 2/3 last year, and if they play 1/2 this year, it could be a disheartening season for them.
Brandeis starts off its season next week with an early trip to California. We’ll see what they’re made of when they play Cal Lu and Redlands, but given Redlands’ good start this season, I don’t think they can win either of those matches. Their other big matches are Middlebury, Bates, MIT, Bowdoin, Trinity (CT), and Tufts. If the Judges want to hold on to their ranking, they will have to win two of those, and the matches against Middlebury and Bowdoin just aren’t winnable.
I really think the loss of White will be hard for Brandeis to overcome. If they’re going to be successful this year, they will have to lean pretty heavily on the bottom half of their lineup. Unfortunately, D3 just keeps getting deeper, and I think they will get upset a couple times this year. I see them going 1-7 against ranked teams, with a win over Tufts or Bates, and ultimately falling out of the top 30. The Judges are good, but there are more good teams battling for ranking spots than ever before, and someone out there is going to get a better win than that.