The Jumbos came within inches of being ranked in the top 20 last year, with a big win over Trinity and a couple close losses to Bates and MIT. Unfortunately, they lost two or three of their starters from last year’s team, and they didn’t get much in terms of recruiting this year, so they will probably be down this year. The silver lining for Tufts is that their young players will get a ton of experience against good competition this year, which means they will probably look good for 2013 when they bring in a monster recruiting class. Still, this isn’t a 2013 season preview; it’s a 2012 season preview, and I’m sorry to say that this could be a tough season for the Jumbos.
Where They’ll Win
Last year, Tufts had decent doubles and good depth. If they want to be successful this year, they’re going to have to lean on that again, because they won’t be able to win at the top of the lineup against the rest of the NESCAC. They swept Brandeis in doubles, and took two out of three from Trinity and MIT. They also won the bottom three singles positions against Bates (the only big match in which their doubles let them down), and their depth dominated in their big win against Trinity. If there’s something positive to look at from losing their 1 and their 4 from last year, it’s that they weren’t really relying on wins from their 1. If they have good bench players, they could keep their ranking this year by winning with depth.
Where They’ll Lose
The flip side of the coin is that Kai Victoria literally didn’t win a single match at #1 singles last year. What are the chances Lutz does well moving up? This might be a team with six players that are all about the same skill level, but that doesn’t bode well for the guys who end up playing at the top of the lineup. I think the Jumbos will really struggle to win at 1, 2, and 3 singles positions this year, especially in the NESCAC.
Because of the NESCAC rules, Tufts’ first match isn’t until March 16th against Middlebury. Then they head to Hilton Head for matches against Carleton and Chicago, a trip that is simultaneously their best chance at a huge upset and their best chance to get upset. After that, they’ve got their normal smorgasbord of other NESCAC matches and their round robin with MIT and Brandeis.
I think Tufts will have a rough year this year. They will probably grit their way to a victory over MIT, Brandeis, or Bates, but at the end of the year, they will probably drop out of the rankings. I think they will also lose to Carleton, who brought in a really strong recruiting class this year. Their best chance at an upset is Chicago, but if the Maroons start losing to the likes of Whitewater, they won’t be ranked high enough for that to matter by the time they play.