The Squirrels are already off to a dream season, and it couldn’t be more obvious that I had no idea this was coming. They lost their #3 singles player and another doubles player from last season’s team, and they only brought in two 2-stars. One of those 2-star freshmen is playing very well for them at #4, and somehow they’re using basically the same players to make a much better team, kinda like Pomona last year. In my mind, Whitman and Whitewater are a lot alike. On paper, they have no chance to beat anyone in the top 25, but they’ve already beaten three this year, so that has to be attributed to development, coaching, and heart.
Where They’ll Win
So far this year, the Squirrels have gotten contributions from every position. In their four matches against good DIII teams, every position is at least 2-2. Basically, however, they’re playing the same brand of tennis they always have–only quite a bit better. They play really strong doubles and then find wins lower in their singles lineup. Last year, they won 2 out of 3 against Trinity in doubles, and this year, they’ve taken 2 out of 3 against Mary Washington and swept Cruz. Their box scores from this weekend indicate that they’re still strong deep in the lineup, but what has really helped this team is the emergence of La Cava at #1. Last year, they couldn’t buy wins from the top position, but La Cava’s win over Wichlin shows that they can compete this year.
Where They’ll Lose
In years past, Whitman has always had some definite weak spots in their lineup. Last year, it was #3 doubles and their top 2 singles spots. The Squirrels have definitely shored up their weaknesses, and they seem pretty solid from top to bottom this year. Accordingly, they are probably vulnerable wherever another team is strong. Santa Cruz is deep, and they took 4 and 5 from Whitman. Mary Washington is top-heavy, and they took 2 and 3.
The reason I put quotes around the “p” in preview is because they’ve already played most of their big matches. They’ve already beaten Cruz, Rhodes, Kalamazoo, and Mary Washington, and the only tests they have left on their schedule are Whittier and Trinity (CT). After that, they just have to take care of their conference and be off to NCAAs.
Whitman will probably jump into the top 15 in the next rankings, and if they hold onto that ranking, it would be an absolute travesty if they were sent to the California region. Whittier is better than their ranking, so they have to come to play in that one, but if they do, they should win. Their match against Trinity is really difficult to predict. If Whitman’s season follows the same arc as 2010CalLu and 2011Pomona, they will lose that match. Also, a win over Whitman could actually help Trinity in Pool C now (depending on indirects), so the will be really pumped up. Regardless of the outcome of that match, Whitman should make a good #2 seed in the NCAAs, and I expect they will lose in the round of 16 and finish the year in the 13-18 range, a banner year for a “program in decline” (quoting myself. good call, me).