The Big Red had a ton of close calls last year against teams ranked in the teens, but they just couldn’t pull any of them out. As it is, their only good win was a 6-3 triumph over Carnegie Mellon, unless you want to count a 6-3 win over Kalamazoo. Regardless, the Big Red are definitely a solid team: they return 5 of their singles starters from last year, and they bring in a massive recruiting class. In their first match this year, they had two freshmen in their singles lineup (and one more is competing for a spot), which shows that their depth will be much stronger this year. That’s good for them, because, honestly, their depth was a little questionable last year.
Where They’ll Win
Denison played great doubles last year. They took two out of three from Chicago, CMU, Depauw, and Mary Washington. The only comparable team they couldn’t beat in doubles was Case Western, which we know is a great doubles team in its own respect. I would expect them to continue playing good doubles this year, as they return two of their doubles teams. They can only get better with the new additions. Additionally, the heart of their lineup was phenomenal last year. They won 3 and 4 singles against CMU, Case, and Mary Washington, which is saying a lot because they lost two of those matches. #4 seemed to be a particularly strong position, but that might have been an unintentional stack because Cawood is now playing #1 for them.
Where They’ll Lose
Denison seemed to run out of good players after 5 last year because they couldn’t win at 6 against good teams. Their #5 wasn’t great, and he lost in all the matches that I just mentioned, but he also had some big wins. They just never won at #6 singles. That shouldn’t be as much of a problem this year with all the new freshmen, and I would think that Denison should finish this year in the mid- or low twenties because of it. When they come up against higher-ranked teams, however, their depth will probably still be their weak point. If not, they will be hurt by the fact that they don’t have a definite star, and will not be able to win at #1 singles when they play top 15 teams.
The Big Red have a well-planned schedule this year. The matches they play against higher-ranked teams are winnable (for the most part), and they only have one match against a dangerous lower-ranked team (Kalamazoo). In terms of winnable matches, they have Case, CMU, and Depauw. In terms of unwinnable matches, they have Kenyon, which is tragic because they will need to beat Kenyon to make the NCAA tournament.
Denison played Case, CMU, and Depauw last year; they came really close twice, and won once. If they really want to make a splash this year, they need to win all three, but I don’t think that will happen. I think they can beat CMU again, and Depauw might be vulnerable, but I don’t think they will beat Case. Case is basically a team that is better at what Denison is good at, which makes that one a poor matchup for the Big Red. Other than that, I think they will beat Kalamazoo, lose to Kenyon to finish the year in the 24-28 range.