There are couple ways to look at CMS’ 2010-2011. The first and most prominent way is to look at it and say, “Look, they blew 7 match points at NCAAs again, and this time they did it on their home courts. These guys are choke artists.” The second and more optimistic way is to look at it and say, “Well, the finally managed to beat Santa Cruz at UCSC, so maybe they’ve gotten that monkey off their back. Also, we learned from Amherst that taking that final step from contender to champion can be a painful and arduous process.” Personally, I would love to say that the Stags are choke artists, but I’m more inclined to take the second route. This team took a couple steps forward last year, and this might be the year they win the national championship. They return perhaps the best 1-2-3 punch in the country in Lane, Erani, and Johnson, and while they’ll miss the rock solid performances of Wu and Brockett, something tells me they’ll get over it. That “something,” in this case, is the cumulative Fall performance their Freshmen Wood, Marino, and (especially) Bernhardt. In addition to these new faces, they also return doubles specialists Pereverzin and Wei along with talented but underrated players like Chien and Cahill. This team is stacked. There’s no doubt about it, but it’s championship or bust for Settles’ squad. Is this their year?
Where They’ll Win
Lane has proven himself to be one of the best players in the nation. Erani proved himself to be one of the best players in the nation two years ago, and now he’s going to play two or three. Johnson showed that he’s also capable of beating anyone in the country (though less consistently). While Claremont definitely has phenomenal depth, they’ll have to replace their old stalwarts with unproven talent. Until the freshman step in and prove that they can win (which I think they will), I’m going to have to say that the Stags are stronger at the top for now. Perhaps, as the year progresses, their depth will turn out to be their strength, but they say experience wins championships. It’s true that CMS lost a lot of matches in the top positions early last year, but that was before Erani came back from his injury. At the end of the year they did very well at the top against P-P, Cal Lu, UCSC, and Williams.
Where They’ll Lose
Because they only lost three D3 matches last year, it’s hard to say where the Stags are vulnerable, but I think the best way to beat CMS is by using the Santa Cruz formula from the past decade. Jump on them in doubles, and find a way to win a few singles matches. That’s how Emory and Williams beat them, at least. It’s really hard to say how the freshmen will fit into CMS’ doubles lineup, but the Stags might actually be relatively weak in doubles this year. They lost Wu, who was probably their best doubles player, and it seems like they’ve always had a little bit of trouble coming up with cohesive doubles teams. Maybe it’s because their roster is filled with California grinders (hence two guys from Oregon being two of their best doubles players), but that’s just speculation. Regardless, if your name isn’t Amherst and you want to beat CMS, you will have to beat them in doubles. (That probably sounds familiar, but sweeping doubles is basically the only way for a lesser team to pull off a big upset. Remember Cal Lu from two years ago? I do).
Well, Claremont has a great schedule, as always, and they hardly have to leave their driveway. One of their most interesting matches to me, however, is their road match against Santa Cruz. Can they prove their superiority by beating them in SC twice in a row? If so, they could establish their own little California dynasty.