Let me start off by saying I love this team. I’ve never seen them play, but you gotta love any team that has enough heart to save seven match points against one of the best teams in the nation on the road. Williams’ 5-4 victory over CMS would have been great even if it didn’t take them to the Final Four for the first time in a couple years while simultaneously dispelling the myth that Greenberg had been promoted beyond his competency, but it did. Plus, their mascot is the Purple Cows. That’s awesome. In all seriousness, Williams had a great season last year. The only problem was that Amherst had a better season, and, even though Williams returns all of its starters from last year and adds another talented freshman, they will likely spend this year playing little brother to Amherst as well. If they want to win a national championship, they’re going to have to do what they came so close to doing in the regular season last year, beat Amherst. I don’t think it’s going to happen, but the Fall season offered a faint glimmer of hope. Their #1 doubles team of Bryan Chow and Richard Meyer won the New England region against some (but not all) of Amherst’s best players, then proceeded to win the whole D3 tournament, and even win their first round in the Super Bowl. That’s impressive. Anyways, let’s move on…
Where They’ll Win
I’m sure that I’m starting to sounds like a broken record, but it’s difficult to find a definite strength or weakness on this team. Solely judging from their matches against P-P, CMS, and Amherst, it seems like the bottom half of their singles lineup is their strength, and this year, they figure to be even better. They destroyed the bottom half of P-P’s singles lineup, hung tough at the bottom in all three matches against Amherst, and beat CMS at 5 and 6, which means they out-depthed the supposed deepest team in the country. Simply put, I don’t think they’re going to lose very many matches at 4-6 singles.
Where They’ll Lose
I don’t mean to pick on Sun and Micheli, because they are absolute studs, but I think they are a little outmatched when they play the best players in D3. They always beat players that they should beat, but I just don’t see Sun and Micheli taking out Pottish/Goodwin or Rattenhuber/Kahan (though they came really close to doing just that in the regular season). With respect to doubles, they are an absolute mystery. I would like to say that they are strong in doubles, given Chow and Meyer’s results from the Fall and the fact that they took 2 out of three from CMS and Amherst. But they also lost 2 out of 3 to P-P and Bowdoin, and they were swept by Middlebury. I’ll just chalk it up to the fact that prosets are unpredictable, but I will add that if you play these guys on a bad doubles day, they are beatable.
The Purple Cows’ schedule isn’t on their team site, but we know that they have an exciting match against CMS in March. I see that as the ultimate f-you match for CMS, and I think Williams is likely going to get destroyed. Then, they have their regular season matches against Bowdoin, Amherst, Middlebury, and Trinity that all figure to be tight. While Williams could surprise Amherst and Bowdoin could surprise Williams, I’ll be keeping my eye on the Williams/Middlebury matches. These matches will be a good indicator of how the Hansen-Middlebury team is doing and determine who will be playing second fiddle to Amherst, as well as have some impact on NCAA seeding.
Though I admire Hansen and like Middlebury’s team, I think this is the year that Williams puts some distance between itself and the rest of the NESCAC. I see them handling Bowdoin easily and beating Middlebury, but, ultimately, I don’t think they can beat Amherst. I think a Final Four appearance is in the works for these guys, and, perhaps a 3rd place finish over Emory, but nothing more than that.